Persuasive Speaking

How to master the art of persuasive speaking, without coming across like a Flogging Nerd!

What's a Flogging Nerd?

In my sales basic training I was taught that there were 4 different types of salespeople. Order Takers (obviously the vast majority of people who masquerade as salespeople, also known as cash-register guards for their inability to move more than 3 feet from it and engage a potential customer); Overseller (these ones will lie, cheat, steal and promise you anything to get the deal); Problem Solver (a real salesperson); and the good old Flogging Nerd who's still talking about the product they love so dearly, 5 minutes after you've left, because they didn't even notice you leave.

I think a lot of speakers sound like flogging nerds when they try to give a persuasive speech, so we can learn something here.

The Flogging Nerd makes a number of mistakes, which you need to avoid if you want to acually persuade someone when you speak. Here's a few of the biggies.

  1. Talking To The Wrong Audience
    It would be hard to persuade an audience of people with no feet to buy your shoes. It'd also be tough to persuade a 7 year old to order your toys online, because they haven't got a credit card (although my friend's 18 month old baby got a $5000 pre-approved card solicitation in the mail the other day, so the banks are working on it).

    Often speakers are trying to persuade people who have absolutely no need for what they have. Probably even more common, are speakers who are talking to people with no authority to make decisions. Why would you do that by the way? Usual answer - fear. It's just safer to talk to people with no authority.

    Of course the Flogging Nerd doesn't care about any of this. After all it doesn't stop them doing what comes natural to them ... flogging. That's not persuasive speaking. If you've ever been bored out of your skull by a public speaker (and I know you have) then you've probably struck one of these creatures.

  2. Their Audience Doesn't Like Them
    They're so excited about their products/speech topic that they forget to identify with the audience. Don't get sucked into that old chesnut "When you're on fire with enough enthusiasm, people will come from miles to watch you burn". Sometimes too much enthusiasm just makes people wonder what planet you're from.

    And that's the problem. You're not from their planet. They won't be persuaded by an alien.

  3. It's Too Good To Be True
  4. Most audiences have a fairly accurate bulls__t detector. One of the best ways to get it to redline,set off the warning siren and activate the yellow flashing light all at once, is to offer a perfect solution. You know, the one with absolutely no downside, no drawbacks, no cost, no time commitment, no talent required, no effort, and of course 100% guaranteed.

    Your audience knows that there's no perfect product/business but more importantly so does the Flogging Nerd. They just don't care.

What Persuasive Speaking Is Like

By contrast let's take a look at how the Problem Solver type of persuader would approach the job of speaking in front of an audience to persuade them to do something.

  1. Ask Yourself "Why Am I Persuading These People? "
    If the answer isn't "Because they have a problem I can help them solve." then don't do it.

    If it is, then you're in front of the right people and you have a shot at persuading them.

  2. Be From Their Planet
    They simply must relate to you. You must be about what they expected. That happens very easily and naturally when you are yourself, and when you've actually thought about them and what they want as you were preparing your talk.

    Humor, early in a presentation, isn't just a wonderful way to relax you and your audience. It also helps them to like you and relate to the more explicitly persuasive speaking that's to follow.

  3. Be Honest
    Just tell the truth as you see it.

    Don't be afraid to acknowledge the pitfalls and imperfections in your solution. The alternative solutions will have just as many if not more (if not why don't you persuade them of that solution?)

A Word Of Warning About Persuasive Speaking

Don't get so carried away with persuading people, that you lose sight of what's right.

Here's an explanation to illustrate my point. It's from one of history's worst mass murderers.

“Why, of course, the people don't want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship...

Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

- Hermann Goering (as told to Gustav Gilbert during the Nuremberg trials)

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