Testing Ideas is the Key to Persuasive Speaking

How do you make your speaking more persuasive, more compelling? I suspect that some of the people who ask this question are hoping for some magical secret of body language or voice training that can make anything sound persuasive. But in a way there really is a secret -- by far the best way to be more persuasive is to test all your ideas before you use them. Few non-speakers are aware of this fact, but it is one of the key foundations of strong speaking skills.

Before you use any idea on a real audience you should always try to test them in three ways:

Due Diligence.  First of all you have to check your facts. When you build a talk or a presentation on flaky facts and concepts you will find it hard to be persuasive. If your content is weak then you will see this reflected in the negative body language of the audience – there will be many question-mark faces, which is very discouraging. People are also much more likely to challenge you and ask awkward questions, exposing the flaws in your information and logic. There is one way to avoid this: check all your facts and stories. Never rely on memory or, worse, Internet memes. You might be surprised how many well-known “facts” are myths. Use Google, Quora and Wikipedia to check everything. And I mean everything. Every. Single. Fact.

Conversational testing. In the days, weeks or months before your speech or presentation you should also try out all of the key ideas you plan to use informally in conversations with friends and colleagues. This will help you to identify weaknesses in your reasoning. It will also expose points where your facts and logic are correct but not explained clearly enough. Listening to the feedback in these conversations is essential to catch errors that would be much more embarrassing if they were called out in an important event. You don’t need to organize any special conversations for this testing; just weave the testing into everyday conversations.

Presentation testing. After the due diligence and the conversational testing you should also test your ideas on a small scale in less important meetings first, or with groups of colleagues or friends put together for this purpose. Never keep your content secret until the big day and then present it as a surprise. This is a very bad idea. Never ever even think of standing in front of an important audience or a key decision maker with a presentation that has not been tested and revised several times until it is as bombproof as you can make it. You don't want to discover that there is a hole in your thinking in front of hundreds of people or a few key decision makers.

Careful testing of ideas makes your speaking more persuasive and compelling because you have already addressed all the weaknesses in your ideas and stopped up all the holes. It also gives you much more confidence which adds to the persuasiveness of your logic. This, in a way, is the secret of compelling speaking.


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You can contact Andrew Hennigan on 0046 730 894 475 or speaker@andrewhennigan.com if you would like a speaking workshop or one-to-one coaching for both beginning and advanced speakers.



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