The Art of Persuasion - 7 Steps to a Successful Story Telling
The biggest challenge to human intelligence and confidence was the advent of "Microsoft Power Point" - Master 10 Cents of Utopia 2025.
I mean seriously! This tool has ceaselessly produced masterclass boring sessions of slides galore. Dull brown, beige, yellow slides with continuous text read by the wizards, drowning their listeners in a tunnel full of evil 'fonts' and 'action buttons'. We can go on and on and can relate to the past and upcoming meetings where our colleagues equipped with their USB sticks chuck along 70 slide presentations and expect the audience not to yawn.
I had never been a people's person, it would give me the chills to face a customer and the most annoying part of the whole interaction used to be the fear of rejection. I recently read a great article by Stephen Light (http://bit.ly/2cJvxR2) called 'you are not alone' where he beautifully articulated the strength to face your fears. The 2 fears; fear of unknown and the fear of rejection has held so many of us to move ahead and contribute the gift of our abilities to humanity. We are all created smart, I am a firm believer that there is no single individual created by God to have a useless life.
So here's the deal before my article turns into the same boring power point rhetoric you faced at work today. The world needs stories, we are so bogged up by the challenges of life that a good sitcom or a movie acts as a stress reliever. Why then we don't turn our meetings and sales sessions into 'Plays' and 'Theatrical Performances' worthy of standing ovations. These are times of Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, the legacy of Steve Jobs, the bewildering intelligence of IBM Watson, the diminishing power of hardware and the rise of software and so on. There are so many stories all around us that it would take years before we can comprehend the tip of the iceberg. My son Sohaib has recently enrolled at the University of Edinburgh and he sent me a message yesterday saying that he hates the library? Why does he hate this library, because he just can't figure out how to read all these books while studying for his classes. This question had been a story! The answer to this riddle of hating the library had a moment of suspense and it lit my day knowing that my adores this beautiful institution of learning.
So here are my 7 steps to story telling, may it be for a sales pitch or for a presentation:
- PREPARE: Know your subject very very well as the questions coming your way can be daunting. Know all related subjects as well and when I say all I really mean all. Blackberry stopped making phones and this news is from yesterday, I can assure you that many people still aren't aware of this news. Use related and relevant information to your advantage and shuffle information as much as possible making sure you keep your goal in mind. Come back quickly to the main topic once the distraction is finished. Its like throwing smoke bombs to distract the enemy but you keep your focus on the target and this target is your subject being delivered or the sales pitch.
- WRITE ON A WHITE BOARD: Use a white board marker and avoid reading off the slides. You gain the undivided attention of your audience when you write from your memory rather than reading from a digital slide. Use multi color pens to keep the tone of the presentation so it never gets dull. Make graphs and use speech bubbles to differentiate from one topic to another. Also use arrows and other symbols to ensure that the connectivity stays intact.
- SPEAK UP: Do not go in a monotone, use the highs and lows of your voice to garner the attention of the audience. If anyone seems distracted then call out his name and ask him if he / she needs a repetition to what had been said; this really makes people conscious regardless of their position. Do anything but don't "Bull Shit". There are intelligent people listening to you and your words and eyes would give away your con scheme. This article is not for the fake as they are already too good at their game.
- EYE CONTACT: Even a kid can make out if someone is not confident in any setting. Make sure you look straight in the eyes of your audience. There are times when people in the target group have a stare of a ware-wolf but you have to stand your ground and stare ahead. If you get too uncomfortable then stare just above their eyes and they would still think that you are looking at them. Do not fidget or play with your hands and keep a straight posture. This is at times a game of wits and the ones who blinks first loses the round.
- LET YOUR HANDS DO THE TALKING: Look at this great article by Huntington Post (http://huff.to/1i255W3), you move around the room, write on the white board or even a piece of paper and then let your hands move in a melodic rhythm. This would be a show worthy of an "Academy Award". Make sure you use proper vocabulary and stay away from street language unless otherwise required by your audience. At times local lingo plays a vital role but do not get swayed by its comical tones.
- THROW NAMES: Make sure you know the people you are going to use as a reference or an example. It would be great if they know you as well as you might be checked by your audience. Again, this writeup is not for con artists, this is for serious professionals who want to achieve something in life. Networking and market information forms a crux of your portfolio. Protect your reputation fiercely and not let anything tamper it.
- STORIES, STORIES, STORIES: Use stories of the world, think of your audience as 5 year olds listening to an adult who has just come back from a voyage crossing 7 oceans. Use real life examples from the local market and make sure that positive reinforcement is felt by your audience repeatedly and stay clear of negativity. Great leadership references of the past and present are good but make sure you get back to whats happening in the local market. Tesla's aren't selling in the Middle East so please do not get hung up on the greatness of electric cars as these are still a few years ahead. Both success and failures form a good story but there's nothing better than a happy ending so keep it nice.
Please take care that you keep the time and do not overshoot your slot. People have an uncanny ability to read your intentions so be sincere and you will see amazing results.
Do let me know if these tips have been useful.
You can contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org, also tweets @kazinajibashraf