Humans make a lot of use of persuasion in their day-to-day lives. Be it to convince their friends to tag along to a party, or by politicians to convince the voters to vote for them, or by marketers to convince potential customers to choose and spend on their product. Persuasion is thus the ability to convince and motivate people to alter their beliefs or thoughts in a certain direction. It is thus an art we make a lot of use of both professionally and personally.
Public speaking largely depends on persuasion to get the speaker’s ideas across in a way that the audience is receptive and accepting of them.
A lot of people confuse persuasion with coercion or compulsion. Persuasion is very different in the sense that it allows the audience’s discretion and free will to adhere to the ideology that is being posed to them.
In modern times, the method of using persuasion in speaking and communication is known as ‘persuasive speaking’. It is thus important to understand how persuasion is used tactfully in public speaking.
Elements of Persuasion
Traditionally, scholars believed that persuasion consisted of 3 elements- ethos (credibility), logos (logic), and pathos (emotion). By creating a balance between all these elements, a speaker can master the art of persuasion.
Credibility (ethos) - Credibility is definitely the first step to persuasion. To be aware of the information you’re talking about, mastering your subject matter, and to have qualifications and experience related to your field of discussion makes you a credible speaker. Credibility can be built with time, learning and experience.
Logic (logos) - Having a sense of logic and reality in your words makes persuasion more effective and easier. It is important for the speaker to be grounded in the present and logical in their flow of thoughts. What you say should make sense and should be backed by statistics and facts. This makes the information easier for the audience to digest and also builds a solid ground of faith when they check and cross-check information.
Emotion (pathos) - Emotion is a component that is largely underestimated in the realm of public speaking but definitely holds a lot of weight over the audience. Almost any and every impactful public speaker in history have had an emotional undertone to their appeal. Be it Gandhi’s non-violence movement backed by the feeling of nationality or Martin Luther King Jr’s fight for equality, they have all utilized emotional tools to get their message across and to convince their audiences to think and act in a particular direction. Emotions like fear, trust, love, hate are all made use of to build an effective speech that persuades the audience.
Tips to Improve Persuasive Speaking
Before jumping on conclusions and viewing public speaking as an individual-specific skill, it is crucial to know that public speaking is a two-way process in which the audience holds a lot of power and personality. The audience has its own needs, motives and beliefs and different audiences might have different levels of response to the same speaker or the same content of persuasive speech. This makes building effective persuasion an important social skill.
There are levels at which effective persuasive speech can be cultivated in an individual. These levels and how to tackle them are as follows:
IDENTIFY YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE: The first step to successfully being able to cater to your audience is to know them. This practice of narrowing down your audience and understanding them better is called ‘Targeting’. This concept of targeting is widely used by a lot of brands and marketers today. They narrow their audience down to a specific sub-population, study the nature, needs and pattern of trends within this ‘target’ population and then ultimately design a line of products and marketing mix that caters to the needs of this target audience. With public speaking too, this is a valuable game-plan. To know who you are speaking to, how they perceive the topic you are speaking about and what they “need to know” at the moment are key ways in which you can build a speech that uniquely caters to their needs, and for that matter “hits the spot”.
PREDICT COMMON OBJECTIONS AND ADDRESS THEM: In any set of audience, there are people who are skeptical about the topic being addressed and/or the speaker addressing it. They have ‘objections’ or counter arguments in their mind by way of which they question the speaker and the content. It would thus be a major plus point if the speaker were to brainstorm and come up with a few plausible objections that the audience might have and then come up with effective solutions to these objections. The speaker can even go one step further by integrating these objections into his speech content so that the audience’s doubts and suspicions are curbed before-hand.
OWN THE SPACE AND SPEAK SLOW: The age-old saying, “slow and steady wins the race” is also a valuable lesson for modern-day persuasion and public speaking skills. Having a good tonal moderation, speaking slowly and with appropriate pauses in between has a positive effect on the audience. There have been a lot of instances where audiences have expressed that the speaker was “too fast-paced so we couldn’t follow” or “painstakingly slow that we almost fell asleep”. It thus becomes important to practice and review your content before you address your audience. And above what your content of presentation is, it is way more important to pay emphasis on how you present. Slow speech facilitates better understanding, but at the same time it shouldn’t be monotonous. To change vocal toning for questions, exclamations, having casual interactions with the audience from time to time and giving relatable examples and real-life comparisons for the more technical concepts makes you a well-received speaker.
FACT AND VALUE AS THE BASIS OF YOUR CONTENT: To convince an audience, you should be precise, clear and factual. If a person was just to walk up a stage and say “I heard there’s going to be a tsunami in this area in the next few days.”, a lot of people are likely to disregard his remark. Psychologists have stated that this could be because of various reasons. For one, the person doesn’t have any supporting statistics and data to support their claim. To add to that, the statement in itself feels vague and unclear. In contrast to this, if someone were to enter a public setting and say, “According to the weather forecast report, there is an 87.8% chance that a tsunami will strike this area in the next 3 days. Everyone should therefore stay alert.” This information will immediately invoke a response from the listeners. This example displays the importance of fact and credibility in public speaking. Although the crux of the information is not very different in both the situations, how it is formulated and whether it is backed with facts or not creates a huge difference in how it is received by the audience.
FIRST IMPRESSION MIGHT BE THE FINAL IMPRESSION: Whenever we think of corporate speakers or professionals, the image that quickly comes to mind is that of a person dressed neatly in formals with slicked back hair and a positive professional smile. Especially in a generation where aesthetics are valued highly, presentation holds a lot of brownie points. The audience has already built a perception of the speaker from the first moment he/she/they walks on the stage. To look like you mean business makes the business easier.
CONCLUSION IS THE KEY: According to the psychological principles of the primacy and recency effect, many times what an audience takes away from a speech is the conclusion and the final few statements. For the conclusion part, a speaker needs to be clear about the goals of the speech. Why was the speech important, why does the speaker want the audience to perceive the topic in a said manner, what are the key takeaways from the speech and what course of action should the audience follow. This makes persuasion hit a deeper chord and ensures higher satisfaction among the audience.
Persuasion in the Workplace
Persuasion and persuasive speech both hold a key role in the workplace. Persuasive speech is made use of, when the goal is to (a) question, discredit or alter the existing beliefs and value systems of the listeners or (b) reinforce and uphold the existing beliefs of the listeners.
In work settings, persuasion is put to use when superiors convince subordinates to adhere to policy changes. It is also used when two companies meet with an agenda and have to persuade each other to uphold their needs and requirements. Pitching in ideas and getting funding also involves a lot of persuasion.
Persuasion thus involves a strategic combination of facts, reasoned arguments, emotional undertones and positive presentation to get the audience to think and act in your favor, that is, be effectively persuaded.
Hope you found this article helpful. If you or your organization is interested to learn more about such attributes and behavioral skills at the workplace, feel free to get in touch with us at RGB Training Services!