Now Here’s a Great Question

I learned a long time ago the value of asking great questions. Asking great questions isn’t only about getting answers. Sometimes you ask questions just to get people to think for themselves. When you ask great questions they stimulate thinking because most people feel compelled to answer questions.

A Powerful Example

I’ll never forget what took place when a sales trainer came into a room with about 40 attendees right after lunch. Before he got started with his afternoon presentation he asked, “Does anyone know a good place to go for dinner in Columbus?”

Suddenly people were shouting out restaurant names and many others raised their hands. After a few moments he said, “Stop. I know exactly where I’m going for dinner. I asked a question to prove a point. People feel compelled to answer questions. Look at how many of you were shouting out answers or raising your hands. And for those who didn’t say something or raise your hand, were you thinking of a place?”

Suddenly the more reserved people were smiling because they too were thinking of restaurants. Point made. Almost everyone feels compelled to answer questions, either out loud or in their head.

Doubt Versus Belief

Author and sales trainer Tom Hopkins tells readers and audiences, “When you say it, they doubt it. When they say it, they believe it!”

There’s something about verbally stating an answer that makes people believe it even more. It’s the power of the principle of consistency. That’s where you feel internal psychological pressure and external social pressure to be consistent in what you say and do. I boil it down to “word and deed.” We feel better about ourselves and look better to others when our words and deeds match.

The Great Question

During my corporate life one of my big responsibilities was managing a bonus plan for my prior company. I did lots of training on the plan for our field salespeople but it was complicated so I still got lots of questions.

I usually spent a good bit of time researching to gather information before answering their questions. At the very end of my email response, on a line all by itself, I would ask one of the following questions:

  • Does that answer your question?
  • Was that what you were looking for?
  • Does that give you everything you need?

The responses I received were usually along these lines:

  • That’s above and beyond. Thank you!
  • Thank you so much! That’s more than I expected.
  • Wow, I appreciate that. Yes, it answers all my questions.

The Result

Whichever variation of the question I used, asking was primarily for confirmation. I wanted to avoid miscommunication and make sure the person got everything they needed. It worked!

Another benefit I quickly realized was the question was also building my personal brand. When people came back with enthusiastic responses that indicated I went above and beyond what they’d expected they thought more highly of me. The more highly they thought, the more they relied on me.

This taps into the principle of authority. This principle of influence says we listen to people more when they believe they are an expert. Asking for the confirmation can be a reminder of your expertise when you do your job well.

To Do This Week

When you’re asked for help and you’ve done your job, take a moment to ask a question that confirms you’ve met or exceeded expectations. Doing so will avoid miscommunication AND build your personal brand at the same time. Both will make you a more influential person.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An international speaker, coach, consultant, and author, he’s one of only 20 people in the worldpersonally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the planet when it comes to the science of ethical influence.

Brian’s first book – Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical – went live this summer. It’s been one of the top 10 selling Amazon books in several insurance categories and cracked the top 50 in sales & selling since launching.

Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courseshave been viewed by more than 75,000 people! His latest course – Advanced Persuasive Selling: Persuading Different Personalities – is now available through LinkedIn Learning and

Ask Yourself a Better Question

I like to write about whatever is top of mind. Sometimes it’s sales, leadership, coaching, social issues, and at other times it’s parenting. Quite often I write when I’ve learned something I want to pass along and that’s what this post is about – asking yourself better questions.

Over the years I’ve read a lot about self-improvement. That leads me to books on how our brains work, how fitness helps our bodies and minds, ideas for success, and so on. I believe one of the most important things we can do in life is to reflect on our own thinking so we can improve our response to the situations life throws at us.

On the recommendation of two people I highly regard I picked up a copy of Change Your Questions Change Your Life by Marilee Adams, Ph.D. I learned something unexpected so I want to share it with you today.

One principle of influence that is most impacted by the use of good questions is the principle of consistency. This principle tells us people feel internal psychological pressure and external social pressure to be consistent in what they say and do. Bottom line; we usually feel better about ourselves when our words and deeds align.

Most people fail to engage this principle because they tell people what to do rather than asking. When you tell someone what to do you’re not gaining a commitment. Consequently, when it comes to questions I often share this with audiences: Stop Telling, Start Asking.

When I started to read Change Your Questions Change Your Life I expected to build on the use of consistency. However, what stood out to me was not the questions I ask others but the questions I ask myself.

