5 Keys to Convince Colleagues

Curtis Franklin Jr., Executive Editor | 11/8/2013 | 33 comments

Curtis Franklin Jr.
Why do you use PowerPoint? If your answer doesn't involve changing minds, then you're doing it wrong.

This morning, Seth Godin had a post on his blog on the one purpose of every presentation. He talked about the importance of changing minds as a result of a presentation. And he's right.

If all you're doing is restating what everyone already knows, you should really save everyone an hour and just send a short email. If you're not even doing that -- if you're just standing up because it's expected, and you're giving a presentation that doesn't say anything that anyone will remember in four hours -- then stop what you're doing, close your laptop, and go buy coffee for everyone instead. It will do more good and will be remembered far longer.

But if you do want to change minds, there are five techniques you can use. Since I've got to put them in order, I like to say you can change minds with BRASS: beauty, reason, awe, shock, and sexiness. Let's look at each one before you decide which you'll use in your next executive meeting.

Beauty: Sometimes you can change minds through the elegance and beauty of your ideas. Coming up with BRASS as an acronym for five ways to change minds? That's beautiful. If you can come up with a slick acronym or a lovely visual to attach to your idea, then you can use beauty to change minds. When used properly, beauty can be very effective.

Reason: Engineers and software developers love logic and reason. If you can make your point with a flow chart, decision tree, or truth table, you're on your way to a solid reason win. There's one danger: Too many engineers feel their every argument is based on reason, since they're, you know, engineers. Let me help you with something: It doesn't work that way. Make sure your argument is really based on reason before you lean on this particular method.

Awe: There's an old saying in the presentation world: If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with... bovine effluvia. Sometimes the sheer weight of facts on your side can swing the argument. If the thud factor of your report makes it seem like you just dropped a library copy of the Oxford English Dictionary on the desk, then awe may be the right approach to change minds. Occasionally, the people in the room will end up changing their minds out of exhaustion -- a good, long list of facts can be very pursuasive.

Shock: "The sky is purple." "Our competition is our friend." When you can bring a statement that seems to contradict the basic facts of existence to bear on the presentation, you can bring your colleagues around through shock. Not every idea is shocking -- and shock can be followed by reason if you show how you got to your idea -- but a shocking idea can be very compelling when it comes time to change minds within your organization.

Sexiness: What's sexy in a business setting? If a proposal makes people feel good about themselves, it's sexy. It can prop up their ego. It can appeal to their sense of decency. It can promise career advancement. There are lots of ways for an idea to make someone feel good about embracing a new concept. This doesn't require anything underhanded or dishonest; it just involves showing someone how embracing the new will make them feel better about themself or their career.

There's your BRASS. How are you going to use it? Thinking back to presentations you've been in, can you see how these ideas were used by the presenter? Let me know what you think -- and whether you think my BRASS is hopelessly tarnished.

— Curtis Franklin, Jr. Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn pageFriend me on Facebook, Executive Editor, Enterprise Efficiency

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nasimson   5 Keys to Convince Colleagues   12/31/2013 8:21:07 AM
Re: BRASS brings it home
"When I first saw "beauty" though, I did a double take because I thought that was physical beauty, lol!"
@Henrisha- I,too,interpreted the same at first glance! Physical appearance and body language of the presenter do play an important role in making one's presentation a breakthrough! 
I wonder why this acronym hasn't included this aspect! (May be it lies under the general presentation ethics that are already known by all and sundry) but seriously, I have experienced such presentations where gestures and body language of the presenter were just not too right and so keep on distracting the viewers.  

LuFu   5 Keys to Convince Colleagues   11/30/2013 12:29:11 PM
Re: Chaucer and PPT Presentations
@nasimson - Who said anything about easy? It's very difficult, the hardest part being to boil all of the information and points down to the essential kernels of your point. It's like throwing out the bath water and making sure you hang onto the baby.
nasimson   5 Keys to Convince Colleagues   11/30/2013 5:50:03 AM
Re: Chaucer and PPT Presentations
@ LuFu:

Writing first a ten pager and then reducing it to one pager. Both steps are .. ahem .. quite challening for a person like me. 

Its really impressice if you can do all this repeatedly with ease.
Anand   5 Keys to Convince Colleagues   11/28/2013 6:52:24 AM
Re : 5 Keys to Convince Colleagues
@ Qasim Bajwa, this is essentially the key to producing good presentations. Interactive presentations are far more effective than lovely plain facts based presentations. It is all about making people sense that they are the part of this tedious and boring process of presentation. If you can make them ask questions about what you are trying to present, I think you have done your job fairly well.
Anand   5 Keys to Convince Colleagues   11/28/2013 6:52:24 AM
Re : 5 Keys to Convince Colleagues
@ Zaius, you made a very useful observation. As is the saying, "Excess of everything is bad", too much use of shock and awe lose its appeal. Predictability is harmful in every field. I think the most amazing characteristic for becoming influential when it comes to changing minds is your unpredictability. People must be expecting that something new is coming from your quarter instead of guessing what is coming.
kstaron   5 Keys to Convince Colleagues   11/26/2013 2:30:22 PM
Can I add one more?
Awesome tips to a great presentation. might I add one more. That's KISS - Keep it simple silly! don't jam facts down peoples throats, 9id you need reference slides for those really going back and looking at the research involved fine include them but in the actual presentation just remind people they are there and do go into it. Give them the upshot, the big picture of the data. The less time people have to spend in a meeting, the more attention they'll have to give you. Yuou can't convince them if you don't have thier attention.
SunitaT   5 Keys to Convince Colleagues   11/21/2013 12:50:18 AM
Re : 5 Keys to Convince Colleagues
Colleagues can find new interest if one can give a presentation in such a way that it motivates them to do something for the project. For example, men like gadgets, cars and babes. Women like shopping and eating out. If a presentation can be made in such a way that it touches all these topics slightly before moving onto the main presentation, it will generate interest. Moreover the energy is always noted in a speaker. Crack jokes, make sarcastic comments, stop and pull somebody up and ask them for their reviews, use lights and sounds, show them reason to believe in the project and why it is important for the company and yourself. Shock them with statistics that will force them to understand the project, motivate them and swell them up by complimenting them. Getting the support of the colleagues is not easy, but many minds make more work possible, so it is necessary. 
The_Phil   5 Keys to Convince Colleagues   11/18/2013 8:22:52 PM
Re: BRASS brings it home
Most presentations are reference material. We don't need to know every bit of info. It's just used to refer to when you're in a jam or someone asks a question down the road.
stotheco   5 Keys to Convince Colleagues   11/18/2013 11:58:02 AM
Re: BRASS brings it home
Some people are of the impression that longer presentations are better. I disagree. It doesn't have to deal with length but with the content. Get to the point and be clear and concise. No need to insert every bit of info or statistic, just for the sake.
Henrisha   5 Keys to Convince Colleagues   11/18/2013 1:59:04 AM
Re: BRASS brings it home
I agree. BRASS are good guidelines to follow when you're trying to convince someone of something. 

When I first saw "beauty" though, I did a double take because I thought that was physical beauty, lol!
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