Persuasive communication: Getting your point across effectively

Phoebe Perelman

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Phoebe Perelman

What do brussel sprouts, sharks, and a new sales process have in common?

They can all be topics of persuasion. Before you scoff, let me show you how.

“If you eat those brussel sprouts you’ll grow big and strong! And you’ll get to have dessert.”

“Your fear of sharks stems from the way they’re portrayed in the media. Did you know that you’re more likely to die from a coconut falling on your head than a shark attack?”

“We can’t keep doing things the same way and expecting different results. It’s time to implement a new system that will help us crush our revenue goal.”

See what I mean?

Whether you’re attempting to get a child to eat vegetables, convincing your shark-phobic friend to go snorkeling, or motivating your team to adopt a new sales process, you are practicing the art of persuasive communication.

There’s a reason persuasive writing is introduced as early as elementary school: communicating your opinions to try to influence others is an invaluable life skill. We are constantly faced with situations — at work and at home — that require us to get others on board with an idea, a plan, a product, a mindset, an activity, or even a vegetable.

In this blog, we’ll focus on why persuasive communication is essential in the business landscape.

 

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What is persuasive communication?

Time for a definition check.

According to the APA Dictionary of Psychology, persuasive communication is information that is intended to change or bolster a person’s attitude or course of action and is presented in written, audio, visual, or audiovisual form.

But that’s not the only definition out there. Persuasive communication can also be defined as a symbolic process in which communicators try to convince other people to change their attitudes or behavior regarding an issue through the transmission of a message, in an atmosphere of free choice.

At Duarte, we like to think about persuasive communication through the lens of change. Persuasive communication comes into play anytime you want to move someone from point A to point B. I’m not just talking about physical movement, but mental movement. Movement from:

  • Thinking one thing to thinking something new
  • Believing one thing to believing something else
  • Behaving one way to behaving another
  • Wanting something to wanting something different
  • Seeing one perspective, to seeing something more

You don’t need to be giving a formal persuasive speech to be communicating persuasively. When you consider persuasion from the perspective of fostering change — no matter how minor — you go from believing that persuasive communication is limited to debate clubs and political pundits, to realizing that communication and persuasion is prevalent everywhere.

What’s the difference between communication and persuasion?

Hot take: Almost all business communication is persuasive communication.

Why? Because most business interactions have a goal — something that the speaker hopes to achieve by the end of the presentation or conversation.

Unless you’re engaged in small talk about the weather or someone’s weekend, professionals almost always intend to influence others in some way — even if they don’t realize it.

I know what you’re thinking: what about communicating to inform or communicating to entertain?

A valid question. But even if you’re communicating to inform, your goal is to move the audience from being uninformed to being informed — and that requires a level of persuasion. For example, you must present the information in just the right way so that the audience will pay attention and comprehend it.

This entails communicating why they need to learn this in the first place! Otherwise, why would they bother to put effort into processing the information when they could tune out instead? These days, absorbing more information into our already overloaded brains takes a bit of persuasion.

So, what do you think? Did I persuade you?

What are 5 persuasive communication examples?

Unfortunately, some of you may assume that persuasive communication is a form of spin. But persuasion is not about altering facts, it’s about helping your audience see things from a different perspective. Persuasive communication examples are everywhere in the business landscape. Yes, there are entire departments whose main function is persuading stakeholders to buy specific products, interact online, sign up for memberships, utilize new features, etc.

But even if you’re not in the sales, marketing, or public relations world, you still need persuasive communication skills. Do any of the following circumstances sound familiar?

1. Project update

Say you’re delivering a project update to your manager. Let’s be real: your goal isn’t just to inform them about the project status. You probably also want to move them from wondering whether things are under control to feeling confident that things are going smoothly. That’s persuasion.

2. New hire onboarding

Perhaps you’re facilitating a new hire orientation. Yes, you need to relay information to your new hires so that they feel prepared, but you also need to engage and excite them! After all, their initial outlook and attitude will be shaped by their onboarding experience. That’s a great persuasive communication example.

3. Investor pitch

This one’s obvious. Whenever you’re making a pitch, your success depends on your ability to persuade. Investors and other buyers must be convinced that your product/service/business will deliver value and perform better than anything else on the market.