Let me illustrate. Let’s say you have an employee named Pat. He’s been with your company and part of your department for a year and a half. You brought him in with high hopes and initially were very pleased. But over the last four months his performance has dropped noticeably. Work quality has slipped and he’s missed some deadlines. Because of many factors you’ve not been able to spend as much time with him as you did early on so you’re not sure what’s going on with Pat. Recently he missed another deadline by two days which meant you had to work over the weekend to make sure everything was ready by Monday morning for presentation to your boss. Needless to say, you’re not happy about feeling rushed and working over the weekend.

What’s the first thought that goes through your mind? Consider these possibilities:

  1. What the hell is up with Pat?
  2. Did I make a mistake when I hired Pat?
  3. Pat has so much potential. I wonder what’s going on with him?
  4. I wonder if Pat’s performance drop is because I haven’t been able to spend as much time with him in recent months?

As is the case with so many of us it’s easy to quickly go negative because Pat’s declining performance hurts your team and is a negative reflection on you as his manager. If you go into the next conversation with Pat focused on questions like 1 and 2 how productive do you think that conversation will be? Will Pat feel like freely sharing if he senses negativity and/or a hostile tone?

Now consider questions 3 and 4. Do you think you’ll have a more productive conversation with these questions driving your thought process? I’m sure you can see Pat will be more open to sharing if he believes you still see potential in him and are concerned with his career.

The first two questions, or any negative and judgmental questions you may stew over, will send you down a rabbit trail looking for answers to confirm those questions. It almost becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy because it’s easy to find mistakes if you look hard enough.

What the hell is up with Pat? This is an exasperating question that will probably leak anger and frustration. While those emotions might be legitimate would you rather turn around his performance or get rid of him and start all over again with a new employee?

Did I make a mistake when I hired Pat? Our memories are short and our attention spans are even shorter. It will be much easier to focus on Pat’s recent performance and build a case in your mind that it was a mistake to hire him as opposed to reviewing the body of his work. Again, I ask, would you rather to turn around his performance or get rid of him and start all over again with a new employee?

Pat has so much potential. I wonder what’s going on with him? This acknowledges Pat has performed well in the past and seeks to find out what might have caused the recent change in performance.

I wonder if Pat’s performance drop is because I haven’t been able to spend as much time with him in recent months? While his drop may not have to do with your one-on-one time this is a less threatening opening than laying all the blame on him.

I hope you see the difference. The questions you ask yourself about people and situations impact your emotions, thinking and ultimately your behavior. This week I encourage you to pay attention to the questions you ask yourself. When you do, see if you can understand how they’re driving your behavior. Is it the behavior you want? Is it the most productive behavior?

Seldom can you change other people but you can change yourself. It begins with how you view and think about people and situations. Will you give it a try? What do you have to lose? What might you lose by not trying?

Influencers from Around the World – The Power of Influential Questions

I met Dan Norris in August 2004 when I attended the Principles of Persuasion Workshop®. Dan was the workshop facilitator and did a terrific job. He’s been a Cialdini Method Certified Trainer, one of less than two-dozen worldwide, for 15 years. In addition to being a CMCT®Dan has been the Director of Training for HOLT CAT since 2003. I invited him to contribute to Influence PEOPLE because of his vast knowledge of ethical influence. I know you’ll enjoy his writing and learn a lot from his post. If you’d like to connect with Dan reach out to him on LinkedInor Twitter.

The Power of Influential Questions
I can admit it freely now:  I’m a notorious eavesdropper.  Whether at an airport, grocery store, or restaurant, I delight in listening to the discussions of others.  I try to soak up every juicy detail, every interpersonal conflict, and every persuasive pitch that reaches my ears.  It’s amazing what people will actually discuss in public—topics ranging from the mundane to the downright absurd.  I like to believe I’m a student of human behavior, but the truth is, I’m just really nosey.

Over time, I learned more than just the latest gossip:  I realized people spent the majority of their time “telling” others what they thought and very little time asking questions.  In many cases, we spend enormous amounts of energy arguing points others already agree with.  We are just too busy “telling” to listen to what others have to say.

I reflected on myself. Was I any different?  (Spoiler alert: Nope.) I thought about all the times I belted out what I thought I needed to say.  I’d deceive myself and say “I’m just telling you how it is,” oblivious to others needs or perspective. Looking back, it took me significantly longer to get things done when I would “cut to the chase” and tell.  All too often, I felt I had to rehash issues several times before they were finally resolved.

