Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Bridging: The Art of Persuasion

What's the key to persuading people in public speaking and marketing pitches?

Start with the Facts

It's much easier to convince a friend, who knows you, than a group of strangers who have to evaluate you on multiple levels. When speaking publicly, each individual in a group will size you up based on many things, starting with the facts. Are your facts indisputable? Otherwise your audience will conclude your logic is non sequitur. Every single fact must be true to instill confidence in others.

"I like to tell stories and I think I'm good at it."

Do you see what I did, right there? I put forth two indisputable facts; and I did it without being overly passive. While I may be a bad storyteller, I put forth my opinion that I'm good at it. I stated an opinion that might seem like a fact to a casual observer; but if someone digs deeper into my facts, they'll realize that my comments are actually opinions.

The more active your speech, the better. Twitter is a big help with active writing. Generally speaking, the fewer words you use, the more succinct your point. Consider these three statements, conveying the same idea, from most passive to most active:

"I think I am going to go to the store."
"I decided I am going to the store."
"I am going to the store."

Active writing and speaking demonstrate a clear understanding of ideas and concepts.

Bridging Facts to Opinions

A key physiological ingredient to memory recall is adrenaline which is why people remember exactly where they were on 9/11. This "suddenness" is closely related to an epiphany, which I call bridging when it's used to get people from here to there.

Bridging starts with stating points that are closely related to what you're trying to prove, convey, or convince. It's making a series of supporting statements that people don't realize are true. If you can convince someone to believe related facts they didn't know, then your opinions will carry more weight.

For example, if I said, "The earth spins 1,000 mph," would you believe me? Is that really true? Sure, it's true, but most people don't realize it. All I need to do is help people think about it. The circumference of the earth is a bit under 25,000 miles. For easy mental math, let's say the circumference is 24,000 miles. Now, how many basic time zones are there in the world? Answer: 24, since there are 24 hours in a day. Crossing a time zone means adding or subtracting an hour. Simply divide 24,000 miles by 24 hours (24,000 miles / 24 hours) and you get 1,000 mph. Another way to think about this is each time zone is about 1,000 miles wide at the equator (time zones converge at the poles). The United States is about 3,000 miles wide; therefore, flying from NY to LA crosses three time zones and it requires adjusting our watches by three hours.

Following good scientific method principles, I provided two examples to support my statement that the earth rotates at a thousand miles per hour. I gave you a fact which required a little convincing. And then I provided the supporting proof. From here, we move into asserting our opinions, predictions, or forecasts.

Makers vs. Marketers

Die hard makers (people who make products, like engineers) tend to be poor marketers and they will focus on a product's features instead of its benefits. Keep in mind there are many ways to say the same thing without being deceptive or misleading.

Steve Jobs was great at highlighting benefits over features. Had the original iPod been marketed by another company, it might have been pitched as a 6.5 ounce MP3 music player that measured 4"  x  2.4"  x  3/4" and had 5 GB of storage. Even with an engineering background, I'd have a hard time figuring out how much music fits into 5 GB. That's why Apple pitched the iPod as "1,000 songs in your pocket." New concepts are easier to understand if you put them in a familiar context.

But, does this technique, which works on products, also work on people? Sure, but keep your message short when pitching to people and focus on the positive, not the negative.

For example, you call a plumber who completes a job for you and tells you, "That will be $75. But, if you don't pay me within ten days then I'm raising the price to $100."

Now, compare that with, "This will cost you $100, but I'll give you a $25 discount if I receive your payment within ten days."

That's the key to marketing. State a relevant, indisputable, fact that people don't realize. Then simply explain how it's true, followed by your opinion piece with a positive call to action.

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