How to Persuade Others (Within 5 Minutes)

Persuading a team to say ‘yes’ challenges even the pro-presenters and esteemed leaders.  This blog offers three tips in persuading a live audience to get on board with your concept, and quickly, too.

Be Brief

For persuasive presentations, keep your ideas and asks uber brief, preferably within five minutes to respect everyone’s time and keep your audience’s focus. You can keep things crunchy by following these three quick tips:

  • State your ask immediately, or at least within your intro—don’t bury your ask. Tell your audience what you want them to do, and why they should say yes (and why now). You can always expand on the details of the ask later.
  • Keep your intro short (30-seconds should cut it.) Make three main points in your body expanding on whatever you asked or promised in the intro (using specifics, equal blend of data/research for logic and emotive appeal through storytelling), then, conclude within 30-seconds.
  • Manage your time to allow yourself to conclude on a strong note. Careful pacing, direct eye contact, and speaking directly from the heart at the end really wins over the audience; therefore, budget time for this last vital step.

Take Creative Risks With Your Intro/Hook

One presenter I coached recently started with a fantastic picture of a crowded, Parisian street scene and asked his audience how many people stood there. (The figure sat in the millions.) He used this data point to explain the same number of people encountered head injuries in America each year from winter sports and then segued to his clear ask: Use protective head wear.  The whole intro took around 30 seconds but remained memorable and super effective. Other creative hooks might employ:

  • Rhetorical questions
  • Quirky, but memorable data. Watch Jamie Oliver open with data to compel the TED Talk audience to help combat the obesity rate among America’s kids.
  • A short, unexpected story showing (not telling) the audience why they must  act. In this short clip, Arianna Huffington chronicles how she fell asleep at her desk (and injured herself) as a way to persuade women leaders to get more sleep.

Keep the Slides Simple

We can learn a lot from this fabulous TED Talk: Julian Treasure – How to speak so that people want to listen. Aside from excellent pacing, beautiful delivery, and a crisp, 20-second intro, Treasure effectively uses simple slides dominated only with a title and photograph. Excellent presenters I’ve coached also suggest:

  • Keeping the slides short (between 5-7 slides). This step means speaking to points not reading them—a good thing in terms of vocal variety, pacing, and avoiding sounding flat.
  • Keeping the titles specific. So, 7 Deadly Sins in Public Speaking vs. Public Speaking.
  • Maintaining a 50-50 split with interesting visuals and text.
  • Employing original photography where possible. Another effective pitch I saw this year used a stark, opening image of village locals gathering for medical and dental care in Africa. The presenter wanted the audience to endorse his idea of asking the nonprofit he worked at for funding for a clinic. (He wanted a means to train locals to provide the same care as the volunteers.) The visual—beautiful and poignant—showed, not told the need for more care.  The presenter also asked us to pause a moment to take in the length of the line—snaking through the jungle as far as the eye could see. (Bravo!)
  • Maintaining consistent grammar in any lists to help us skim and keep the bullet point within one line.


Read more on persuading others in your business writing in this blog


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