In Jane Austen’s “Persuasion,” Captain Wentworth writes to his love interest, “I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach.” When it comes to actual persuasion, however, not all learning leaders know exactly what that reach is, let alone what’s within it.
Persuasive communication techniques connect you with your audience in a way that provides symmetry between the message you are trying to convey and the way potential decision-makers receive and respond to it.
Persuasion is a directed action — it is not a call to action. A call to action is an invitation, whereas a directed action requires an authoritative instruction. Understanding this difference is an important step in improving your ability to move your audience to do what you want them to do. When an audience completes your directed action, you have achieved persuasion.
Your audience’s personal experiences, beliefs, educational levels and social backgrounds weave together to create a web that can be dangerous if not strategically navigated. You need to convey to learners that your story is the one they should believe and advocate for, as well as why they should take the action you are directing them to take. It takes a delicate balance with multiple moving parts working in sync to be a persuasive messenger.
There are several important components to consider that will allow you to connect with your audience:
1. Get out of your own way. Do not be fooled that others know what you know. Getting out of your own way and into the decision-maker’s shoes is the most important step to take. Get to know the decision-maker by doing your homework. Researching your audience in depth will enable you to craft your story and visualize materials that will connect with the decision-maker’s goals. Then they’re more likely to go in the direction you are pointing them toward.
2. Build a relationship with your decision-maker by gaining trust. Building trust can be a challenge, but it serves as a solid foundation for when you have to break down barriers or roadblocks. Gaining your audience’s trust is a process. The foundation for the process is preparation. Take the time to analyze not just on your audience, but also your abilities by doing an honest assessment of the following:
- How did the audience and the decision-maker perceive you?
- What makes an audience and the decision-maker trust you?
- What qualities can you improve on?
To gain trust, you must gain credibility that you are an expert in your field with the reputation to support what you are asking your audience to do. Being extremely clear and precise leaves little room for doubt about the facts you are presenting.
3. Fuse audio and visual elements together to build higher retention. People tend to believe what they see and not always what they hear, so the audio and visual elements must work as a unit.
Breaking your story into small digestible facts creates a simple road map for your audience. Simplicity is the key to persuasion. Develop a story that will connect with your audience, and tie this to statistics and data to support your points. Visual cues can offer something tangible for the decision-maker to believe in. Integrate your message into your visuals so if your decision-makers need to come back to your materials at a later date your message will continue to be in front of them. Your audience should be able to see, experience and measure results.
4. Persuasive communication takes balance. To be a successful, persuasive communicator, create a balance of you, your decision-maker, your story and your visuals to move a reluctant decision-maker from Point A to Point B and to fully understand the value in giving you the decision you seek.
Make sure your message is clear, concise and contains a directive for your audience. Know who your decision-maker is and speak directly to them. Your decision-makers want to make a decision they feel good about.