Studies consistently show that our ability to communicate and persuade our core skills organizations value. Yet ironically, many of us have suffered through boring and uninspiring presentations as this cartoon link to this video shows. In this lesson, I will discuss the important concepts of communication and persuasion, so that they'll be less suffering around. What exactly is communication? One analogy describes communication as a form of information transfer, like a download from the speaker brain to the listeners. We know this analogy is inaccurate because very often what is communicated is not understood or is misinterpreted or simply ignored by the listener. Yet, this is precisely the attitude some speakers have when they present, they assume a transfer of information can magically occur when they speak. Now, in 1948, a telecommunications engineer by name of Claude Shannon, came out with the modal which suggests that our communication is not perfect and things can go wrong. This later became the Shannon-Weaver Model, which states that a communication process has the following parts: The information source, the receiver, how information is encoded then transmitted through a channel before it is decoded and understood by the recipient. Noise however, can interfere with this transmission. This is often called the Standard Model of Communication because Shannon and Weaver would have first to draw attention to the fact that communication is a complex two-way process with feedback between the sender and the receiver. Miscommunication can occur when any of the components breakdown. However, this model is simplistic and it says nothing about persuasion. So what is persuasion? In business, persuasion is about influencing an individual to change the attitude or behavior towards an object or entity. Now, not all communications are of the persuasive kind. Sometimes the presenter may simply want to inform the listeners about something new like a new ordering procedure or a new warehouse. Therefore, informing and persuading are two different things. So before you present, you have to ask yourself what are your intentions. If it's to simply inform, then presentations may not be necessary, one could just simply send out the relevant information. On the other hand, if the intent is to persuade, then presentations are crucial because typically this means convincing the audience why certain things have to change. That's why persuasion is very challenging. To do it well you must understand what motivates your audience, this means understanding what's important to them which requires audience analysis. You start by asking: who is my audience? What information do they find valuable? What are their aspirations and fears? Finally, why should they listen to me? The more you understand their motivation the more likely it is you'll be able to create an audience-centered presentation. On the other hand, if you fail to understand your audience, you will probably end up presenting to yourself. Now, an audience-centered-approach also implies that you are anticipating how your audience might react to your message. Now, this brings me to an important perspective on persuasion championed by two psychologists, Richard Petty and John Cacioppo. In 1986, they published a very influential paper which suggests that how we think about a message will influence its persuasiveness. For instance, if we like what we are hearing in a presentation, we will begin to generate positive thoughts and the message is likely to be accepted. On the other hand, if we dislike what we are hearing, we will begin to generate negative thoughts and the message is likely to be rejected. The generation of these thoughts whether positive or negative, is called elaboration. The more involved we are with the message, the more likely we are to elaborate on it. How we respond to the message sometimes called our cognitive response, turns out to be the best predictor of persuasion. Persuasion is thus an active process, a radical departure from the earliest Shannon-Weaver Model which assumes that receiver passively absorbs incoming information. So how do you tell if the audience has accepted your message? The most obvious way is to see how they react during your presentation. Verbally they might respond in a positive information while nonverbally they might not, or smile or clap in approval. Another observation is the questions they ask. If there is acceptance, the questions asked after the presentations are likely to be implementation type questions like, how do we do this? Or, what do we do next? Such questions signal that the audience has been inspired to take action. On the other hand, if you have lots of "why" questions, it means the audience is still questioning the premise of your argument, they're not convinced. Finally, the most accurate way of assessing if people have been persuaded, is to simply ask them in the survey after the presentation. This is useful because if they haven't been persuaded, you can find out why. So in summary, remember, that all presentations should be audience-centered. To be persuasive, you need to understand the needs of your audience and provide information that is valuable to them. That is how you motivate the audience. Communication is not a passive process because listeners a constantly judging what you're saying. If your persuasion is successful, your audience would not only accept your message but be inspired to take action. This means you will have been successful in taking them on your journey from why to how.