PodiumWise | Tips for advanced presentation skills

One of my favorite books on the subject of influence is Dr. Robert B. Cialdini’s Influence: The Art of Persuasion.

Cialdini describes how your persuasiveness can be increased significantly if you are smart about a number of strong, automatic tendencies shared by all human beings.

One of those tendencies would seem to be so obvious that no one would have to be told about it.  That is the tendency we all have to be more readily persuaded by someone we know and like.  Even complete strangers can take advantage of this fact by quickly creating friendly familiarity.

A presenter setting out to persuade an audience, can create this friendly familiarity with a wide range of efforts from using audience member names to telling humorous stories.  A conversational style with an easy smile can be more than just nice, it can be essential to a successful sale.

I thought of all this yesterday as I watched the video of an award-winning speaker.  This gentleman had won a national public speaking competition and it was clear how he had done it.  His skills were impeccable.  I knew he was telling the truth when he described an almost obsessive effort to hone his skills and prepare for the competition.

And yet, something was noticeably missing.  He didn’t come across likeable.  He didn’t smile when it would have been natural.  His humor was not the humor of someone who truly enjoys making people laugh.  And, his confidence bordered on arrogance.  He might have won a competition but I wonder how many audiences he could win.

If you go to Robert Cialdini’s website it opens with a video in which he gives brief descriptions of the principles of persuasion detailed in his book.  The one I have been talking about he calls The Principle of Liking.  He says the first rule of sales is to come to the point of liking your customer.  This, in turn, leads to a two-way flow of likeability.  Applying this to a public speaking situation would mean setting out to like your audience.  Bring that attitude to the podium and many of the techniques for setting up likeability would flow automatically and, importantly, come across as genuine.

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