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persuasionWe can’t reason people out of beliefs, opinions, judgments, prejudices, and behaviors that they didn’t reason themselves into.

We can’t change people’s ways of thinking and acting simply by giving them new information and leading them step by step through a logical process of analysis and understanding.

We can’t, in short, persuade people to change by logic and reasoning.

There are two main reasons for this.

First, we form our basic beliefs and behavior patterns as children, when our ability to reason is underdeveloped, if not entirely lacking. For the most part we adopt, without thinking, the beliefs and behaviors of those around us.

When we question our beliefs and behaviors later in life—if we question them at all—we’re still inclined to give them credence. Reinforced by habit, they “feel” right, natural, proper.

And second, we aren’t rational beings. At least, rationality isn’t our primary way of understanding and relating to the world.

The process of reasoning—gathering and assessing information, questioning assumptions, forming opinions, analyzing them and revising them when necessary—doesn’t come naturally to us. It’s a skill we have to learn.

Reasoning takes time and effort. And in a world that comes at us like a Mack truck, at a thousand miles an hour, with horns blaring, demanding an immediate response, we tend not to reflect but to react.

We don’t say, “Whoa, hold your horses. Give me some time to think this through.” We don’t, in short, reason our way through each new situation. We fall back on our tried and true ways of understanding the world and of coping with its incessant and clamorous demands.

I’m not arguing in favor of abandoning reason and logic.

I am proposing that if persuasion is our goal—if we want to change how people think and feel and act—we have to develop strategies and techniques that build on something more than reason and logic.

The question, of course, is how? Any suggestions?

What makes a speech bad?A bad speech can be bad in two ways.

It all depends on how you define bad.

Bad can mean of inferior quality, or defective, failing to measure up to standards, unpleasing, or unable to perform as required.

Think of a bad wine, or a bad movie, or a bad performance.

A bad speech, using this definition of bad, is ineffective. It fails to accomplish its objective.

A speech can be bad for any number of reasons:

  • It lacks unity and cohesion.
  • It fails to address the needs and concerns of the audience.
  • It is confusing, illogical, or boring.
  • It relies on poorly designed visual aids or fails to use them when appropriate.
  • It is poorly staged and delivered.

Bad can also mean morally deficient, repugnant, evil, wrong.

We often shy away from using bad in this sense, afraid of sounding judgmental or ceding the term to preachers and pundits who see evil everywhere they look.

But I think that some ideas—many ideas—are bad and deserve to be labelled as such.

If an idea can be bad—immoral, reprehensible, worthy of censure—a speech that advocates it is, by extension, bad.

I hate to go there, but Hitler is the best example of what I mean.

His speeches were good in the sense that they achieved their objective. And they were bad—demonstratively and monstrously evil—because the ideas they advocated so effectively were bad.

To judge a speech in this sense—to weight its moral worth—requires us to clarify our values and the way we determine right and wrong.

When I think of a bad speech, in this sense, I think of one that distorts the truth, plays on an audience’s prejudices, focuses their attention on trivialities, justifies injustice, and targets the weak and vulnerable.

What do you think makes a bad speech bad?

© Abdone | Dreamstime Stock PhotosVirtual meetings—by telephone or web services—have become commonplace in business these days.

On the plus side, they allow people to participate from anyplace in the world as long as they have a phone or an internet connection. And they cut down travel time and expenses.

On the minus side, they make communication more difficult. Most of the time you can’t see other people, making it harder to know who is going to speak when, and eliminating the ability to read people’s body language. And distractions—checking email, for example, or cleaning off your desk—become more tempting.

Whether you like them or not, virtual meetings are here to stay.

Here’s How to Make the Most of Virtual Meetings

  1. Plan
    Send out an agenda in advance with all the other required information (date and time, dial-in number, pass codes, etc.).
  1. Start on Time
    Identify all the participants at the beginning.
  1. Work through the Agenda
    Clearly state which item you are addressing, and address each item in the order on your agenda.
  1. Reduce Distractions
    Ask people for their attention throughout the meeting. Don’t waste their time. Don’t prolong discussions. Keep the discussion focused and moving along.
  1. Identify Yourself before Talking
  2. Make Yourself Heard
    If you’re using a phone, call in from a quiet place. Mute your phone when you’re not speaking. If you’re in a conference room with a speaker phone, speak directly into the phone and loudly.
  1. Be Extra Communicative
    Because other participants won’t be able to see your body language and facial expressions, you have to work harder to communicate what you mean, what you want, what you feel.
  1. Conclude on Time
    Take a few minutes to review the accomplishments of the meeting, to discuss action items, and to thank people for their time and participation.

Someday technology may improve–it’s not there yet–so that virtual meetings become as free and easy as face-to-face meetings. In the meantime, use these guidelines to make the most of them.

What’s your experience with virtual meetings? What helps you make the most of them?

You may also be interested in Technical Presentations at a Business Meeting.

Photo courtesy of © Abdone | Dreamstime Stock Photos.

Political rhetoric has become ugly, stupid, and brutish.

We can, of course, blame the politicians. Some more than others.

