The Dandelion Group

Technique of the week

The three goals of persuasion

Once we know our audience, it's time to prepare relevant content for an impactful speech. The path to success is not easy but a Roman lobbyist thankfully provides guidance.

Marcus Tullius Cicero did not live an easy life. As a statesman and lawyer, he had to appeal to the public, disarm the opposition and convince decision makers. Mastering this challenge is not foreign to our world today.

No matter if you want to get a law passed or a point across, being straightforward does not always lead to immediate success. Sometimes it is more effective to take one step back before stumbling over one of three hurdles on the way.

How to persuade

  1. Assess the audience’s mood. If they are distracted, indifferent or hostile, your first goal has to be to change their frame of mind.
    (e.g. clarifying ambiguous terms, stressing the benefits of a common goal, outlining your credentials, an emotional video, a joke… )

  2. Change opinions. Unless you are a comedian, you will have to do more than entertain. Anticipate objections and start by a concession to earn your critics' trust before working the room with robust arguments.
    (Note that this gets easier when the audience is in the right mood. Neuroscience proved that decisions are emotional.)

  3. Call for action. When you have convinced the majority, do not forget to present a short and actionable proposal with clear benefits to the audience.
    (Illustrating the consequences of no decision increases the desire to act.)

Exercise

It is 20 July 2018. A trade war has started between the USA and other countries. You are the European Commission’s President Jean-Claude Juncker and will meet the American President Donald Trump next week. Advisers have told you that he believes that you are weak and boring. How could you change his mood and opinion to hold off on further tariffs?

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Ben WilhelmComment