You’ve got a big persuasive pitch coming up, and you are wondering how to get your audience on board. Before you ever start practicing or deciding what you’re going to wear for the big day, you need to figure out what stands between your audience and your goal. Knowing the following persuasive pitfalls can help you avoid them, resulting in a successful presentation.
Many presenters waste valuable presentation time telling the audience to do what they already know they should. Say, for example, you’ve been asked to present a persuasive campaign to increase recycling in your company. You don’t need to spend a lot of time and energy trying to convince your audience that recycling is a good thing. Everyone already knows that. Instead, focus your energy on addressing and overcoming the things that are preventing them from doing what they already know they should. I can assure you the reason is not that they fundamentally disagree with recycling.
Jenna was a student in my public speaking class. For her persuasive speech, she decided to tackle overuse of cell phones. I warned her that she was fighting a massive, uphill battle with her topic—one that the audience had heard many times before, meaning they would have ready-built defenses. But she boiled her persuasive plea down to three words, a mantra that was repeated throughout her pitch. Look up again. Her message didn’t travel the path we were expecting. Instead, it focused on what we were all risking and missing because we’ve stopped looking up.
When an audience member knows what is coming, he can prepare to resist the persuasive messages. So our persuasive messages have to be innovative. Studies show that using a disrupt-then-reframe method might make your pitch more successful. To use this technique, you break through the regular linear thought process with something slightly confusing, and then reframe what you are asking. One study showed that simply switching from a normal persuasive pitch which communicated cost in dollars to a DTR pitch which communicated cost in pennies increased sales from 40% to 80%.
Asking Too Much
One of the biggest barriers to change is laziness. Humans generally like the status quo. We won’t change unless we have a really solid reason to do so. In your persuasive message, you should start with small steps or small goals and give your audience the tools they need to make the change. The majority of the workload should fall on you, the presenter, not on your audience members. How can you make it easier for your audience to act? What barriers can you remove from their path? What tools can you give them to succeed? What do they need to know in order to change? If you ask too much of them or make the change too difficult to enact, you’ll fail before you ever begin.
No one wants to be told what to do or how to do it. Our human nature bristles against that. Persuasive messages that take away your audience members’ autonomy will usually fall flat or even backfire. As you write and deliver your pitch, acknowledge that your audience members have choices and freedom. There have been 42 studies involving 22,000 people in which this type of persuasive message was tested. Those studies found that simply acknowledging the person’s right to choose doubled the chances that the person would say “yes” to the persuasive appeal.
Work to avoid these potential pitfalls the next time you prepare a persuasive presentation, and you’ll be setting yourself up for success.
For more ways to improve your pitch, check out our online presentation skills course to learn proven methods used by some of the best speakers in the world.