Advanced persuasion techniques

Delivering presentations

July 27, 2022

Eight seconds. That's all you have to attract someone's attention.

According to research, our attention span has markedly decreased. In 2000, the average attention span was 12 seconds; in 2015, down to 8.25 seconds.

With so many screens and selections constantly buzzing and sending us notifications, it’s understandable why it can be hard to focus.

What does this mean for presentations? It means incorporating creative and engaging ways to captivate your audience and keep their attention. In this guide, we’ll cover new techniques you can bring into your next presentation to help keep everyone’s focus on you.

Table of contents:

Coming Soon.

Pre-suade before we persuade

You're more likely to persuade someone before you even ask for what you want.

That's what Robert Cialdini writes about in his book, Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade. Cialdini proposes that the secret of persuasion is not in the message itself, but in the key moment before the message is delivered.

For example, we have all experienced an encounter at the mall where someone has asked if we’d like to participate in a survey.

Cialdini notes that out of the individuals asked, 29% of participants would agree. But when the question asked before the survey was something like, “Do you consider yourself a helpful person?”

Most people would respond “Yes” and were more likely to take the survey. In fact, the percentage jumps up to 77% of participants.

Here’s another example of pre-suasion.

A group of people was asked, “Would you give us your email for a free soda coupon?”

Of that group, 33% volunteered their information.

Another group of people was asked that same question BUT with the question, “Do you consider yourself adventurous?” asked first.

Here, Cialdi found that:

  • 90% of people replied “Yes” to the first question
  • And 76% of the group participants volunteered their email information

So, what does this mean?

To summarize the fundamental point of Cialdini’s research he writes,

“The factor most important in a person’s choice in a situation is not the one that counsels the most wisely there; it is the one that has been elevated in attention (and thereby in privilege) at the time of the decision.”

In other words, if you elevate the attention of something in an individual (i.e. their helpful nature, their adventurous spirit), you may be able to persuade their decision before your question is asked.

Some ways you can use pre-suasion in your business presentations

💡 Think of your audience
Find ways to link your presentation to topics that are top of mind. (eg. end-of-quarter deliverables, monthly goals, etc.)

💡 Think of your presentation sequence
Before you get to the big ask in your presentation, get your audience to agree to a “smaller yes” to get into the “Yes!” mindset.

💡 Think of what’s already been done
Mention the last few innovations and risks the executive took that were successful before pitching your bold idea.

Yes, and…

The foundation of improvisational—better known as improv—comedy is a concept known as “Yes, and…”

All the great improv artists swear are trained in the art of improv and all the new artists work hard to learn it.

So, what is “Yes, and…”?

The concept is pretty simple and starts with a “Yes!”

Whatever your fellow improvisers say or do, it’s your job to say, and mean, “Yes!”

Why say yes in improv?

  • It opens you up to possibilities that could lead you to do something outrageous or moving
  • It helps continue the dialogue with colleagues on stage and keeps the conversation flowing
  • It encourages colleagues to cooperate and engage
  • It brings the audience comfort because they know what to expect


The “and” part of the “Yes, and…” concept is so important because agreement is not enough. “And” allows you to bring something to the scene and build something together with your colleagues.

Applying “Yes, and…” to business communication

1. Be aware of “No, but…”
The “No, but…” statement can show up in many different ways. The popular “No, but have you considered…” is often heard in business meetings and can be a demoralizing response in teams. Other forms of “No, but…” can be seen in a grimace or by going on a tangent unrelated to the conversation.

2. Embrace “Yes, and…” in Q&A
Embracing “Yes, and…” during a question-and-answer situation helps you hear the idea clearly, puts you in an open headspace rather than defensive, and allows you to build on the question together.

Make an unexpected move

This is the story of the 1972 World Chess Championship—often called, “The Game of the Century”—between American challenger, Bobby Fischer, and Russian defending champion Boris Spassky.

It was game 6 and tensions between the nations were rising. There was far more than the World Chess Championship at stake.

In a move that shocked the world, Bobby opened with c4 (English Opening, Queen’s Gambit) instead of his favorite and strongest start: e4 (King Pawn). Bobby had been the strongest proponent of the e4 start his whole life but tied at 2.5 - 2.5 points, Bobby made a starting move he had played only two times in his life. Moreover, the English opening favored the Russian style of positional play.

It worked. Spassky was stunned and unprepared. Bobby played beautifully, winning the “Game of the Century” and taking home the World Championship title. He also dealt a psychological blow to the very talented Boris Spassky by beating him in his own style.

What's your c4 move?

We all have those standard, predictable moves we are almost pre-programmed to make. These moves aren’t bad, they are solid moves that have worked for us in the past.

But winning at the highest level requires unpredictability, courage, and intelligence.

Winning at the highest level requires c4 moves. ♟

Expert Corner: Sue Guiher communicates with C.A.R.E.

Sue Guiher
is a communication expert and leadership coach with Thrive for Success, a consulting firm Guiher launched to help small businesses thrive.

Guiher states that conveying emotion while you communicate is not only effective, it should be a requirement.

“All of us are human beings. All of us have feelings and thoughts. And when we try to disconnect our communication from those feelings, that’s where the relationship piece breaks down.”

Guiher uses the C.A.R.E. model of communication to connect with her audiences:

As you’re talking, are you being concise? Is your message clear and comprehensive?

Show up as your whole self and tell the truth.

Make your presentation relevant to what the audience cares about. Think about who is listening and what they want to know more about.

What are you asking the audience to do? What is their call to action? People want to be a part of something, so give them something to be a part of!

Now you’re ready to start persuading others in your next business meeting! For tips on how to own your voice to ensure your message is heard, read our detailed guide here.