Lesson 3 – The importance of persuasion in making your presentation effective

I have come to the conclusion that every presentation is, at least in part, a persuasive presentation.  In today’s lesson I want to share with you some of the key ideas on how we persuade others, so that you can keep this in mind when creating presentations that will be effective.

Is every presentation really a persuasive one?
Some presenters will suggest that since they do training or report on financial or operating results, they aren’t doing a persuasive presentation.  Let me suggest another perspective that may change your outlook.  I would suggest that even in a presentation where you are training people on a new process, procedure or technique, you are actually also persuading them to place importance on what you are teaching and persuading them to use the new techniques back on their jobs.  If you are reporting results, you are actually persuading the audience to accept what you are saying and more importantly, persuading them to agree with the conclusions you have drawn from the data, even if it is that everything is running smoothly.  So I think all presenters need to learn more about persuasion, regardless of what type of presentation they do.

Principles of Persuasion
Professor Robert Cialdini in his book “Influence” lists six principles of persuasion.  In my book “The Visual Slide Revolution” and in my live workshops I explain how each of the six apply to business presentations.  In today’s lesson I want to highlight one of the principles that I think presenters need to keep in mind.  Cialdini’s Principle of Social Proof says that one way we determine what is correct is to find out what other people think is correct.  For presenters, this highlights the importance of using testimonials and examples when we speak.  Our audience will be strongly influenced to believe our message if they know that others have already bought in.  To improve the effectiveness of your presentation, use video testimonials, written quotes or tell stories of how someone just like your audience was successful when they did what you are asking the audience to do.

Lessons from “Made to Stick”
In their book, “Made to Stick”, Chip Heath and Dan Heath list six qualities of ideas that stick in people’s minds.  I review these in my book and my workshops, and want to share one important quality with you in this lesson.  Quality #3 is Concrete.  What they mean is that people remember ideas that are made real for them and related in ways that are tangible.  As presenters, this suggests that we need to use examples and exercises to make what may be a somewhat abstract idea more tangible for the audience.  Instead of talking about a financial result, explain it in terms of what that means to customers, employees or stakeholders.  The more tangible it is, the more likely the audience is to remember it.

As you start thinking about how to present your ideas, keep in mind the importance of persuasion and incorporate these ideas to make your presentation even more effective.

To learn more, I recommend these resources

If you see the great opportunities in learning more about persuasion, I highly recommend the two books I referred to in today’s lesson.  “Influence” by Robert Cialdini is more of an academic book, but it is certainly readable and will give you the strong research foundation behind the six Principles of Persuasion.  “Made to Stick” by Chip Heath and Dan Heath is an easier read but no less valuable because it offers solid ideas backed up by research and real-world stories.  You can order these books through Amazon by using the links below.

Influence - The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini Made to Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

By Dave Paradi

Dave Paradi has over twenty-two years of experience delivering customized training workshops to help business professionals improve their presentations. He has written ten books and over 600 articles on the topic of effective presentations and his ideas have appeared in publications around the world. His focus is on helping corporate professionals visually communicate the messages in their data so they don't overwhelm and confuse executives. Dave is one of fewer than ten people in North America recognized by Microsoft with the Most Valuable Professional Award for his contributions to the Excel, PowerPoint, and Teams communities. His articles and videos on virtual presenting have been viewed over 3.5 million times and liked over 14,000 times on YouTube.