Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Persuade me: 21 ways speakers can

I'm a frequent speaker, but for every time I speak, I spend 10 times as an audience member. And like most audience members, I have a list of what works when speakers are trying to persuade me. Here's my list of 21 speaker tactics that persuade me to listen and even agree with your points:

  1. Look at me. More than once, and hold my gaze a bit while you're at it.
  2. Let me share an idea.
  3. Let me ask a question--and not just when you're finished. Then answer it.
  4. Voice the questions I (or others) have, even if you don't agree with or answer them.
  5. Don't just preach at me: Tell me about the experiences that shape your perspective.
  6. Smile at me. More than once, and especially when someone is grilling you.
  7. Acknowledge the difficulties your audience may be facing, even if you don't agree with them or experience them yourself.
  8. Credit your competitors, opposition or enemies with something good.
  9. Don't skip over, dismiss or ignore audience questions and issues. Address them.
  10. Respond, but don't react to audience bullies. I'd rather see you keep your composure and handle them evenly.
  11. Don't be afraid to disagree, respectfully and with data on your side.
  12. Assume your audience is smart and come prepared. Know your stuff.
  13. Assume your audience includes beginners, but don't talk down to us.
  14. Tell me why you're excited and passionate about your topic.
  15. Spend less time talking than you're allotted.
  16. Share a professional secret you know that may make all the difference in my take on the issue.
  17. Tell me the three toughest questions to answer on your topic--especially if no one knows the answers yet. That helps me look ahead.
  18. Don't just interact with the vocal audience members. Speak to and encourage those who don't speak to you in front of the group.
  19. Make me laugh--in recognition, with the group and without being mean about it. Don't make fun at the expense of an audience member or opponent.
  20. Don't be a know-it-all. I'll be more swayed by what you know if you admit what you don't know...or tell me what you wish you knew (see #17).
  21. Plan ahead. Know what you want me to take away, and make it easy for me to remember it by focusing your talk on those key messages.

Persuasion comes up again and again when people define eloquence. What's on your list of what makes a speaker persuasive?

should pride go into your speaker toolkit?

Today's New York Times science section looks at times when pride becomes a useful emotion, rather than 'going before a fall.' Here's what I gleaned from the article that may be useful in your speaker's toolkit:
  • Pride can help you thrive in a tough spot: The article quotes David DeSteno, a psychologist at Northeastern University: “...we are finding that pride is centrally important not just for surviving physical danger but for thriving in difficult social circumstances, in ways that are not at all obvious.” Psychologists suggest you make this a "social strategy" you use when facing such situations, which might include your next speech.
  • Pride sends a strong, nearly universal signal to your audience: Despite other differences in how audiences in different cultures view body language, such as eye contact, the look of pride is remarkably consistent across cultures, the article notes. It also conveys power. Psychologist Jessica L. Tracy of the University of British Columbia, who's studied this effect, notes, "It’s the strongest status signal we know of among the emotions; stronger than a happy expression, contentment, anything.” Your viewers will associate a look of pride with higher status and importance.
  • Pride is catching--in you and with your audience: The article describes experiments in which participants were praised and encouraged. They reported feeling proud, and others interacting with them ranked them as more likeable and dominant in a group exercise. The researchers note that this didn't come off as arrogance, an important detail if you're concerned about looking too full of yourself. A little pride, apparently, goes a long way.