How to convince a critical audience

Mina was nervous. She was presenting a change plan to a team of auditors. She knew the change wouldn’t be popular. And she was facing a highly critical audience.

Here’s how we’d help Mina deal with this problem. You can use the same strategies to sell your ideas to resistant audiences – whether you’re presenting at a meeting, giving a formal speech or seeking to change one person’s mind.

Plan with the sceptics in mind

If other people agreed with you, you wouldn’t need to persuade them. So plan your argument with the sceptics in mind. Think about the objections they’ll raise in relation to your argument. Plan how you’ll counter those objections. Then launch a pre-emptive strike. Raise and deal with the objections early in your case. Now you’re in control of the direction your argument takes.

Make your logic clear

Hostile audiences will look for holes in your argument. Make sure you’ve prepared thoroughly. Know your facts and use them in two ways. Firstly, use facts to support the main premise of your speech. Secondly, use facts to counter objections to your premise.

Once you’ve created a flawless argument, structure your speech to support it. Start by posing a problem. Tell your audience you’ll demonstrate how to solve that problem. Deliver your solution in three stages and ‘tag’ each stage as you speak. For example say “Step one involves…step two involves… and step three involves.” Numbering each part of your argument suggests you’re taking a logical approach.

Point out the cost of not agreeing

Money is a powerful influencer. Support your argument with a strong financial case and you’ll silence your critics. Show your audience what your proposal is worth to them in dollar terms. For example, you might be proposing an idea that will reduce work errors by 20%. Calculate the time saved by eliminating those errors. Then put a price on that time by calculating staffing costs over a year.

But don’t stop there. Also demonstrate the cost of taking no action. Explain how high error rates impact on customer service. Put a dollar value on dealing with complaints from customers. Then ask “can you afford not to put this idea into action?”

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Start and finish with strength

People best remember the points they hear first and last in an argument. Use this fact to your advantage. Put your most compelling facts at the start and finish of your case.