6 Principles of Influence to Enhance Your Presentations

December 14, 2015

how to presentation influence impactGreat presentations are inherently influential; they make an impact in a meaningful way by altering the perspective of the audience. To create influential presentations, develop your presentations in accordance with the 6 Principles Of Influence, developed by Robert Cialdini, Regents’ Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University.

6 Principles of Influence

Principle #1: Reciprocation

Principle Summary: When you offer or give someone something, they will feel a sense of obligation and indebtedness, which will make them more likely to comply with your subsequent requests.

Presentation Tip: To motivate your audience to give you their attention, as well as follow your call-to-action at the end of your presentation, you should first give them something. Be genuine and creative with your act of generosity. Think of something that will be of value to the audience that is also relevant to your presentation material.

For example, if your presentation covers principles from a book you recently published, consider giving the audience a free copy of your book at the beginning of your presentation. If you cannot give away copies of your book, compile a PDF that includes helpful highlights from your book.

Principle #2: Social Proof

Principle Summary: People are influenced by decisions made by other people – either people in their social networks, or people they respect.

Presentation Tip: Don’t be shy about featuring positive testimonials, reviews, or endorsements in your presentation. For example, if you have direct quotes from customers who love your services, sprinkle their comments throughout your deck. In addition, if you have stories about respected individuals using your services in a positive way, include one or more of those stories in your presentation. Also, if you know that you have some happy customers in the audience, ask the customers to raise their hands, or clap if they love being your customer.

If you’re creating SlideShare presentations as part of your content marketing strategy, you can use entire presentations as a form of social proof for your company if you partner with thought leaders to create the content. For example, the presentation below was created by Ethos3 in collaboration with Nir Eyal, a respected author, speaker, and angel investor.

Principle #3: Commitment and Consistency

Principle Summary: If people commit to an idea or goal, they are more likely to honor that commitment than if they never committed to it orally or in writing.

Presentation Tip: When delivering your presentation in front of an audience, take advantage of the opportunity to be interactive with the attendees by asking them to commit to the call-to-action of your presentation. If your call-to-action is exciting for the audience, this should be an easy step to add to your presentation.

Asking for a commitment from the audience can be as simple as asking audience members to raise their hand if they are going to do X in response to your call-to-action, or taking the email addresses of people who intend to follow through with the CTA.

Principle #4: Liking

Principle Summary: People are easily persuaded by other people they like.

Presentation Tip: To be a likable presenter, focus on being warm in the beginning of your talk, instead of trying to demonstrate your competence and credibility in the early stages of your presentation. To be a warm presenter, speak in a conversational tone, smile with your eyes, and tell a personal story that is relevant to your presentation.

Shawn Achor demonstrates the power of leading with a personal story in his wildly popular TED talk, The happy secret to better work.

In addition, if you know that you and the audience have some commonalities, such as an interest in the local sports team, find a fun way to include a comment about this during your presentation. If you do not know for sure that you share common interests with the audience, make an educated guess about possible commonalities. For example, for some audiences you might be able to guess that the majority of attendees have children, or love dogs.

Principle #5: Authority

Principle Summary: People will tend to obey authority figures, even if they are asked to perform objectionable acts.

Presentation Tip: If possible, have a person whom you know the audience respects introduce you and sing your praises before you begin your presentation.

For example, Virginia Thompson established Tim Cook as an authority figure when she introduced him before his 2010 Auburn University commencement speech.

If you cannot secure an introduction by someone else, you will need to prove your own credibility. However, as mentioned above, you should demonstrate your warmth before demonstrating your competency to the audience. Once you have established yourself as a warm presenter, establish yourself as an authority figure by mentioning relevant experiences and accomplishments at appropriate points during your presentation.

Principle #6: Scarcity

Principle Summary: Perceived scarcity will generate demand.

Presentation Tip: If possible, take advantage of the sense of urgency that scarcity creates. For example, if you’re giving a presentation to close a deal, consider angling your pitch so that it seems like a special offer that comes in limited quantity. Or perhaps market your business as an exclusive service that only a few people can have.

This tip is more difficult to execute because you don’t want to be dishonest, or potentially scare away business by creating a limited time offer that expires before your audience is prepared to take action. However, if possible, use scarcity to positively influence your audience to take action, instead of twiddling their thumbs while a good deal floats away.

Conclusion: You might not be able to leverage all of 6 Principles of Influence in every presentation, however the more principles you can follow, the more influential your presentation will be.

About the Author

Leslie Belknap is the Senior Content Strategist for Ethos3, as well as a board member and speakers’ coach forTEDxNashville. Say hi to Leslie on Twitter; she manages tweets for Ethos3.