The Art of Persuasive Speaking

Many individuals, especially professionals, have great public speaking and presentations skills, but often lack that key element that can get them where they want to be – persuasion. This one often-overlooked skill is integral for the professional woman. Whether you are convincing the board to make a key business decision, compelling an investor to invest in your idea, or just trying to get your boss to give you a raise, you’ll use persuasion to get you there. These brain-based tips will help you master the art.

Mind your gestures

Your body speaks volumes even if you haven’t uttered a word. When you are trying to be persuasive, you need to mind your body, starting with your hands. If you, like most people, use your hands while speaking, be aware of what your gestures are silently saying.

  • Palms hidden – Power, dominance, authoritative – Somewhat well-received by audiences.
  • Pointing with the index finger – Aggressive, dominance – Most negative response from audiences, not well-received.
  • Palms showing – Peace, friendly, likable – Best-received by audiences.

Tell a story

The human brain loves stories. Have you ever noticed how a good story will engage you and elicit emotional responses almost as if you are living it yourself? Well, the reason for that is because as far as your brain is concerned, you are living it. FMRI analysis reveals how the brain acts when engaged in a story. It becomes less like a spectator and more like a participant. That’s why you get goosebumps when you watch a scary movie or feel sadness when a favorite character in your book dies. So, drop that power of storytelling into your persuasion arsenal and learn to use it well. It will boost your public speaking success as well.

Give ‘em a reason

Providing a reason can nudge someone over to your side. In one Harvard study, a student tried cutting in the line for the copier. When she excused herself and asked to cut, stating she only had five pages, 60 percent of the time she was allowed to cut. However, that number went up to 94 percent when she added that she was in a rush. Even when she gave the reason that she “had to make copies,” compliance was still at 93 percent. The brain loves the logic of reasons, so when you supply that in your persuasion efforts you are more likely to gain compliance.

Speak to the individual

Everyone wants to feel special at some point, and most people don’t want to feel like “just another face in the crowd.” What’s more, people tend to separate themselves from others when they have no connection. It’s easy to judge someone for eating unhealthy foods, yet find a way to justify it when doing it yourself. It’s a cognitive bias, and tapping in to that will strengthen your persuasive powers. This means stepping away from the generalized message and making it personal. You want to make each person in your audience, whether it’s one person or one hundred, feel as if he or she is the only person in the room.

Mirroring and mimicry: Your secret weapon

This is a technique that is easier in a one-on-one setting but can be adapted on a broader scale for a larger audience. You simply mirror the person you are trying to persuade. Almost all of us do it unintentionally to some degree, but if you can leverage it with intent, it’s powerful. It involves simply mimicking the other person’s mannerisms, posture, even the tone of their voice. It builds rapport very quickly because down deep, people are drawn to others who are like them. That makes them much easier to persuade.

Persuasion is an art that can be mastered. As with any skill, it takes practice. At the International Association of Women (IAW), we help professional women connect with each other to enrich them both professionally and personally. Join now and be challenged to dream, rise and lead.

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