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Persuading an Audience

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Suppose you are putting a proposal of some kind to an audience. It could be a sales pitch to customers or a project-briefing to peers. How can you persuade the audience to accept your proposal? Here are some effective techniques!

Grab their attention from the off

You might think it’s good to begin by introducing your pitch or proposal with your own name, title, and that of your company. And this is all perfectly proper and polite, of course. But it’s not effective at persuading an audience to listen to you! Grab the attention of your audience from the outset. Open with a surprising statistic or a thought-provoking anecdote, for example.

Equally important is the closing out of your pitch or proposal. Remember, the last thing you do or say is the first thing they will remember. So make it memorable! Link your closing ‘grab’ back to your opening ‘grab’. You could do this by reminding the audience of the same sentence, or near enough, that you used at the beginning and close out with it. In this way, you link the start and finish neatly for your audience. Or you could close by reiterating the significance of your opening statistic or anecdote.

Listen actively

Remember that if people think you are trustworthy, you can be assertive and persuasive with them. And, conversely, if you are assertive and persuasive, you can become trustworthy.

So how do you achieve this? You can begin by actively listening to the audience members when they speak to you. View them with interest and curiosity. This will substantially increase the impact of your shared communications.

Active listening is a four-step process.

  1. You must truly listen to the person speaking. You need to be physically seen to listen. You can do this using eye contact, for example, or keeping your face and torso in alignment, nodding your head, and using the occasional non-verbal ‘uh-huh’.
  2. Feed back the content, feeling, and your understanding of the person’s words. This helps confirm to them that you have received and understood their message.
  3. Speaking of confirming things, the third step is to confirm you heard the person correctly.
  4. Ask a relevant follow-up question to further clarify your understanding of their situation.

Use pauses

Another effective technique is using pauses. Of course, you can use a logical or emotional approach, depending on your audience. But the action that will have the maximum impact is having the courage to pause.

Pause to give yourself the appearance of thinking about the answer to a question. Even if you already know the answer, pause for a few seconds to give your answer more weight. Also, you can pause after making an important point, and make eye contact with your audience while doing so.

How long should a pause be? Well, no shorter than two seconds and no longer than ten seconds, that’s a good rule of thumb.

Be sincere and honest in all your communications

Bear in mind that the audience will almost certainly be aware of any deceit on your part, especially if they begin a question and answer session with you.

But how will they know you’re being insincere? How does this work in practice? There’s a very simple ‘tell’ that gives you away. Did you know that adult humans tend to glance to their right when creating a feeling or reassembling facts or thinking about something about which they are unsure? So, if you are unsure, you will do this involuntarily, and the more tuned-in members of your audience will be aware that there is something untoward or untruthful in your question responses! This, in turn, will obviously make you less persuasive.

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Kevin J Reid and Bill Phillips

Kevin Reid is CEO of Personal Skills Training, Senior Coach at Kevin J Reid Coaching, Co-founder and Communications Director of The Counsel.ie, and Lead Collaborator of LeitrimMade.com.

  • A consummate and skillful international communications trainer, facilitator, and coach
  • Has over 15 years of learning development experience with individuals, teams, and entire organizations
  • Has facilitated communications workshops and training across numerous sectors in Ireland, the UK, Europe, America, and Africa

In this module, Kevin is the instructor for the ‘The Art of Persuasion’ and ‘Motivating Your Team’ lessons.


Bill Phillips is an International Facilitator, Trainer, and Team Coach.

  • Has successfully coached CEOs, board members, directors, executive teams, and team leaders in public and private companies, NGOs, and UN organizations in 15 countries across four continents
  • Is the creator of Future-basing®, a highly potent process for building strategy, vision, and cooperation
  • Inspires people to build excellent interpersonal relationships and achieve their goals

In this module, Bill is the instructor for the ‘Managing Upwards’ lesson.

The following pieces of content from the Digital Marketing Institute's Membership Library have been chosen to offer additional material that you might find interesting or insightful.

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    Persuading and Influencing
    Kevin J Reid and Bill Phillips
    Skills Expert

    The ability to persuade and influence others is an important skill that every leader should aim to cultivate. Being able to persuade and influence means that leaders can win people over to their way of thinking, get things done, and achieve results – without having to coerce employees or bribe them into action.

    In this module, you will learn techniques you can use to successfully persuade an audience, such as listening actively to audience members when they speak to you, and being honest and trustworthy in all your communications. You will also discover how to handle any objections you may encounter to your proposals.

    In addition, you will learn the importance of developing a self-motivating team, who don’t always rely on you for direction. You will learn techniques you can use to motivate employees, such as setting goals that they have an interest in and delegating important tasks. You will learn why it’s better to focus on intrinsic, rather than extrinsic, motivation. And you will learn how to recognize the signals that point to a motivated team.

    And it’s not just your employees that you need to concentrate on. It can also be beneficial to manage upwards, and to be able to persuade and influence your boss. Managing upwards involves building the best possible relationship with your boss, with the intention of making both your work lives easier. This module provides tips and techniques to help you do that.