End on Peak Experience

We all know the importance of making a good first impression, but persuasion scientists tell us that people are deeply influenced by last impressions too. That’s why it’s worth the effort to carefully craft the way you close a speech or presentation.

For years I’ve encouraged people who attend my workshops to take advantage of the rule of recency. According to that rule, an audience tends to remember best and longest the information they hear at the end of a talk. But Steve J. Martin and the co-authors of The Small Big: Small Changes That Spark Big Influence suggest another tool speechwriters can use to heighten persuasion. It’s called the peak experience effect.

According to Martin and friends, amplifying the high points of a situation at or near the end of an interaction can exert enormous influence over future decisions. Rock bands take advantage of this theory, for example, by playing their biggest hits at the end of a concert, leaving fans with a warm and fuzzy feeling. Hotels do the same when they place a chocolate on your pillow, ending the day on a sweet note.

Sharpen Key Words to Maximize Impact

Good speechwriters know it’s important to build a speech or presentation around a strong key message. But, what about choosing key words? Do you have to go to that level of effort? In a recent blog post, author and marketer Seth Godin said when most people scan a memo, post or ad for the first time they only pick up about 10 words. Readers can always re-read written material, unless they’re in a car speeding by a billboard. However, in many cases, listeners get one chance to hear what a presenter has to say. So, choosing key words with care is worth some effort. Besides, the exercise gives you, the writer, another useful tool for sharpening the impact of the ideas you want the audience to take away.

Follow these three steps to choose and use key words.

Take Small Steps to Persuade

Confucius said a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and, oddly enough, persuading people to accept an idea or take some action works the same way. The trick is to know what small steps to take.

In How To Argue With a Cat, rhetorical ninja Jay Heinrich says a persuader’s goal shouldn’t be to win an argument; it should be to use argument techniques to win over people. One such tool is likeability, or what psychologists call "affective presence". It's a matter of how a person makes others around them feel.

So, if you (or the speaker you write for) has to give a talk to a roomful of skeptical listeners, take these three small steps to increase the chances the audience will find you likeable.

Make A Good Impression on the Podium

If you have a long memory, you might remember a TV ad that reminded viewers “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” So, how can you help yourself (or the speaker you write for) pass that all-important test on the podium?

The key is to understand the way people judge others on a first encounter. American psychologist Amy Cuddy says we do it by asking ourselves two questions:

• Can I trust this person? and
• Can I respect this person?

In other words, Cuddy says we size up the people we meet based first on trust or “warmth”. Then we consider what she terms their “competence”.

Here are three things you can do to make a good impression when you give a speech or presentation. Read More...