Paradigm shift in persuasive communication

By Christine Elmer

Chuck Roberts, President and CEO of Florida-based Performance Management Group, shared the secrets of persuasive communication developed over 20 years of applied research in his presentation ‘A paradigm shift in persuasive communication’ held as part of the 2016 IABC World Conference on Wednesday 8 June. “Communication is a process, so every step is important, as is the order,” says Roberts. “Using a complete array of approaches in a unified manner is what creates the real power.” An engineer by profession, Roberts now leads a consulting firm he founded, which provides training, consulting, and executive coaching services. His methods have been so successful that he has trademarked his communication methodology CRACOM™, which he says is deeply rooted in science but simple to apply. Roberts illustrated his points in his own finely crafted slide presentation. Importantly, Roberts says that all people are motivated by three factors: status, people and requirements.

“Persuasive communication is the key to increasing revenue and profitability, improving employee morale and performance, and achieving the desired outcomes a higher percentage of the time, more rapidly and at a lower cost,” said Roberts during his introduction. “Year after year, communication is identified as the top issue in need of improvement in the vast majority of organizations, yet this issue remains unsolved. This is because most time and effort is spent on communication tools and fads, rather than on the implementation of a scientific solution.”

Roberts says the two current fads used in the delivery of presentations to groups are using pictures and telling stories yet he says many people do not apply these techniques as effectively and successfully as they might. “While a few people understand a portion of the science behind these communication methods, they fail to apply them in a manner that fully capitalizes on the communication process, which requires a deep dive into the science of communication and an understanding of the interdependency and synergy of individual scientific principles.”

The CRACOM™ method is based on the experience of Roberts over two decades in the preparation and delivery of competitive presentations within the professional services industry. It includes two primary components: content and structure. “It has proven to be equally effective when applied to written documents and has emerged as a powerful change leadership methodology because of its ability to cause significant improvements in organizational alignment,” said Roberts. “The primary barriers to implementing CRACOM™ are that it requires an open mind, training and willingness to change – one-third of people resist change for no reason whatsoever.”

Roberts offered the following seven tips and advice to the roomful of IABC World Conference delegates.

1) Superior presentations have a single message

Persuasive communication must have a single message, regardless of the number of topis addressed. The message is the source of differentiation. In expressing content, communicators should first communicate the benefits, followed by enabling features linked by a trigger word. Communicators can translate features into benefits by asking the simple question: “So what?”

2) Bullets kill presentations but are great for written communications

Presenting the same information visually and verbally creates unnecessary cognitive load for the people receiving the communication, thereby reducing audience attention, comprehension and recall. Presenters should replace bullet points with powerful visual images that are carefully chosen and aligned with the desired outcomes. Images trigger an emotional response that is ten times faster than the cognitive process. The images should be accompanied by real stories, which support the message and are outlined with desired outcomes.

3) Alignment improves response

The receptor-oriented approach aligns content with behavioural orientations and this is the most important aspect of content and delivery. All people are driven by a combination of three factors: status, people and requirements. These factors should be addressed in the following order: status (and extreme economic benefit), people and requirements.

4) Color matters

Color has both psychological and physiological impacts i.e. warm colors speed up human metabolism while cool colors slow it down hence the use of red/yellow/orange in branding of convenience food businesses. Therefore use color to control time perception, attribute perceptions and create the desired atmosphere. Importantly, choose a color palette that supports your message rather than simply using your organization’s colors.

5) Modulation controls meaning

In the delivery of a verbal presentation, emphasis and pitch are the two most critical elements. The meaning of words and sentences can be completely changed through varying the emphasis and pitch. Variations in pitch signal punctuation, which is critical during a question and answer session.

6) It’s a competitive event

Every persuasive communication is a competitive event and superior persuasive communication skills require development and preparation similar to that of superior athletic skills. Therefore, conditioning, learning techniques, practising techniques and event-specific preparation are required.

7) Passion, not confidence, moves the audience

Passion enhances credibility and trust and has a greater positive impact than confidence on reader/listener responses. Confidence cannot be faked and over-confidence can be repelling. Passion comes from believing in your position and knowing your material.

Further reading

Seven Secrets to Superior Presentations by Chuck Roberts (2014) is available on Amazon (list price US$30).

Christine Elmer portrait (colour)Christine Elmer is a corporate communication practitioner with more than 20 years’ experience gained in government and private sector organisations spanning healthcare, financial services, infrastructure, consulting, publishing and education. She holds degrees in leadership, marketing, public relations and professional writing. Currently she is Director of Marketing and Community Relations at Cabrini Health, a large, not-for-profit, private healthcare service in Melbourne, Australia, where she is responsible for branding, corporate communications, issue management, media relations, internal communication, community participation and stakeholder relations. Cabrini has a presence in 16 different countries including the USA where we provide education with a high school in New Orleans and a university in Philadelphia, as well as eldercare and social services such as immigrant services and low-cost accommodation in New York. Christine is a member of the IABC and serves on IABC’s editorial advisory committee.