The Art of Persuasion: How to Transform Your College Presentations
BY ANNABEL MONAGHAN
As a university student – particularly a student in the final few semesters of your degree program – presentations are a way of life. And if you want to elevate your GPA and feel like you’re adding value to those around you, it’s helpful to brush up on your persuasion tactics.
Why Does Persuasion Matter?
The idea of persuasion gets a bad rap. People often discuss it in negative connotations – referring to pushy salespeople and manipulative leaders – however, there’s a whole different side to the equation.
If you dig into the etymology and definition of the word, you’ll see that persuasion is simply the act or process of moving people by argument, entreaty, or expostulation to a specific belief, position, or course of action. No perverted manipulation or overbearing force necessary.
Whether you pursue a career in sales, marketing, management, finance, or entrepreneurship, the ability to persuade others will result in you hearing “yes” more frequently.
4 Tips for Persuasive Presentations
As a student in university, you’ll be asked to give dozens of presentations in your undergraduate career – and even more if you pursue graduate school, regardless of which faculty you are in. If you treat these presentations as learning opportunities, you’ll recognize that they’re perfect for honing your persuasion skills and learning to communicate with diverse audiences and future clients.
Here are a few steps you can take to get better results:
- Hold Yourself With Confidence
We’ve all sat through presentations where a presenter’s awkwardness and anxiety rubs off on the audience and instantly makes everyone uncomfortable. We’ve also all experienced presentations where the speaker’s confidence is infectious and instantly puts onlookers at ease. Body language is everything in a presentation. And whether you realize it or not, the audience is judging you from the moment you step behind the podium.
Regardless of how anxious you are inside, you need to hold yourself together and portray a strong, confident exterior that communicates mastery and poise. This means wearing something professional and appropriate, holding your shoulders back, relaxing your knees, and smiling. The more comfortable you are, the more receptive your audience will be to what you’re saying.
- Leverage the Right Supporting Materials
PowerPoint presentations accompany most of today’s presentations – from pitching proposals to showing statistics. And while there’s nothing wrong with having a visual display behind you, be careful not to rely on slides to carry you through.
A couple of digital slides are fine, but don’t overlook the power of print. In a world of online misinformation and fakes news, it’s far easier to convey trust in a printed piece of content. For important presentations – such as final projects – consider handing out printed booklets that complement your speech and drive home important points.
- Use Fact-Based, Logical Content
Generic presentations are painfully common in all faculties. They’re almost always the result of poor preparation and fear of fully committing to a stance or belief. Instead of digging their heels in, a student provides an overview from 20,000 feet above and offers very little tangible information to the audience.
To persuade your audience, you need to use fact-based, logical content that’s specific and directed. Never assume that your audience will get from Point A to Point B without you connecting the dots for them.
Stay away from analogies unless you are confident you are able to drive the point home with no room for open-interpretation. Give the audiences a strong takeaway. For instance, when talking about how millennials are more eco-friendly, you could give examples on current trends which reflect your claims such as the rise of veganism and how it has influenced millennials to start their own garden. You can also make responsible tourism an example and take about the rising culture of travelers and how it has bred a new generation of worldly individuals, eager to better their lives and the lives of those around them which includes being kinder to the environment and going plastic or waste free.
- Use a Conversational Style
There’s a time and place for giving a “just the facts” approach, but your average presentation needs something more. While fact-based, logical content is a must, there’s also a need for some flavor and engagement.
If you can find a way to implement a conversational style into the presentation, you’ll find it much easier to engage your audience and, as a result, persuade them in a desired direction.
A conversational presentation style can be implemented in a variety of ways. For starters, look for opportunities to include stories into your speech. Stories have a way of grabbing attention and making the rest of your presentation more memorable. When used alongside factual content, colorful details paint a more complete picture.
Conversational style also assumes that you don’t just read words off of a script. There needs to be some natural flow to your words – a degree of impromptu speaking, if you will. Your audience is much more likely to feel moved if they believe they’re a part of something organic. It pays to practice in front of a mirror both to build confidence and to gain experience. The more comfortable you are, the more confident you will seem and the more engaged your listeners will be.
Prepare for the Real World
You shouldn’t view college in a silo. While it’s a fairly structured environment where you’re relatively safe to fail, learn, and grow your skillsets – it’s also a place to prepare for your career that’s coming next. A presentation is about more than learning the subject matter and getting a good grade. What you’re really doing is perfecting your communication skills and refining your ability to persuade others.
When you approach your coursework with the understanding that you’re practicing for the real world, your thinking behind the how and why of your education will shift. Be sure you’re maximizing the opportunities you receive in order that you grow as a person and as a professional.
Annabel Monaghan is a writer with a passion for education and edtech. She writes education and career articles for The College Puzzle with the aim of providing useful information for students and young professionals. If you have any questions, please feel free to email her at email@example.com.