How to Persuade Large Groups of People

You know the feeling: You must make a big presentation to a group of stakeholders or potential partners and convince them to support your idea or do business with you.

Presuming you’ve done all the necessary prep work — researching your audience and its needs, developing your case and having the data to back up your pitch — you’re not done yet.

Think about your audience and determine how you want them to act upon conclusion of your presentation. Do you want people to donate money to your new fundraising effort? Spend time thinking about alternatives to reducing staff in the marketing department? Leave the room more fired up than ever to go out and acquire new high-end clients?

Doing that kind of persuading requires the need to motivate and move people, giving them reason to believe in your cause.  You would be dumbfounded to know how many presenters fail to articulate this in their own minds. If they can’t even do that, how are they expected to persuade others?

So make sure, to paraphrase Renée Zellweger’s character, Dorothy, in Jerry McGuire, you have them at “hello.” Tell a little joke, share a fascinating fact or scintillating statistic, ask a rhetorical question, or recite a short anecdote about something that happened to you on the way to work this morning. Whatever you do, stay away from kindergarten teacher and rock star banter: “I can’t hear you!”

Then quickly move on to presenting your case, introducing third-party research to support your statements and citing examples to provide context for your specific audience. Take time during your presentation to answer questions that arise, which suggests you’re open to what others have to say and are not driven exclusively by your own agenda. Asking your audience to save all questions until the end of your presentation dilutes your message and significantly diminishes your persuasive potential — especially if there are a lot of questions.

Responding to questions throughout rather than at the end allows you to conclude with a memorable call to action and an anecdote.

Then, all you need to do is wait for that “yes.”

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