When we’re speaking to persuade, it’s important to realise that the most important person in the room is not us – it’s the audience. Yes Ginger dear... you say. We KNOW... you mutter. But really how well do you know what the audience needs or wants to hear?
In part 3 of Ginger's 4-part persuasive speaking guide we investigate how to find the right words to persuade your audience.
No matter how much I want to persuade my audience, if I don’t connect with their life and their needs I will be irrelevant to them. So… how do we get into the minds of our audience, so that we can understand what they want, what they need and how speaking can persuade them to change?
1) To influence, we must first listen – hard.
If you start from a position of love towards your audience, they will not feel that you are 'trying to persuade them', rather that you genuinely care about them and their needs. This is much more likely to persuade an audience towards your message than if you start from a position of wanting to manipulate them.
So, get to know your audience. I mean really know them. Here are some questions to help you:
What does the audience already know about my topic?
- boring vs. exciting - Is your topic yawn inspiring or electrifying? Boring topics have to be livened up with examples and ideas and outside-of-the-box thinking. If they believe it's boring then how can you change their minds? Use Freshness techniques and your speakers toolkit to energize your audience.
- experts vs. beginners - This is all about the knowledge level of your audience. If you set the standard too low, using terms and verbiage that isn't advanced enough... your audience will feel "talked down to" and that they've learned nothing. Set the language too high and they'll be completely lost. If you're not able to know your audience needs in advance then develop two different plans to address both types of audience (beginners and experts).
- want vs. "have to" - What is the motivation of your audience? School children, employees, et cetera are more likely to be "forced" to listen to your speech. Low motivation audiences have to be engaged quickly and with lots of fun. (Think candy and/or games). Whereas highly motivated groups that have chosen to hear your speak will require more intensive and interactive engagement.
- clear vs complicated - If the subject feels "complicated" to an audience there will be increased tension and possible confusion, even before you begin your speech. Figure out why the audience might be confused. Is it because they fear technical terminology? Where are they getting their information from? Put your audience at ease by assuring them that you are going to clarify the topic, in fact you're going to make it "easy" for them. Audience members who feel the subject is "easy" need to be challenged. Use your expertise to shed new light on a known commodity.
- important or not so much - If the topic is important to an audience, they will listen longer and harder. So to get your audience to feel your topic is important use stories, give them reasons to see the subject as important. Use language they will understand and transfer your energy to them by sharing your excitement.
What does the audience know about me?
From the exact moment you enter front and center stage, your audience will form opinions about you. Understanding their stereotypes gives crucial information about how to influence and persuade your audience.
Perhaps they know of you from colleagues; sometimes our reputations DO precede us. But if not then they will base their entire opinion on the way you look and the way you sound. The same speech can be delivered in many different ways. What "way" or personal touch, do you want to bring to your audience?
- What will they assume based on what they know about you? Do you have a reputation already or is this their first glimpse of you?
- What would they like or dislike me to do or say? Do they want humor or more of a serious tone? Basic information or inspire them to do or be different?
- What would surprise my audience? How can I give them something they do NOT expect?
What does the audience know about themselves?
- Language - What is their knowledge of the subject? Do you have a common language?
- What do they want to be seen as? Individuals or a group?
- How do you break the ice? A game? Small group work? What is the best way to get your audience ready to listen?
- Will the group respond to being interactive or would they rather just listen?
2) Create an offer you’re proud of
Once you've understood your audience's needs, put all the time and love you can into creating an offer that meets every angle of the audience’s needs. From a position of empathy, we can connect better with an audience and therefore become more persuasive in an authentic way.
As soon as you make a case you’re proud of, you will persuade with pride. Your belief in yourself and your words will shine. Give what you have to give… and work out the reasons why that’s enough.
3) Swap embarrassment for enthusiasm: “THIS IS MY MESSAGE AND I LOVE IT!”
One of the key realisations that help people to become powerful and persuasive speakers is that you do not have to be anyone but yourself. Find YOUR words that show YOUR belief in YOUR message.
If you've ever heard the phrase "Who are you trying to convince... you or me?" you'll understand how important self belief can be. If you don't "buy" your message or believe yourself to be an impactful speaker, then why should the audience?
Once you have a message you believe in that becomes much more important than your own ego. If your message is important, why wouldn't you want to persuade your audience to agree with it? After all, it will benefit them in the long run.
With a firm direction and pride in your persuasive message, the right words will come to influence your audience.