At the end of each semester, I always wrap up my management 3120 and 3300 class with a couple of lectures on negotiation and persuasion. Students learn about various techniques of negotiation in the business setting as well as practice using persuasion practically in their day to day lives (one of my students’ favorite topics is when and how to ask for a raise). More importantly, becoming familiar with the fundamental principles of persuasion contribute to communicating more effectively overall.
My task this year as a WAC fellow is to support business policy 5100 students with their final oral presentations by providing advice and individualized feedback. Public speaking is a difficult art to master, but if we narrow it down, successful presentations in the business field share a common element – presenters incorporate persuasion principles! Most of the presentation in business classes put students in a position where they role play as a consulting group to provide recommendations to companies and advise top managers in terms of future strategy and decisions. Students must convince their audience that they are able to accurately predict future outcomes and they are a trustworthy source of information. Two presentations with the same quality of content can have drastically different outcomes in terms of effectiveness, where the difference often lies in the choice of words, team member cohesiveness, and nuances in message delivery. Hence, I believe that students should be introduced to negotiation and persuasion techniques when they prepare their oral assignment.
I gathered a short list of key concepts (adapted from Robert Cialdini’s principles of influence) that I want to go over with the students in order to help them with (1) working with other students in a team and (2) deliver their presentation effectively and convincingly. Hopefully it will be helpful to them not only for their project, but also for other experiences where they have to work with others and present ideas.
The principle of reciprocity states that people feel obliged to offer concessions to others if similar discounts have been offered to them. This is because people are uncomfortable with feeling indebted to others. I have seen many groups fall apart near the end of the semester because many students do not know how to get their teammates to work together. Using the idea of reciprocity, the team leader or the team members who are more proactive should divide up the work early on, make small sacrifices/concessions first, and then pressure other team members to complete their own tasks.
According to this principle, people want to stay consistent in their opinions, especially if they have shown interest in an idea and become committed to the idea early on. Student presenters should hook their audience with information that everyone can relate to at the beginning of the presentation to capture people’s attention, then ask related questions and interact with the audience throughout the presentation to keep everyone interested and engaged. Important pieces of information and main ideas should be stressed and repeated several times throughout the presentation.
- Mimetic imitation and social norm
This principle is based on people’s tendency to yield to group pressures and conform to the norm. When working with teammates, team leaders should pressure everyone to agree face to face on a strict deadline to establish a productive norm within the group. During the presentation, students can improve their persuasiveness by introducing real life examples involving well-known companies and events that match their decisions, which will help to convince the audience that the presenters’ recommendations are commonly used by others.
We are more likely to be influenced by people we like. Likability can be built based on a wide range of things such as similarity in interest, compliments, or personality. Student groups are more likely to be functional if team members first get to know each other and develop a more authentic interpersonal relationship with each other before they have to do work together. If students in a group like each other, the team will work together more smoothly and the presentation will demonstrate better chemistry between members.
- Authority and legitimacy
People feel a sense of obligation to listen to people in positions of authority (eg. Pharmaceutical advertisers use doctors to promote their products). There are a few things students can do to improve their appearance of authority:
- Wear business attire
- Introduce team members as colleagues in a made up consulting firm
- Get rid of filler phrases and choose words carefully
- Make eye contact, speak loud/clear, and use hand gestures/body language
- If possible, bring up relevant prior experiences