But politicians only say what they’re saying because people turn out to hear them, applaud them, support them, give them money, vote for them.

I grieve over the sorry state of political rhetoric. But I worry more about what our willingness to tolerate it, even celebrate it, says about the kind of people we have become.

Is this what we want? Is rage our only response to loss, change, and injustice? Is greatness to be found only in strength and the willingness to use violence to get what we want? What good do we expect to come from contempt, divisiveness, and bigotry?

I don’t know if, as people say, we get the kind of leaders that we deserve. But I believe that we get the kind of speakers and speeches that we’re willing to listen to.

One way — not the only way, but one way — to change the nature of political rhetoric is to change our response to it: to be a kinder, wiser, more discerning audience.

Donald Trump Public SpeakingYou can learn a lot of dos and don’ts about public speaking from observing Donald Trump in action. Not all of it is good, mind you, or worth imitating.

But it’s easy to pick up public speaking dos and don’ts from Trump because he is overblown in all that he does, even — or especially — in his public speaking.

I’ve grouped these public speaking dos and don’ts under three skills that Donald Trump exemplifies, sometimes to the extreme.

1. Donald Trump embodies his message.

You can’t separate who Trump is — a billionaire businessman with anger issues — from what he stands for and what he says. And that’s a good thing: what you see is what you get.

DO member that you are the message.

Everything that you are — your personality, reputation, experience, values, appearance, voice — shapes how people hear and whether they believe what you say. Don’t hide off in the semi-darkness, ceding center stage to your PowerPoint slides. Let everyone see you, front and center. Look them in the eye. And expect them to look back at you.

DON’T make make yourself the center of the speech.

The speech isn’t — or shouldn’t be — about you. It’s about the audience and how your idea can help them in some way if they adopt, support, or implement it.

DON’T be boring.

The only sin worse than boring an audience is confusing them.

If you’re not boring in real life but you are boring when giving a speech, you’re probably nervous. Don’t try to be exciting. You’ll probably only make yourself more nervous. Work, instead, on being confident. (Check out How to Develop Confidence Speaking.)

If you’re not excited about your message and about sharing it with your audience, don’t speak.

2. Donald Trump realizes the power of emotions.

Trump has mastered the rhetoric of rage. He is,himself, always in a rage or on the verge of flying off into a rage. And he gives his audiences permission to feel their rage, their anger over what they believe has been taken from them.

DO tap into your audience’s emotions.

You can convince people, by evidence and logic, of the rightness of what you’re proposing. But when you want to move them to take action, you have to engage their emotions. (There’s a reason why “motion” is 85% of “emotion.”)

DON’T rely on a single emotion, especially a negative one.

Rage will always get people’s attention. It will fire some of them up, but it will turn others away. And rage won’t sustain lasting action. Winston Churchill recommended appealing to pride, hope love, and — occasionally — fear.

3. Donald Trump uses lessons learned from reality TV.

Trump has hosted The Apprentice for 14 seasons. He approaches his speaking engagements — his appearances — the way he stages his TV show in three ways. First, he orchestrates the event, carefully selecting the venue and the audience. Second, he stirs up conflict. And finally, he speaks from a rehearsed “soft script,” from talking points, not from a written speech, which gives him the appearance of telling it like he sees it.

DO pay attention to the event.

Good speakers know their audiences — who they are, what matters to them, what they know and need to know, what they want and what they dislike, what problems they face. And they know the event — the reason people are gathering, where the meeting is held, how the room is set up. Exceptional speakers take part in shaping the event.

DON’T shy away from conflict.

Good speeches are, in part, about conflict. They propose one idea or advocate one course of action in opposition to another. Instead of downplaying the differences between your idea and another, between your product or service and that of a competitor, highlight it. Conflict is never boring.

DO prepare.

If you stand in front of an audience without being prepared and simply say whatever comes to mind, you will certainly be perceived as unscripted and, perhaps, as sincere. But you’ll also make a fool of yourself. You may not need a fully written script, but you do need a fully developed outline. And you need to practice it out loud a few times. (Check out The Benefits of Rehearsing a Speech or Presentation.)

Have I missed something? What do you think can be learned about public speaking dos and don’ts from Donald Trump?

See also Seven Rules for More Powerful Speaking.

How to prepare an oral proposalAn oral proposal for large contracts — government and commercial — goes by many names: a pitch, a sales presentation, an interview, or an orals.

Because a lot of money — millions, sometimes billions of dollars — is at stake, an oral proposal is one step — one of the final steps — in a long process. They are typically preceded by several conversations and exchanges of information and, of course, by a formal written proposal.

Your goal, when preparing and presenting an oral proposal is to win the contract.

You do so by showing the customer how your people, processes, tools and technology will provide better value than the competition: how you will give them more of what they want (features and benefits) and less of what they don’t want (costs, delays, risks, etc.)

Preparing a winning oral proposal is a complex process. It involves many players and considerations.

The Most Important Issues to Address when Preparing an Oral Proposal

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Business presentationsTechnical presentations, especially in a business meeting, are difficult to pull off.

On the one hand, a technical presentation addresses an issue or topic of some complexity, in a field that has its unique knowledge base, processes, methodologies, and jargon.

