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:
Table of Contents
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 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.
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, 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.
There are many ways to tell a persuasive story but one of the most effective and foolproof stories is ‘The Hero’s Journey’ approach. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
- Select a good topic
- Research on your audience and content thoroughly
- Reinforce your message and make your content engaging
- Know the purpose of your speech
- 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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