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How To Influence An Audience

Whenever we deliver a keynote, we have the ability to influence and motivate our audience to feel, think, and act differently.

Today I saw this fascinating article on the BBC website which looks at How Adverts Influence. Robert Heath from the University of Bath talks about the techniques that advertisers use to influence our decisions. It’s a fascinating insight that we can all learn from.

Coincidentally, I was recently at the National Army Museum and there’s a fantastic exhibition there at the moment called the Art of Persuasion: Wartime posters by Abram Games.

During the Second World War poster design changed from influencing people to buy products to influence soldiers and civilians to instil new habits. Games designed over 100 posters for the war effort, many of which are considered to be the most powerful posters of the 20thcentury. Here are two of the most striking and hard-hitting posters in the exhibition:

It’s interesting to understand how Abram Games designed his posters to influence others, and his thought process is probably best summed up by one of his quotes:

We may not be writing TV commercials or designing wartime posters but whenever we speak we have the power to influence others, so what techniques can we use? Here are my top five tips on how to influence an audience:

Use all Three Learning Styles

By using visual, auditory, and kinaesthetic communication, you’ll engage your audience in the most effective way. Painting pictures helps listeners create a visual image in their minds, whilst using vocal variety will create interest. Finally involving your audience through questions helps engagement. Enabling people to see, hear and think about your message is a great combination to help it become more memorable.

Keep It Simple

I love the phrase “If it’s not necessary to say, it’s necessary not to say”, and when I’m writing a keynote I always think about whether every point is really needed, or am I just introducing more, and often unneeded information. By using concrete, specific language you’ll enliven your speech, have immediate impact and keep it engaging.

Tell Stories

It’s very tempting to present data on its own because it’s important, but people connect far better with anecdotes and stories that support the data. Have a look at this blog, The Amazing Power of Storytelling that I posted a few months ago and you’ll see how stories can be so valuable in getting your message across in a memorable way.

Take a Breath - Pause

The fight-or-flight instinct may push you to speak more quickly than usual, so pausing will give you and your audience time to think. They can also add a dramatic effect which will make your talk much more powerful. It’s also a great idea to pause just before a key word; this will make it stick in the minds of your audience much more effectively.

Live in the world of your audience

It’s essential that you conceive and deliver your speech in terms of the audience’s needs and desires. By using shared cultural references, people will immediately feel the connection with each other, and you. Try anduse “you” and“we,”rather than “I” and“me.”  A keynote should always be primarily about the audience. This quote from Nelson Mandela sums up the value of using the right language.

We all would like to make a difference when we speak and with these tips we can ensure we get our message across in a way that can make a real difference to our audiences.

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