How to persuade an audience

If you believe you would benefit from techniques to make strong connections with your audience, to inspire and make important changes, you should be exploring the techniques shared by Nancy Duarte, who recently presented a webinar at UCLA entitled: That Resonates with Me! How to Persuade Any Audience.Nancy Duarte, author of Resonate uses the above picture, which shows how many grains of sand move in response to different noise frequencies, to make a point. Her analogy, “When little bits of sand move together it’s beautiful. When your audience moves together, it’s beautiful too.“

For you to succeed as a presenter, the audience must latch onto your idea, and spread it when leaving the room. This is why obsessing over your audience and understanding what will resonate with them is critical to effective communication. So much of today’s communications are both visual and centered around persuading others. Yet, few presentations actually resonate with their audiences, especially with web presentations, where engagement often trails behind checking email.

The art of resonating is actually as old as oral culture itself. Inherently, we are storytellers. It is hard-wired into the human experience. Yet, over time, as we progressed through oral to written cultures and through the industrial age to the information age, storytelling seems to have become a lost art.

Nancy has posted a wonderful video about engaging through stories. The more engaging storytelling techniques can be infused into your presentation, the more likely it is that you can make it resonate with your audience. Use storytelling techniques to move your presentation along the spectrum from what’s known as “exhaustive detailed reporting” toward “dramatic storytelling.”

The art of resonating with an audience is the art of storytelling, and these are skills that can be built. Duarte shares these on her YouTube channel in a great presentation on how to present ideas.

Here is the shortlist:

  • Tension is created by shifting between “what is” (current state), and “what could be” (the new bliss). Both speeches move the audience between these two contrasting states to engage the audience.
  • A “Burst/Pause” technique between what is/could be, creates repetition of key points to solidify the message.
  • Short phrases that change from what is versus what can be are generally the most quotable and memorable content.
  • Every presentation needs a STAR moment: Something they’ll always remember.
  • Metaphor (visual words) can be more powerful than slides because audience members can create visions specific to their experiences.
  • An audience must become emotionally attached to a story for it to resonate. That requires real risk from presenters, who must put themselves out there and show real challenges via their stories. If the audience has the same idea, and has an attached emotion, it will support the presenter’s idea.

Since 1988, Nancy Duarte’s firm has created over a quarter of a million presentations. As one of the largest woman-owned businesses in Silicon Valley, her experience working with global companies and thought leaders has influenced the perception of some of the world’s most valuable brands and many of humanity’s common causes. You can find her advice on the Duarte YouTube channel and in her book, Resonate.

photo by Katrina Snaps

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