Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Help! I have to be in a debate!

This clip shows PM Kevin Rudd trouncing his opposition leader Tony Abbott in a debate last May. K Rudd has now been ousted as Prime Minister but we don't know yet if Mr Abbott will be the winner. The commentary provides interesting insights into what works with an audience (and what doesn't). Given their recent role reversals, debaters everywhere might do well to watch and take notes.

In Part 1 of this post about debating and it's rising popularity as a format, I went through the basic game plan. Now we're onto the execution stage.


Apart from Prime Ministers' and Presidential debates, debating is a team activity. The issues that apply to preparing group presentations are in play.

Decide who speaks first. That person should put forward the thesis or key message and expand on one or two of the most important ideas. The second and third speakers (if you have that many) must argue against the opposition, make a few more points and conclude your case.

Preparing will make a huge difference (duh). Talk to each other in advance and make the debate a story that you ‘co-present’. It has to make sense between you, i.e it's a double act, or a triple act - not discrete unconnected presentations. They must link. This is not usually done well in public debates so if you can pull it off it will work well.

Allow time to prepare properly. People usually underestimate how long it takes to figure out what to say and to co-ordinate the presentation with your team mates.

Being 'on'

In a previous post I've provided a rundown on handling lights, mikes and lecterns. Acting with aplomb as you step up and speak will work wonders with your audience. Remember to eyeball them, and to SMILE. Don't talk to your opponents (you're never going to convince them). Keep all your magnetism for the audience.

DO listen to the opposition - it's much more amusing to really get some crossfire going but it means throwing away the script and thinking on your feet.

Keep to time, it is really important.

Remember there will be tweeting and sms-ing going on around you. It's spooky because you can't know what they're saying, but you are the subject. There are many useful articles in the blogoshpere about handling this, but at least one action you can take to keep a feeling of inclusion and shared experience alive, is to make some reference to it. Like a teacher who knows there are notes being passed in class but doesn't know who is doing it, say something about the e-conversation, that way at least they'll know you understand them.

And finally - on all but the most sombre topics - leave 'em laughing.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

How to make a persuasive speech

I've talked in a previous post about the terrible tendency to TMI (too much information) which afflicts many speakers. Each new workshop I do reminds me how prevalent this tendency is. Just about all speakers want to be able to speak in a way that leads people to change their minds and hearts, but what they come out with is facts facts and more facts.

Information reveals and clarifies options. Persuasion is about choosing among options. To be persuasive you have to convince and influence people – shape their idea of what they need and how you can give it to them.

There is a simple, widely used sequence of steps for persuading developed by John Monroe in the 1930s. Called ‘Monroe's Motivated Sequence ’ the steps are to be found in almost all books and courses about persuasion and the art of selling – whether it’s ‘selling’ ideas, products, policies or politics.

These five elements need to be included in a persuasive speech.

1. Attention-getter
Attention-grabbing arouses interest. In an oral presentation or conversation you can use a story, example, statistic, quotations, etc.

2. State the need – generate awareness
Show that a problem exists, that it is significant, and that it won't go away by itself. You need to demonstrate the harm that is occurring. Here is where facts - used judiciously - are important. Use statistics, examples, etc. Convince your audience that there is a need for action to be taken.

3. Satisfaction – provide a solution
Provide specific and viable solutions that they can implement. Show how your solution solves their problem. Promise them something. Match them as closely as possible to the harms you identified earlier. Try to preempt any objections before they are raised. Make it detailed and specific.

4. Visualize the change – see the benefits

Explain what will happen if your solution is implemented. Review the harm to show the consequences if it does not take place. This gives a sense of urgency. You need them to see that they can’t get along without your product or service. Be detailed. Use examples and scenarios. Let them see themselves in the new dimension.

5. Action – what they should do

You now need to prompt the person into action, implementing the solution that you both now know is the right thing to do. Tell them what action they can take personally to solve the problem. Show how. It needs to be relevant, immediate and doable.

Try it - it may not feel comfortable at first, but it's the way to build support for your cause.