Tuesday, October 11, 2016

How the Best Speakers Move an Audience to Action

Let's skip the engaging intro today and get right to it! Here are two not-so-good methods for moving an audience to action, one good one, and one that is the very best!

Decree Method

This is where you rely on your authority or expertise to simply tell others what they should do. There is no real conversation or questioning involved. No options are explored or best practices from outside sources presented. You are the answer person and you have spoken. It is surprising that this works with anyone at all, but it occasionally does, which is scary. The good news is, it is the least effective method for moving people to action through a message or talk.

Persuasion Method

This choice is slightly better than issuing a decree. Here, a speaker draws on the knowledge of their subject matter and tries to move an audience through inspiration. There is no engagement with the audience. Story telling is a frequent tactic here, and it does have a better payoff than issuing a decree. But the stories of others don’t stick unless you can see yourself in the same or similar story. This style of communication may cause one to leave feeling motivated, but it rarely lasts. Preachers are most guilty of this one. I should know.

Interactive Method

In this method, the speaker understands an audience’s common desire, need, goal or objective, and names it. Then, several options are explored, weighing the merits and drawbacks of each. Real-time feedback can be sought here by asking for a show of hands, solicitation of one word or phrase responses, or Tweeting questions to you as the speaker, as long as you have a mechanism for retreating and responding to those Tweets. This method invites the audience into the conversation and to consider what you have to offer. This is a much better method, but there is another that is even more effective.

Influence Method

This is where home runs are a regular occurrence. The best speakers know you need to begin with a good understanding of your audience, as well as their current values and objectives, and how well they are doing at achieving those objectives and living into those values. That is your baseline. Then you introduce research, best practices and strategies, as well as your own experience to highlight ineffective yet currently employed strategies and tactics to prompt thought and discussion of a better way. Again, interaction with the audience works well here. Then revisit the research, best practices and your own experience to suggest multiple, viable options from which they are free to choose, on how those in your audience might adjust their practices to attain their objectives (not yours) and live into their values. Be honest about the challenges. Let them know you are aware of what they are. Give them tools to overcome the challenges. Encourage them. Cheer them on. And finally, challenge them to form the beginnings of their own plan of action before they leave, and which options they want to explore. Leave them with the ownership of their actions. To some speakers, this seems risky, but it is absolutely the best way to get results that last, if moving your audience to better practices is your goal.

Remember, you are serving your audience. They are entrusting their valuable time to you. Make them glad they did.

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