On the other hand, a business meeting isn’t a technical or scientific conference. The attendees are from different fields. They have different backgrounds, educations, and responsibilities. And they do not necessarily share your knowledge or speak your language.

You might be called upon, for example, to speak about a highly technical issue to people in upper management, marketing and sales, regulatory, finance, and operations. You don’t want to simplify your content to the extent that it’s no longer technically valid or meaningful. But you have to avoid confusing them by presuming too much knowledge or presenting too much detail.

So what can you do?

Continue Reading… know how to write a eulogy, you first have to know what a eulogy is and, more importantly, what its purpose is.

A eulogy is a short speech delivered in a memorial service in memory of someone who has recently died.

How to Write a Eulogy: Principles

Principle 1: A eulogy is a short speech.

In general, short speeches are better than long ones: more engaging, more focused, less apt to lose the audience’s attention. There’s so much going on in a memorial service (see below) and people are already coping with a mix of feelings. You owe it to them to keep your eulogy brief and to the point.

Principle 2: A eulogy is part of a larger event: a memorial service.

In addition to the eulogy, there may be scriptural or other inspirational readings, poems, prayers, music and songs, flowers, and in some cases elaborate ritual elements.

A eulogy serves a specific and limited purpose within the service. (More about that later.) A eulogy doesn’t do all the work.

Principle 3: A eulogy is a remembrance of someone who has died.

Originally, a eulogy was meant to praise the dead: to extol their virtues and accomplishments. (The word eulogy comes from the Greek, meaning “good words.”)

Many eulogists still limit themselves to saying only good things about the deceased. But doing so runs the risk of presenting an incomplete and, at times, distorted portrayal of the person.

A eulogy shares memories of the deceased, allowing others to tap into their own memories and, hopefully, to come to terms with them. Those memories may not all be positive or happy, at least not for everyone. What matters is telling the truth as kindly as possible.

How to Write a Eulogy: Tips

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Giving a speech or a presentation takes time and effort. And often it isn’t the right thing to do, given the circumstances and the need.

Before agreeing to give a speech or a presentation ask yourself three questions: Me? Here? Now?

Question #1: Me?

Am I the right person to give this presentation? Do I have the right knowledge and experience? Will I be credible to the audience?

Do I have a stake in the topic or in the audience being addressed?

Do I have something worthwhile to share — new information or ideas or a different way of thinking?

Question #2: Here?

Is this the right place, forum, or event to speak? Will the setting and room set-up, schedule, and agenda do justice to what I have to say and what I want to accomplish?

Are these the right people for me to address?

Question #3: Now?

Is this the right time to speak? Does my topic have relevance to what my audience is concerned about — or should be concerned about — now?

Am I given the time I need to address this topic adequately? Am I scheduled to speak at a time that will assure me of the audience’s attention.

This may sound funny coming from someone who makes his living by giving speeches and by helping others give them, but I’m skeptical about accepting speaking invitations. I want to speak only when I can do some good, when I am given an audience suited to my topic and approach, when the event is planned and managed in a way that gives me the opportunity to succeed.

And I encourage you, when possible, to consider carefully before agreeing to give a speech.

Fox debateTonight ten men hoping to be the Republican candidate for President will face each other in a televised debate.

Of course, they won’t really be debating each other.

A formal debate requires 1) a clear understanding of and willingness to adhere to reasonable rules, 2) a skillful moderator who poses questions and enforces the rules, and 3) enough time for all participants to have their fair say.

A debate also addresses a specific question or orderly series of questions, expecting each participant to stay on topic and explain, justify, and champion his or her position.

None of that will happen tonight.

The rules of tonight’s debate — and the contentious nature of political discourse these days — will make it hard for candidates to explain their positions thoughtfully or completely (if they were so inclined):

  • The debate is limited to two hours.
  • There will be three moderators.
  • Participants will have one minute to respond to each question and 30 seconds for rebuttal if their name is mentioned.
  • They will not make opening statements, but they will get 30 seconds to make a closing statement, if time permits.

Those rules seem designed to heighten the entertainment value of the debate, not to allow for the thoughtful discussion of policies and positions.

Following the debate media analysts will focus primarily on designating the winner and losers.

I think it would be more profitable to sift through all the racket, quips, and comebacks — all that gets said and unsaid — to ferret out where each candidate stands on three basic issues.

Three Questions to Ask Following the Republican Debate

1. The first question is of identity.

Who are we as Americans? What makes us different from others? Who belongs? Who doesn’t belong? Who are we: our heroes, role models? Who are they: our enemies, pariahs? Who deserves our praise and emulation? Who deserves our contempt?

2. The second question is of values.

What do we value? And why? What actions, policies, and goals deserve our attention, respect, energy?

3. The third question is of vision or direction.

Where are we headed as a nation, a society, a people? Where should we be headed? What are we about? What is the task that lies before us? What will our legacy be? What kind of world do we want to create and sustain and hand on to those who follow.

These three issues — of identity, values, and vision — are the same issues that every leader should be expected to address. Why not the candidates?

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