Public Speaking – Six Strategies For Successfully Persuading Your Audience

Persuading an audience, whether to buy your service or buy into your idea, is a common objective when speaking. And it differs in several ways from an informative presentation, where all you want is for your audience to walk away thinking, “Gee, that was interesting.” or “I never knew that.” But when you want to win your audience over — influence their choices, convince them of a fact, sway their opinion — it requires a different approach.

If you want to be more successful in persuasive speaking, here are six key strategies you must take into consideration:


People are only persuaded by what’s in it for them. Persuasion takes place on the audience’s terms.


Almost all persuasion can be narrowed down to one of three objectives, which I call DO, TRUE, or VIEW: You may want to persuade the audience to DO something, such as to buy a new computer system. Or you may set out prove that something is – or is not – TRUE, such as the WonderWiz Duplicator can produce 500 copies a minute. Or you may want to sway the audience to your point of VIEW, that a choice is desirable or better than other options, such as Vendor A is better than Vendor B and C. VIEW is often a matter of opinion.


The purpose of your talk determines how you organize it. While you always have an introduction, body, and conclusion, the body will be organized differently depending on your objective.

To persuade your audience to DO something, the body of your talk should answer four questions: (1) WHY (problem), (2) WHAT (features of proposal), (3) HOW (benefits of proposal), and (4) WHY NOT (raise and overcome any objections).

To prove to the audience that something is or is not TRUE, your body could have up to three points: (1) personal observation or experience, (2) evidence, (3) expert testimony.

To convince the audience to side with your VIEW that an option is desirable or better than others, your body would have two or three points. (1) Establish criteria or ideal standards to define your proposal. (2) Measure your proposal against those standards. And if you want to persuade that your choice is better than other options, then (3) compare how your proposal measures up to other options.


You can’t be very persuasive unless your reasoning is sound and the audience can accept the reasoning. You must (1) present truthful premises (i.e., saying “coffee drinkers get better grades” is not a truthful premise); (2) be able to support with evidence, and (3) show logical correlations.


The truth of the matter is that our decisions come less from our head than they do from our heart or our gut. For example, why is it that there are so many different makes and models of cars on the road? Because people’s choices are motivated by different appeals — maybe luxury or safety or fuel efficiency. These are motivational appeals — those emotional factors that motivate us to make the decisions we do. To be persuasive, you need to know what emotional factors would most likely motivate your audience and then appeal to those feelings.


To cinch the deal, paint a picture for the audience of how things would be if they do or do not accept your proposal. Help them see the beneficial outcome of doing what you propose or the negative outcome if they don’t.


What is it you want your audience to do? Ask them for it. Challenge them to do it. Call them to some type of action or change in their thinking. And make it as easy for them to do as possible.

A final point to remember about persuasion. You’re not likely to be persuasive if you’re trying to convince an audience that’s firmly entrenched in an opposite point of view. Few people are going to be persuaded to go against their deeply ingrained opinions or values. So don’t set yourself up for impossible tasks. Your audience must be open to persuasion if you are to have a chance to succeed.

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Barbara Busey, president of the training firm Presentation Dynamics, has been a professional speaker, trainer and author since 1990. She does training and speaking on the “dynamics” of how people “present” themselves, is the author of the award-winning book, “Stand Out When You Stand Up,” and is the creator of The Compelling Speaker, a unique presentation skills training program that combines advance audio CD instruction with a hands-on, ultra participative workshop.

Sign up for her newsletter, Stand Out Strategies, on her web site: and receive a gift of her “Top Ten Stand Out Tips.” She now offers a Certification program, a three-day intensive workshop that certifies people in how to make a living offering the Compelling Speaker training. Go to to learn more about this unique business opportunity and sign up for the special report, “Do You Have What it Takes to Run Your Own Training Business?”

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