3 Powerful Techniques to Become a
More Persuasive Public Speaker

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What is the most effective way to change someone's mind?

As tempting as it might be to strap that person who dares to have a different opinion to us to a chair and proceed to persuade them to use passion, logic and reason, I'm afraid it's not going to work.

The ability to persuade isn't just a critical component of effective leadership, it's a critical skill in everyday life.

Perhaps you've got to turn a reluctant prospect in a sales presentation, deliver some difficult news to your team, or convince a neighbour to stop DUMPING THEIR GARDEN WAST... you get the point.

We aren't taught how to navigate these situations and the result is that we often enter these scenarios with a mindset for war i.e. someone wins, someone looses. 

But rather than overloading your arguments with logic and reason, or adopting a who shouts the loudest wins strategy, in fact, rather than burdening yourself with the task of changing someone's mind, you'd be far better off setting out to instil doubt.

How?

By asking questions to help them to expose gaps in their own knowledge.

This isn't about gaslighting by the way, this is about creating an environment of curiosity instead of confrontation so they are open to listening to the insights you have to share. 

Here are 3 types of questions that will help you do just that...

1. 🧐 Curiosity Questions

'Why is Apple so innovative?' Simon Sinek, TED

'What is so special about the human brain?' Suzana Herculano Houzel, TED

'What is the most effective way to change someone's mind?' Me, The title of this email

Note: Best delivered rhetorically, at the beginning of a presentation. If your immediate response to reading these questions is 'I don't know,' then they've done the job nicely. 

Result: Knowledge gap exposed, curiosity 📈

2. 🤯 'Did you know' Questions

Speaker: Did you know that there is enough money hidden in offshore tax havens to finance the whole of the $16.5T Paris Climate Change Agreement?

Listener: 🤯  

Note: Best delivered rhetorically, at the beginning of a presentation.  If it wasn't clear already, the listener's silent answer to the question is... 'no!'


Result: Knowledge gap exposed, curiosity 📈

Check out the video below of the 2015 Toastmasters champion, Muhammed Qahtani delivering the talk of his life to see this in action. You only need to watch the first 90 seconds to experience the impact of the 'did you know' questions he used in his opener to hook us in and create the curiosity and openness he needed from his audience to set up the rest of his subject.

3. ⚖️ Scale Questions

Person 1: On a scale of 1-10 (10 being ready), how ready are you to return back to a 5-day week at the office?

Person 2: 2/10

Person 1: Why didn't you pick a lower score?

Person 2: Because, I know there are benefits to getting together physically too...

Note: Our instincts tell us that we should be asking them why their score was only a 2. But by asking why they didn't pick a lower score, they have to articulate why they weren't a 1. When people have their own reasons for doing something, they believe those reasons more deeply and adhere to them more strongly. 

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But what if they say they are a 1, Alex?!

Here's what you say...

What can we do to make you a 2?
Note: When people are a 1, it's because there is an obstacle and when you can find out what it is, you have an opportunity to change it.

Result: In both examples, an opportunity for an open discussion, barriers stay down.

The Lesson...


Effective persuasion is about creating an environment for curiosity and exploration. 

As author
Dan Pink (who I learned the scale question technique from) says: 
We tend to think that persuasion is something that one person does to another, but the social science says it's something that people do for themselves. Your job as a persuader is to reset the context and surface people's own reasons for doing something.  

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