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Ultimate Guide to Persuasive Speech (Hook and Influence Any Audience)

Ultimate Guide to Persuasive Speech (Hook and Influence Any Audience)

Everyone is blessed with a certain level of persuasive skills. Whether it’s a salesperson convincing a customer why they should buy a product or a mother convincing her child why he needs to sleep early – persuading is something that revolves around our lives whether we realise it or not.

This applies to persuasive speeches as well. These are speeches made with the intention of selling an idea, message, service or product to the audience. Some forms of persuasive speeches include sales pitches, legal proceedings and debates.

Here is a definitive step by step guide on how to frame and execute an excellent persuasive speech:

1. Selecting a topic

People are naturally interested in stories that have a hook. For a speech, this is none other than a topic. Every speaker wants their audience to be engaged and hence, the first step to achieving this is to select a good topic that will capture the attention of their audience.

Here are ways you can identify a good topic for your persuasive speech:

a) Brainstorm

A well-chosen topic is key to the success of a good speech. Brainstorming is a method that helps you generate topic ideas. It also should feel less stressful than other methods. Once you’ve come up with a list of potential topics, it all boils down to identifying what you think is good, depending on several factors such as who your listeners are and what their interests are.

Once done, start the process of elimination and remove the topics one by one till you find the perfect topic to speak about. Brainstorming is a creative process. If you don’t put in the effort to be creative, your presentation will never touch the minds and hearts of your audience.

b) Tailor the content of your presentation to your audience’s needs

Understanding who you are speaking to can help you sound much more persuasive. This helps determine how you can make your tone suitable for them and the content much more relevant and relatable to your audience.

For example, if you are speaking to a young audience, you should find out how they speak and their capacity of understanding. If you will be speaking about difficult topics like insurance, it doesn’t make sense to use a lot of technical terms or jargons especially since they definitely wouldn’t understand what you’re saying most of the time.

Furthermore, if you come in to the talk without any effort to adapt to your listeners, it will be a surefire way to lose their interest. And if they do not see a need to listen to their show, how are you going to sell your idea in the first place? Make an effort to show that the speech was tailored especially to them. This will increase your credibility as a result and show you’ve done your homework.

Questions to get yourself started:

  • Who will be attending your presentation?
  • What are their goals?
  • What motivates them?
  • What values do they most care about?
  • What are some examples that are relevant to them?
  • How can I customize the slide images to resonate with their industry or line of work?
  • What are the words I can use that are relevant to them or are used daily in their conversations?

c) Make It Personal

In order to change the minds of your audience, you need to win their hearts first. To do that, it’s important to add a personal touch for your topic.

One way to incorporate this is to pick a topic you are extremely knowledgeable and passionate for. It shows how much effort and time was spent on understanding and learning the topic. You live and breathe this topic. This passion for the topic will naturally make it easier for you to add your own personal experiences, research and stories. This will help your topic resonate with other people as much as it resonates with you.

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For Most TED talk speakers, their talk is their life’s work. One example is Brene Brown’s “The Power of Vulnerability” where she spent years studying the human connection. In her talk, you can see she has incorporated touches of personal experiences and stories that make the talk heartwarming and persuasive:

2. Organize content

There’s no point in having a great topic with the best content and ideas if it’s not organized in a coherent manner. All it entails is a very confused audience at the end of your speech which means that you did not convey your key message successfully.

One way to organize your content is to create an outline first – it restructures your speech so that it’s clear and concise. After you’ve decided the points you’d like to bring up, start organizing them in a way where it can smoothly transition from one main point to the other. Similar to how one might structure a video,[1] a speech is not that much different.

Another method is to insert the important parts at the beginning or end of your speech. According to a study done by Murdock, people recall information better in the beginning and the end of a presentation. This helps create an edge for your persuasive presentation.

3. Know your content inside and out

One of the worst sins you can commit as a speaker is to read your script off a cue card or worse – look at your slides throughout as you speak. Not only do you sound rigid, monotonous and boring, you’ll definitely lose your audience’s interest as a result.

If you cannot engage your audience to listen to you, how are you going to persuade them into buying whatever you’re speaking about? Make sure to practice and understand your speech thoroughly without reading your slides.

With that being said, however, many tend to memorize their script word for word in an attempt to ‘know their stuff’ which is just a huge recipe for disaster. What if you you get stage fright and your mind turns blank? Or you simply cannot remember? Any hesitation on your part could sprout doubts from the minds of the audience.

Instead, focus on memorizing the flow of your key points as well as the overall arching message of your speech. According to experts, understanding the content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others. This allows you to speak with conviction and allow your personality to shine through, thereby convincing your audience as well.

4. Storytelling techniques (Hero’s journey)

You want to capture the attention of your audience with your very first words. To do that, start by telling a story. It’s important you do not bombard them with facts and data as it has been scientifically proven that stories engage more parts of our brain as compared to hard facts.

This technique is one of the most effective approaches when it comes to persuading your audience to buy your idea, message, service or product. This is due to its ability to stimulate interest, increase engagement and help the audience understand what’s being said.

So when you start your speech, try telling a short story to provide them with the vision of the goal. It also helps if you can make the story relatable to everyone involved so they are able to resonate with your speech.

Storytelling is also extremely useful when it comes to escalating the situation in a room full of people who may not be too keen on your ideas.

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There are many ways to tell a persuasive story but one of the most effective and foolproof stories is ‘The Hero’s Journey’ approach.[2] This is because it has the exact built-in mechanisms for creating the connection needed for any audience. This can result in an impactful speech that can inspire your audience to action.

Described by Joseph Campbell as the The Hero with a Thousand Faces, the Hero’s Journey is the same exact tale every culture tells – just with different characters.

