A skill that will allow you to distinguish yourself and significantly improve your chances for achieving both your personal and professional goals is the ability to become an influential and persuasive speaker. It may seem intimidating at first, but with a little thought and practice, anyone is capable of becoming a stronger and more interesting speaker. Whether you are-one-on one in a job interview, participating in a staff meeting around a conference table or engaged in any discussion of importance, consider the following thoughts:
1. Know Your Audience: To the extent available to you, make every effort to understand the background, points of view, requirements and concerns of the people that you will be interacting with and attempting to influence. You don’t need to like or agree with anything, but the more you understand where they are coming from, the better able you will be to craft your point of view to influence them.
2. Be Knowledgeable On Your Issue: You must show a command of the topic that you are discussing beyond just a casual conversation if you are looking to earn respect and influence an individual or group. Going on an interview? Study the company as well as research the interviewer if possible. Going into a staff meeting? Know the agenda in advance and be prepared with how you will contribute. Buying a car? Research the model and multiple dealers to know best price, deals, options etc.
3. Cite Credible Sources And Use Facts: Use sources that would be considered “best of class” by the audience and use references as appropriate to support your points of view. Quote statistics that are relevant, fact-based and interesting. More so today than ever before, the ability to speak convincingly with facts from reputable, trusted sources will distinguish you as educated, informed and trustworthy.
4. Be A Good Listener: You’re not giving a speech, you are engaged in a two-way dialogue with individuals who have a point of view that you are attempting to influence. You must demonstrate to your audience that you are listening to their points and understanding their views. You should modify your thought process appropriately, if necessary, to reflect new information not previously known to you.
5. Be Seen As Fair, Balanced And Genuine: If you have followed the first four points, you have probably established a good rapport with your audience, gained their respect and hopefully achieved success in communicating your point of view and expectations. Always be professional but approachable in your demeanor. You want the audience to trust you and be comfortable engaging you. Smile at times, be mindful of your body language and look confident but relaxed.
6. Stay Calm At All Times: While you certainly want to demonstrate a passion and conviction for your ideas, the audience might take time to come around to your views. At times, you might get a negative or even hostile response to your requests or points. Defuse the situation with good listening skills to acknowledge that you are hearing the concerns and by offering appropriate counter points. You must stay calm and cool at all times.
7. Leave Options Open And Only Rarely Present Ultimatums: At times, despite your best efforts, you may fail to win the audience over to your point of view. There could be factors out of your control that are influencing the situation or the timing might not be right. Most times you are best served to let the discussion end and try another day when the opportunity presents itself. Carefully think through giving any ultimatums to the audience prior to doing so as that will bring a finality to the issue. It might be the right move and get the desired result; just do it strategically and not emotionally.
Part 2 , published separately, will give some thoughts when you need to stand in front of your audience.
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