Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Words Move People

A few weeks ago, I laid my hands on Eric Feng's latest book "Get to the Point" through mail. I have responded to his email and ordered the book via Internet.

Written in a simple but powerful frequently asked questions-and-answers manner, I was intrigued by the sheer amount of information the book was power-packed with.

How to Ace a Persuasive Presentation

One of the first few pages of the book shared tips on how to ace a persuasive presentation. The technique is by using the power of emotion. People are moved by pain and pleasure, with pain being more dominant.

I have a Dream

Incidentally, I am currently also studying the speech by Martin Luther King Junior, "I have a dream". This is the famous speech that gave hope to African Americans that they will one day be free. It used the technique of knowing what move the audience, what are their underlying beliefs and values.

For the first one, it was the desire to be free. There were allusions to the pain of being second-class citizens, being brutalized by the police and etc. On their underlying beliefs and values, the speech called upon the broken-promise made in Lincoln's famous Gettysburg Address speech which began "Four score and seven years ago...", which was particularly poignant given that King was speaking in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Please see also the excerpt of the speech reproduced below:

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

King could have as a matter-of-factly just said that he was standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial. He could throw in statistics such as the date and year the Lincoln made his Gettysburg Address speech, the consequences which Lincoln did it. But he did not for using these data will not help him to appeal to the pain of African Amercians who were "Negro slaves ... seared in the flames of withering injustice". In the same speech, King had made reference to "Mississippi" on four separate occasion as the state would evoke some of the strongest emotions and images for his audience. He could dwell again on data and statistics.

Words Can Convey Substance

I am pushed to write this to prove my point - these words are not just style, there are also much substance. Just because there is not much data and statistics do not make it less substantial in content. On the contrary, it showed the thought that went into crafting the speech through the use of allusions and repetition to bring across what the data/statistics would also show.

So the next time, you need to do that presentation, think about your audience. What are their pain and pleasure? Try to evoke that pain and offer the solution through your presentation. If you could do so, half of the battle is won in a persuasive presentation.