The tale of these heroes all boil down to three points– the problem, the solution and the reward. You’ll notice that these three elements are always or mostly used in every hero’s journey approach and it never fails to attract the audience. Leverage on this three step approach to help make your speech much more engaging which will empower your audience in return.

5. Make use of ‘you’ and ‘because’

There are words that hold more power in swaying our decision making than others. If we can learn how to utilize them, it’ll be easier to persuade our audience.

a) “You”

When you’re speaking or even writing or pitching to persuade, use first-person language. That means making use of the word ‘you’. This word not only gets your audience’s attention, it also makes them feel special – like they are a part of something.

Using “you” makes you sound much more conversational and friendly which makes it easier to establish a connection with your audience. Instantly, you’ll notice the word holds your audience accountable for what you’re saying and makes them feel personally involved.

b) “Because”

A study found that using the word ‘because’ would make people the inclined to allow someone else to do something.

Here is a proven scenario:

Person A: “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine?”

Person B: “I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I need to make copies?

Look at both of these sentences. Are you more inclined to allow Person A to cut the line or Person B? Studies find that only 60% would allow Person A to cut the line while a staggering 93% will do so for Person B even if the reasons are ridiculous. This is all because they simply heard the word ‘because’ accompanied by a reason.

6. Reinforce your message

a) Power of repetition

A study of managers in the workplace by Professors Tsedal Neely of Harvard and Paul Leonardi of Northwestern found that,

“Managers who were deliberately redundant moved their projects forward faster and more smoothly.”

Knowing this, try to apply the power of repetition in your speech to drive home your message. Don’t rush trying to get your point across but rather, try to convey the message as many times as you can.

However, be creative in repeating your message. Do not say the exact same thing over and over again or you’ll just sound annoying. Instead, find other creative and effective ways to get the same idea across to your audience.

b) Visuals

Visual aids like presentation slides or images not only provide the opportunity to reinforce and drive your message home, it also provides 43% added recall according to Prezi.[3]

To stimulate emotions amongst your audience, make use of evocative images. It doesn’t steal your audience’s attention but reinforces your key message instead. All this while evoking a certain feelings in your audience which helps in persuading them to believe in your idea.

c) Colours

Just like imagery, colours can evoke emotions in your audience as well. Colours signify different emotions and associations. Look at this video to help you understand how humans react to different color stimuli:

d) Interactive Content

A study found that interactive ads were found to be twice as memorable as compared to static ads. Knowing this, you should find ways to create interactive content to further engage and persuade your audience. This can be done with the use of PowerPoint as you can add animations, transitions or even embed videos to spice up your speech.

According to experts, the most recent statistics show that video content isn’t just effective, it’s also on the rise. Furthermore, 64% are willing to watch a video if it’s interactive. If you find that your speech may be boring or full of data, try to present it in a form of an interactive video.

Here’s a video of Hans Rosling, one of the few speakers who knows how to present data in a fun and engaging manner:

7. Adopt the Golden Circle Approach

In order to convince others to buy your idea, message, service or product, find out the purpose for what you’re doing. Before speaking to your audience, find your purpose and/or belief in giving the talk in the first place.

Here’s a video of Simon Sinek, explaining how the Golden Circle approach is effective in making others buy your idea, message, service or product:

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In the video, Simon Sinek mentions that many of us communicate from the outside in. This means we always start with What, How and then Why. He explains that persuasive speakers do the exact opposite. They start from the inside out. This is also known as the ‘Golden Circle’ Approach:

  • Why: What is your purpose for doing what you’re doing
  • How: How you show your belief in what you’re doing
  • What: What is the result?

One example of a company who makes use of this approach is Apple Inc.

  • Why: What is your purpose for doing what you’re doing
    Their purpose is to challenge the status quo. They believe in thinking differently.
  • How: How you show your belief in what you’re doing
    By making their products beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly.
  • What: What is the result?
    They happen to make great computers.

As Simon Sinek says,

“People don’t buy what you do but why you do it.”

Find what you believe in and you’ll realize it’s easier to persuade your audience into buying your message and taking action upon them.

8. Provide solutions to the problem

As a speaker, informing is not enough – take it a step further and show the audience how they can take action. And to inspire action, solutions must be provided. Although problems hook your audience, solutions are what activates action.

Start adopting the “How will my audience change as a result of hearing my speech?” mindset. Your speech can empower the audience if they can take at least one action because of what you’ve said.

Furthermore, if your audience does take action, this means you’ve successfully persuaded them since they are motivated by your message.

“That tension helps them persuade the audience to adopt a new mindset or behave differently — to move from what is to what could be. And by following Aristotle’s three-part story structure (beginning, middle, end), they create a message that’s easy to digest, remember and retell.” — Nancy Duarte

Hence, you should be prepared to provide solutions to overcome any obstacles or challenges your idea may face/anticipate.

Summing it up

And there you have it. Make use of all three elements to help your audience buy into your message.

  1. Select a good topic
  2. Research on your audience and content thoroughly
  3. Reinforce your message and make your content engaging
  4. Know the purpose of your speech
  5. Provide solutions

With my step-by-step guide, you will be able to write up a persuasive speech and influence your audience successfully.

Featured photo credit: pixabay via pixabay.com

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Eugene Cheng

Eugene is Lifehack's Entrepreneurship Expert. He is the co-founder and creative lead of HighSpark, offering presentation training for companies.

Why Leadership and Management Are Two Sides of a Coin How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide) How to Succeed in Business: 10 Skills Every Entrepreneur Needs How to Learn Business as an Aspiring Entrepreneur 10 Most Successful Entrepreneurs (And What to Learn from Them)

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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