You have a vision, but how do you get others to see it? Persuasive communication can make the difference between being taken seriously and being shown the door.
Lis Meyers of Nathan Associates, an expert in persuasive communication strategies, offers the following advice for entrepreneurs in sub-Saharan Africa. Here are her tips:
1. Be goal-oriented
Don’t speak without purpose. Set a goal for your presentation in advance and be specific. This will focus your words and the audience’s attention. Meyers suggests practicing when you answer the phone. Wait to pick up until the second or third ring and quickly think, “Who is calling me? What do they want from me? What do I want to communicate in this conversation?”
2. Be audience-centered
No number of visual aids or well-phrased talking points will help a presenter who takes no interest in her audience. In the classic guide to persuasive communication, How to Win Friends and Influence People, author Dale Carnegie advises readers to “talk in terms of other people’s interests.”
In other words, put your audience’s perspective before your own. Try to see your presentation through their eyes and cater to it.
Meyers recommends framing your goal in terms of your audience’s values and beliefs by asking these questions: “What do these people care about? What are their investments? What kinds of arguments or reasoning make sense to them?”
3. Answer the big question
Even before answering “What does your product do?” or “How much does it cost?”, a good speaker has to answer “What’s in it for me?”. As you introduce yourself, give the audience a reason to listen, even before you begin your presentation. Otherwise, the audience will wonder if it should keep listening.
Continue to tell your audience how your company, program or idea will benefit them. For example, a salesperson might say, “This car has airbags,” highlighting a feature of the product. A better salesperson would say, “This car has airbags that will keep your children safe,” highlighting a benefit of that feature. Prove to them that you’re not asking for their help, you’re offering them something that will leave them better off.
Most of all, Meyers advises, be confident. Confidence will make your presentation far more compelling and engaging. “Ultimately, your audience is on your side,” she says. “They want to sit through an engaging, interesting presentation.”