The art of persuasion may sound like a cunning ruse, but it’s essential in so many areas of business, whether you’re participating in a staff briefing, developing a conference presentation or reporting on the results of an organisational review.
Presenting a strong case for change and persuading people to your way of thinking means less time pushing for acceptance of your ideas and more time getting on with the work. Often, you only get once chance to present your case, so it’s important to make it count.
When you look at people who deliver persuasive and engaging presentations, they tend to use the same basic formula to communicate their message. It can be broken down into four stages.
1. Capture their attention
This is the most important part of your presentation. Unless you can grab people’s attention straight away, they are unlikely to come around to your way of thinking. You may like to start with a shocking fact, show a dramatic photo or tell a story using real people or personal experiences.
For example, a community health organisation may discover that people who have been recently discharged from hospital aren’t being picked up by their services. Simply stating these facts won’t engage decision-makers. You need to present a combination of research and real-life stories of people who have fallen through the cracks in the system, to trigger an emotive response from your audience.
2. Establish the need for change
Once you have captured the attention of your audience, you need to make it clear what will happen if nothing changes and they continue on with business as usual. This involves outlining realistic consequences for the organisation and its clients or the community. For example, you may like explain what will happen to clients if they are discharged from hospital but don’t receive support from community health services, as well as how this will affect their health and quality of life over the long-term.
3. Outline the change required
This is where you present the change that is needed to avoid the consequences you’ve just described. Try to present the benefits of the change, rather than the features, using real-life stories wherever you can. For example: ‘This new IT system will reduce the time it takes to register clients in the system and make it easier to know exactly what services they’re using’ rather than talking about the speed or technical capabilities of the software.
4. Describe the future
Change isn’t about evaluating services and getting a report published, it’s about making real changes to people’s lives. Once you’ve outlined what change is required, you now need to describe what the future will look like if this change occurs. To continue our previous example, this would involve talking about how a particular client would be able to live at home and receive support, rather than travelling to and from the hospital as an outpatient.
People often resist change and have well-founded beliefs why it won’t work. They may feel your change is attacking their professional integrity or that a streamlined approach won’t work for their particular situation. Using this four-step formula is often the best way to present your ideas in a powerful and persuasive way.
What formula do you use for presenting a strong case for change?