4. All staff address

Imagine you’re a C-suite leader who needs to address the entire company. Maybe there have been recent layoffs, or industry turbulence. So you need to speak in a way that bolsters trust and instills a sense of security. Or perhaps you’re relaying the company vision for the year ahead. In this case, getting your staff motivated and aligned is a must. Both of these scenarios are prime examples of persuasive communication.

5. Data recommendation

If you’re someone who works with data, persuasive communication comes into play for you, too. Your job likely entails more than sifting through data – it requires communicating insights from that data. So when it’s time to craft a data-based recommendation to your manager or team, you can’t just start spewing out metrics. You need to tell a story with the data that moves your audience to action.

 

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The best books on persuasive communication:

1. Resonate: Present Visual Stories That Transform Audiences

Some presentations touch hearts and change minds, but if you’ve ever sat through a snooze-worthy presentation, you probably realized that there’s art to this type of communication. In Resonate you’ll learn how to leverage techniques normally reserved for cinema and literature to understand your audience, and you’ll learn how to create persuasive content using storytelling principles to elicit a groundswell response.

2. DataStory: Explain Data and Inspire Action Through Story

Almost every part of an organization today uses data for decision-making. But how effective is your team at using that data to communicate problems or opportunities? Through DataStory, readers discover how to explain data through the lens of empathy to transform numbers into persuasive narratives. By learning how to apply story principles to your data, you can communicate essential insights from data to speed up decision-making and influence action.

3. Illuminate: Ignite Change Through Speeches, Stories, Ceremonies, and Symbols

You can’t just announce change, you have to get people on board with your ideas. In Illuminate, readers learn to harness the power of persuasive communication to turn visions and ideas into a movement. Discover how to develop a plan to lead others through the five stages of change using the power of speeches, stories, ceremonies, and symbols.

4. Adaptive Listening: How to Cultivate Trust and Traction at Work

Persuasive communication starts with listening to and understanding your audience. That’s where Adaptive Listening™ comes in. On an individual level, Adaptive Listening can increase your ability to influence direct reports, colleagues, leaders, and customers. Adaptive Listening can help teams foster trust and build empathetic connections. And at the organizational level, Adaptive Listening can improve psychological safety, employee satisfaction, engagement, and retention.

The best way to learn persuasive communication skills

There’s a lot that goes into communication and persuasion. The content you choose, the visuals you use, and the way you deliver all play a role in persuasion. And more often than not, it’s helpful to seek an outside perspective to pressure test your material.

For over 30+ years, Duarte has helped leaders from Fortune 100 companies like Apple, Salesforce, VMware, and Cisco (just to name a few) to inspire, educate, and move even the most challenging audiences. As the O.G. presentation company turned persuasive communication consultants and trainers, we can help you (and your team) with every and any aspect of persuasive communication – from content strategy and development to slide design and delivery coaching. We offer large-scale training and bespoke agency services for presentation design, delivery, and development.

Our courses, workshops, and trainings are all rooted in The Duarte Method™, which our experts use daily to help the biggest brands in the world persuade their audience – whether they’re standing on stage or in front of a conference room.

So, where should you start?

If you’re confident in your content, but not in your persuasive stage presence, hone in on delivery by working with a speaker coach.

“I can honestly say this was one of the best learning experiences I've had in a long time and I have a lot more confidence about speaking thanks to you.“

Vice President, Fortune 500 company, Speaker Coaching client

 

Or, if you don’t have a specific persuasive presentation to prepare for, but want to learn how to shape ideas into persuasive narratives, you can enroll in a persuasive communication course like Resonate that will teach you how to:

  • Analyze your audience so you can deliver value, even when they resist
  • Clarify the core of your idea
  • Create supporting content with the story structure used by history’s greatest communicators
  • Distill and communicate complex ideas with clarity

“Our workshop was fantastic! I learned impactful new tactics and ways to organize and prepare a structured presentation. I would absolutely recommend this to a friend!”

Cortney Holloway, Manager, Talent Acquisition, Glassdoor, Resonate® learner

 

Or, if you need more hands-on help, consider working with a persuasive communication expert from our agency.

“The slides were excellent, all the presentations went really well, and the presenters were happy. Duarte went above and beyond.”

Bob Mitton, Senior Content Strategist, VMware

 

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