Of course, I used to think others were slow or didn’t “get it.”  The truth is that I was the slow one.  My lack of questions and assumptions made it exceptionally difficult for me to hear what others were saying—and modify my behavior accordingly.

After this realization, I read every book I could find on questioning and communication.  I attended seminar after seminar on the subject. I also spent mentored with people who asked great questions (I’m looking at you, Larry Mills!).  It made a tremendous difference in my life—especially in terms of how I influenced others.

One memorable example of how questioning changed my influence approach came while coaching an employee named Harvey. At the time I was the new director of training at a large equipment dealership. It was common for me to spend time coaching others to reach their developmental goals.

However, this situation was different.  The supervisor shared with me the person frequently made disparaging remarks about his co-workers, and appeared to have a very “negative attitude.”  At the end of describing the employee’s behaviors, the manager leaned forward and curtly shared that “This is his last shot.  I’ve told him A THOUSAND TIMES that he needs to change and he hasn’t.  If you can’t help him, he’s out.”

I gave the meeting a lot of thought.  In the past, I would use the same template that many others use—tell the employee they have a problem, tell them what the problem is, and tell them what will happen if the problem isn’t resolved.  They would reluctantly agree to the findings of the meeting and leave. Sometimes they changed…sometimes they didn’t.

Then it hit me—his supervisor probably “told” him 999 times too many.  Despite failing each time, his supervisor continued to use the ineffective approach of “telling.”  I’m sure it lead Harvey to be as frustrated as his supervisor.

I decided to use questions in this coaching session to change the direction and try to salvage the working relationships.  To avoid falling back on my “telling” habits, I made a list of all the things I could gain by asking questions:

Questions reveal information I don’t already know.

“Telling” only shares information I’m familiar with…it doesn’t reveal how others are feeling, their perspective, or provide opportunities to influence.  Questions help me better listen to the needs, interests, and positions of others.

Questions influence others to make commitments.

When I ask questions of others, they make commitments about what they feel and believe.  If I say what needs to happen, others can doubt me. If I get others to tell me what needs to happen, they feel more committed to the solution.  Dr. Robert Cialdini’s landmark book Influence: Science and Practicecalls this the Principle of Consistency.

Questions involve others in the conversation

Telling pushes people away. Questions invite others into the discussion.  People want to express themselves and be heard.  They are more likely to listen to me if I listen to them first.

Questions influence people to reframe how they view the situation.

Questions are highly persuasive.  They are excellent ways to ethically influence others to experience private, inner changes about how they view a situation.  Another take away from Dr. Cialdini’s work.

I reflected on these four reminders.  “That makes sense,” I thought.  “Now how the hell do I use it?”  Channeling sage advice from a dear mentor, I resolved to write down several questions ahead of our conversation to prepare.

When the time came, Harvey sat down sheepishly in my office.  I could see in his eyes that he expected another didactic lecture about his behavior. After offering him some water, I pulled up a chair next to him.

“Thanks for meeting with me, Harvey. Before we get started, would you mind if I asked you some questions?”

“Sure,” said Harvey in a skeptical tone.

“How clear do you think I am about what happens in your department on a daily basis?”

Harvey tilted his head and appeared surprised by the question.  “I suppose you don’t know a lot about what goes on directly…probably only what you’ve heard.”

“I’d certainly agree with that,” I said.  “What role do you see me playing in our company?”

Harvey thought some more. “Well, you’re the training guy.  I guess you’re responsible for helping people grow and get better.”

“You’re right,” I replied. “I work with people at all levels of the company on their performance.  Since you and I don’t work closely together, I want to make sure I have some clarity about your goals before we move forward.  I wouldn’t want to make any recommendations without understanding your plans for growth.  How does that work for you?”

“Makes sense,” he replied. His body language became more relaxed. His shoulders dropped, and he became more comfortable in his chair.

“Great,” I said.  “Now I hope you stay with us for your whole career. Whether you work for the company for five, 10, or even the next 30 years—what do you want your legacy to be? How do you want to be known?”

Harvey paused in thought for a moment.  “Nobody’s ever asked me that.  I guess I would like to be the ‘go to’ person.  I’d like to be the person that others would trust coaching new employees or handling difficult tasks.  I want to be the person that is a ‘slam dunk’ for the next promotion.”

