I am a regular user of Apple iTunes University. On the late night Aer Lingus flight over from Barcelona to Dublin yesterday, I was listening to Jeffrey Anderson of Regent University deliver a lecture on Persuasive Communication. I like his thinking on audience analysis.

There are four types of audience, and consequent persuasive strategy that you can come upon when you are seeking to move a group to action through your speech.

  1. Friendly. Your purpose: reinforcing their beliefs.
  2. Apathetic. Your purpose is to first to convince them that it matters for them.
  3. Uninformed.  Your requirement is to educate before you can begin to propose a course of action.
  4. Hostile. You purpose is to respect them and their viewpoint. The most you may be able to gain is respect to listen to your views. It is key that you can present some information that is viewed as new to the audience before asking for any change in their position.  This is firstly courteous, but also gives the listener’s ego room to change without feeling demeaned (“based on this new information, I ask you to change”)

When providing new information it is vital that you help the listeners “assimilate”.  How can you make it real for them?  There are a number of techniques to bear in mind.

  • Use stories (ideally real stories), metaphors, hypothetical situations
  • Stress common ground
  • Present statistics/data that is clear to conclude from
  • Address conflicting evidence (what are the strengths and weaknesses of the conflicting evidence)
  • AVOID exageration or gross hyperbole.  The use of exageration in a number of areas of public debate has caused extreme entrenchment of the opposing sides. eg. abortion, climate change. The persuasive speaker works hard to keep to the facts and be clear about the logic of the proposed course of action.
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