A successful, persuasive presentation can completely change the trajectory of your career. Maybe you’re an entrepreneur trying to convince a group of venture capitalists to fund your new company, or maybe you’d like your board to approve an expansion overseas.
It’s easier said than done, of course—but far from impossible, with the right preparation. With that in mind, here are 10 tips to help bring any audience over to your side.
1. Research your audience. Who will be attending your presentation? What are their goals? What motivates them? What values do they most care about? Tailor the content of your presentation to your audience. Speak in a way that makes them feel like you are addressing them individually. This will raise your credibility and show that you’ve done your homework in advance.
2. Choose 1-3 goals. A good persuasive speech focuses on a handful of things—and that’s it. You may have a slew of other ideas that relate to the point you want to get across, but if you talk about too many things, you will confuse your audience. Write your speech in a way that guides them through the most important ones.
3. Incorporate obstacles. Think hard about the challenges to your idea that are likely to come from members of your audience. Instead of dismissing them (this can hurt feelings of goodwill), proactively acknowledge these points in your speech and then carefully address how your solution will meet the goals of all involved.
4. Create an attention-grabbing story. You want to capture the attention of your attendees with your very first words. Do this by telling a short story to illustrate the goal of your speech. Make the story relatable to everyone involved. This can help soften the mood in the room, especially if you are dealing with a group that may be fundamentally opposed to your idea.
5. Practice like crazy. Conviction is the key to giving a solid persuasive speech. It is vital that you do not waver while speaking or lose your train of thought. Start your speech not with a friendly “thank you for coming,” but instead with a story to grab everyone’s attention. Keep your intensity high to help sustain the attention of attendees throughout—do this by practicing over and over and over again. Ask friends to listen to your speech and give you feedback. Then, incorporate their comments.
6. Memorize. Reading off a card will just distract your audience. Practice enough that you know your speech inside and out. Don’t focus on memorizing every word—instead, focus on memorizing the flow of your key points and the examples you use to illustrate them. To learn a simple trick that will help you memorize any presentation, check out this blog post.
7. Make eye contact. Successful persuasion happens when you are able to connect with another person. Do this by making eye contact throughout your speech. Don’t just stare at one person—scan the room and focus on various people for short bursts.
8. Use repetition. Don’t rush through your presentation. Speak in a slow and measured way. After explaining each of your handful of primary points, go back and explain them again. Repetition will help drive home your goals.
9. Finish strong. Think of yourself as an attorney arguing a case in front of the jury. Structure your closing statements the way a lawyer would—with flair and gravity. Once you’ve delivered your final, impactful line, don’t say “thank you” right away. Instead, wait six or seven seconds and then say, “I’m happy to take questions.”
10. Take feedback, graciously. Listen intently to audience questions. Spend time with each one and don’t exaggerate or pounce on ideas that vigorously challenge your thesis. Staying calm and in control will help your case.