P is for Poise and Persuasion

P is for poise. What does poise mean to you? To me it is a calm, positive presence. It is quiet strength. It is a sense of ease and confidence. How do you acquire poise? One thing you should consider is your energy and how you use it. If your energy tends to be high (you speak fast, or loudly, you gesture and move a lot, and you are generally expressive) you may need to temper it, or better yet, balance it with some calmer aspect.

For example, if you gesture quite a lot, plant your feet and don’t move around much at all. The balance between energy/gestures and poise/stillness in feet can be highly effective.

If you talk loudly, balance that with times when you deliberately speak more softly. If you tend to talk very fast, work to insert more and longer pauses. Think “balance” in your energy.

Another way you obtain poise is by your focused thinking. If your mind is racing, you will likely feel and reflect a sense of being frazzled—the polar opposite of poise. Take time to focus your mind with breathing exercises or calming thoughts. Take a moment before your presentation to “center” yourself and let go of distractions or fear.  Some people meditate; others pray or use an affirmation. Find out what works for you. Get clear-headed. Then move toward your audience with calm, open energy.

One more way to exhibit poise is when things go wrong. If you read “Oops” you heard some great ideas from my colleague Theresa. If you accept your imperfections, and handle yourself with grace and maybe a bit of humor you will be seen as poised.

P is for Persuasion. Some people think that the purpose of presenting is simply to provide facts to the audience.  They forget that every presentation should have at least an element of persuasion; at the very least you are persuading the audience to listen and to respect what you are saying.  Most often, you do have a recommendation or a point of view you are advocating. Not sure what it is? Go back and look at M is for Message.

Key questions to ask when preparing a presentation include:

  • What do I want to say?
  • What do I hope to accomplish?
  • What do I want my audience to do, or think, or feel or remember when I am through?

If you aren’t sure what your message is, you can be sure your audience won’t either. So before you simply spout facts and statistics stop and think about the big picture. Your audience won’t remember all the details, so give them a clear, persuasive message that they can remember.

Here are some special tips to create more influence and persuasion in your communications.

  • Do not reveal persuasive intent. Words like, “I am here to convince you” or something similar can put the audience in a defensive position. Instead, create a more neutral statement of fact, then back it up with the right argument, and let your audience persuade themselves.
  • Tailor your persuasive elements. Know who your audience is and what their communication style is. Do they want facts and more facts? Do they need “proof?” Will a story or case study resonate more with them? Will they want to make a quick decision, or have time to think it over? Once you know their behavioral style you can tailor your communication accordingly.
  • Get them talking. As one well-known trainer says, “people don’t argue with their own facts.” You may want to ask the audience to interact with one another, or with you, so that you can hear what they are thinking. Ask them questions, get them involved, and have them share their concerns and questions with you.
  • Show both pros and cons. If you only show one side of the argument, the audience is sure to wonder why. Of course your side is stronger, which is why you are recommending it, but be sure you let the audience know you have looked at all sides.
  • Give reasons. Even if your reasons aren’t the strongest, giving a reason for action strengthens your request. If you can show a good list of reasons, do it. A good rule of thumb is to have at least three good reasons.
  • Use examples. Examples are like stories; they help the audience see the picture. They play to the emotions. They are memorable. If the picture is positive, be sure the audience can see themselves in the picture.
  • Use third party evidence. Not just what you say, but what do others say? Third party research, testimonials or evidence can add credibility to your argument. Just be sure the sources you site are unbiased.

Being clear in your purpose, making strong recommendations, and backing them up with solid persuasive tactics can make you a more influential presenter.

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