How to Be More Persuasive

March 20, 2017 Jim Poage

How to be more persuasive: child screaming through a megaphone

Just because you don’t work in sales doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know how to sell. We might sell our work to prospective clients in order to get business, or sell ideas to managers and colleagues for approval. Successful business leaders need to be able to connect with people—and be more persuasive to lead them to action.

When presenting their work, some people are able to energize their clients, colleagues, and managers and elicit enthusiastic acceptance, while others tend to “deflate” the room. What sets the first group apart? They bring liveliness and energy to their explanations, whether spoken, written, or graphical. They engage their audience emotionally, as well as rationally.

Here’s a simple, two-step process for energizing and persuading people.

1. Find the essence of your ideas by defining what you want people to do.

What is the essence of what you are offering?

To define it, ask yourself how you want others to react to your message. Do you want a client to hire you? Do you want your results to be adopted, or do you want approval to expand or continue your work? Do you want approval to pursue a new idea?

Next, ask yourself what would cause your audience to act in the way you desire. How will they understand the value of acting the way you want them to act? Will they think you truly have done or will do quality work? Will they think what you propose can be done? Will they believe that what you offer will make them look good or relieve their stress?

The answers to these questions will enable you to formulate a presentation with a rational component that meets your audience’s needs—and an emotional component that makes them look good or alleviates their stress and worries.

2. Present your work in an engaging, energizing fashion.

You need to present what you are offering so it conveys a meaningful emotional message that will energize your audience to act.

Here are six techniques:

  • Present your work as a story. People pay attention to and remember stories. They fill in images and details to relate the story to their situation, and audiences bond together through a story since it provides a common basis for sharing. And, most importantly, people are motivated to act by a story. Possible story topics are how what you are presenting works, how it creates value for your audience, the ease with which it can be used, the stress or worries it eliminates, and how it will make your audience look good.
  • Make your offering entertaining. When entertained, people get caught up in the topic. Some ways to entertain are: use pictures and figures to illustrate your points, put in a short history of your topic or approach, involve the audience through questions and soliciting comments, and use humor (if it relates to your topic).
  • Create informative and pleasant experiences for your audience. A saying attributed to Confucius is, “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” A powerful way to gain acceptance is to create the experience for your clients and colleagues of what it will be like to use what you present or to experience what it will be like if what you present is adopted. You can create an experience for your audience by presenting your work within a hypothetical scenario related to what your audience does that clearly shows what benefits can be achieved.
  • Be sincere. Make sure anything you do to energize your audience sincerely reflects your offering. Avoid gimmicks such as jokes that do not relate to your presentation or putting 3-D, multi-color charts with graduated shading and glowing edges in PowerPoint.
  • Strive for excellence Be sure your offering is high quality so it doesn’t disappoint. An energizing presentation will not cover up poor work. Be sure excellence spans throughout whatever you do—your results and how you present them. Excellence itself can energize your audience.
  • Be energetic. Energy propels people to act and spread your message. Put passion and care into what you do and how you present. The benefits of energizing clients are building an exceptional reputation, increasing sales, and selling at premium prices. Being an energizer will enable you to stand out and advance your career or business.

This article originally appeared in the Society of Actuaries newsletter.

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About the Author

Jim Poage

Jim Poage with his daughter, Jennifer Poage, is co-author of "Flair: Design Your Daily Work, Products, and Services to Energize Your Customers, Colleagues, and Audiences" ( He is an independent consultant who integrates technology and humans to work together safely and efficiently for NASA, FAA, and industry. He also speaks and coaches on engaging customers and audiences emotionally to energize them.

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