“I’m sure you have the talent to do so,” I replied.  “That said, I’d like to ask you another question:  When you use disparaging and negative language about others, how does that match the vision you just described?”

He paused as his eyes widened. “I never thought about it like that. I guess it doesn’t.”

“You’re right,” I acknowledged.  “How does that behavior position you as the next best leadership candidate?”

He began shaking his head. “Well, I guess it doesn’t make me a strong candidate.  I never thought of it that way.  I was just trying to be funny—I didn’t mean to upset anyone.”

It was clear that Harvey was beginning to see things differently.  “The past is the past, Harvey.  We all make mistakes or send messages to others that we don’t intend. Going forward, what are some things you might do to change your behavior?”

Harvey began discussing ideas that he could change.  His entire demeanor changed.  He became energized and focused.  He wanted to make the changes.  He wanted to fit the vision he had for himself.  We talked for some time as he created an action plan for himself.

I had one final question before we ended our meeting. “I know that you’re the type of person that can make changes like this happen.  There is no doubt your capable of rebranding yourself.  However, I think it’s important to reflect on what may happen if you choose not to change.  If you don’t go through with these changes, what the consequences would you expect?”

Harvey sat back in his chair thinking.  “Well,” he thought, “I imagine I’d be up for disciplinary action.  I’d expect to be written up.”

I was floored—his honesty was as surprising as it was refreshing.  I committed to support and coach him.  He was energized and ready to work on his relationships with others.  I called his supervisor to fill him in on our discussion. He was dumfounded.  He couldn’t believe Harvey was receptive.  He laughed and said, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Harvey did change —dramatically.  He took ownership for his behavior and worked very hard to repair the relationships he had with others.  Harvey had no idea how his behavior affected others.  True to his vision, he now leads others and is a sought after coach.

Dr. Cialdini’s Principle of Consistency—influencing others to make a choice or take a stand on an issue—was the primary reason Harvey changed his behavior.  Questions revealed new information, involved Harvey in the conversation, influenced him to make commitments, and reframed how we all saw the situation.  It ethically changed the way we viewed the situation and provided a win-win for everyone involved.

I’m sure you have a “Harvey” in your life.  What questions are you asking them?

Dan Norris, CMCT®


Dan Norris, CMCT®

Make Requests Like a Persuasion Expert

Persuasion is all about moving people to
action. Aristotle defined it as “the art of getting someone to do something
they would not ordinarily do if you didn’t ask.” The bottom line when it comes
to persuasion is getting someone to do something. How we communicate can make
all the difference between a “Yes” or “No” response.
Most of the time people are directive, telling
instead of asking, when they want something. For example:
Clean your room.
Fax me the authorization form.
Get me the sales numbers.
Each request is direct and to the point. The
communication may be clear but unfortunately people don’t like to be told what
to do. And none of the statements above requires a response, which means the recipient
of the message might hear what’s being said but think to himself or herself,
“No” without ever having to say it.
Each of us makes requests of people daily, and
the science of influence tells us with certainty there are better ways to structure
our communication if we want to hear “Yes” more often. If you want to make a
request like a persuasion expert follow this simple formula:
R = W + T + B + R + D
Request = What + Timeframe
+ Because + Reason + Downside
Here’s an example using the formula: Would you
get me the authorization form by this afternoon because without it I can’t
proceed any further on your claim, which will delay your payment by several
more days?
A number of persuasive techniques are used in
the example above so let’s dissect each part.
“Would you” – Adding these two words turns the
statement into a question and engages the principle of consistency. A question like this
demands a response and once someone says “Yes,” the likelihood they’ll do what
you want has gone up significantly.
“by this afternoon” – These three words ensure
you’ll get what you want within a timeframe that’s acceptable to you instead of
being left to chance. If someone says they can’t get it within the allotted
time you can engage reciprocity. Immediately upon
hearing no, if you put out a new timeframe (i.e., How about by tomorrow afternoon?)
your odds of hearing “Yes” have just gone up because most people are willing to
meet us part way after we’ve first conceded a little bit.
“because” – One study showed a 50% increase in
“yes” responses when a request was tagged with “because” and a reason was given.
This even worked when the reason was bogus! We’re conditioned from childhood to
almost mindlessly do what we’re told when “because” is used. Do you remember
your parents ever saying, “Because I said so!” in response to your asking
why you had to do something? We’ve all been there and maybe you’ve used that
phrase yourself.
“I can’t proceed any
further on your claim, which will delay your payment” – This invokes the principle of scarcity. People are much more
motivated by the thought of losing something as opposed to gaining the same
thing. In this instance the person knows they won’t be paid until they’ve done
what’s being asked. This is much more effective than saying, “As soon as I get
it I’ll proceed on the claim and you’ll get paid.”
Once more compare the
two requests for the same thing:
Fax me the
authorization form.
Would you get me the
authorization form by this afternoon because without it I can’t proceed any
further on your claim, which will delay your payment?
Next time you need something from someone or
you need them to do something remember to structure your request by asking
instead of telling. Let them know what you want and when you need it by. Tag
your request with “because” and a legitimate reason. Finally, let them know
what happens if they don’t do what’s asked…the downside. Follow this simple
approach and you’re sure to hear “Yes” more often.
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer


Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

A Question is Like a Flashlight

A former coworker and good friend Nancy Edwards
shared an article from Southwest’s Spirit
titled “Chasing Beautiful Questions.” In the article I came across
a quote from Steve Quatrano of the Right Question Institute:
“A question is like a flashlight that we
shine into the darkness, allowing us to move forward into the unknown and
I loved the analogy of a question being like a
flashlight because it’s so memorable! I also like it because asking good
questions is a big part of being an effective persuader.
When it comes to the principle of liking
it’s easier for us to say yes to those we know and like – questions are key to
finding out what you have in common with another person. What we have in common
with someone (similarities) is a proven way to engage the liking principle.
Think about people you know who are from your
hometown, have the same pet you do, enjoy the same hobbies or root for the same
sports team. Studies show it’s easier for them to like you AND it’s easier for
you to like them. The end result is it makes it easier for them to say “Yes” to
You can learn these things a number of ways –
ask people who know the person you want to persuade, Google them, check out
Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. Or, when you’re with the other person you can shine
the light of good questions to try and find out what you have in common so you
can use those things to connect.
Good questions also come in handy when you
want to engage the principle of consistency. This principle of influence
explains the reality that people want to be consistent in what they say, do,
believe, etc. Typically people don’t resist their own values, attitudes and
beliefs. If you know those things and can align your request to show the other
person how what you’re asking lines up with those beliefs, values, attitudes,
or past behaviors, it will be easier for them to say yes to whatever you’re
In much the same way that you discover
similarities you can discover these things to engage consistency. Talk to
people who know the person you’re tying to persuade, do an online search, and
look at Facebook or LinkedIn.
One last place questions come in handy is
during the sales process, with scarcity. This principle highlights the truth
that people respond more to what they might lose than what they might gain.
Telling someone what he or she might lose by not going with your suggestion is
effective persuasion but there’s a better way. Asking questions that highlight
potential loss is a much more effective persuasion strategy. For example, in my
industry, insurance, an insurance agent might ask the following of a
prospective customer if they discover some deficiency in their insurance

Agent – If you were to have a catastrophic
loss, would you expect the insurance company to completely replace your

Prospective Client – Of course I would. That’s
why I carry insurance.

Agent – I thought that would be the case but
the reality is you don’t carry enough insurance to fully replace your building.
You’d have to pay more than $200,000 out of pocket. Did you know that?

Prospective Client – No, I thought I was fully

By asking the right questions the agent is
shining the light on a dark place, a place the customer had not considered.
When the customer voices what he wants that solidifies his desire even more.
And this approach drives home the potential loss much more than the agent
telling him what he might lose.
So whether you want to connect with someone
using liking, engage them with consistency or highlight possible loss, good
questions are the way to go. They will shine a light to allow you to see things
previously hidden and increase your chance for persuasion success.
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.
Cialdini “Influence”
 Would you like to learn more about
influence from the experts? Check out the Cialdini “Influence” Series featuring Cialdini
Method Certified Trainers from around the world.


3 Reasons to Ask 1 More Question

I’ve observed something in the last few years
that I think has helped me become a much more persuasive individual and I’d
like to share it with you. It’s something simple that you can do if you’re willing
to commit an extra 10 seconds every now and then when you’re communicating with
Here it is – Ask one more question. That’s
all; just ask one more question. The interesting thing is people feel compelled
to answer questions so virtually everyone will answer you when you ask one more
question. What you want to do is ask the question in the same email or
conversation in which you provide help for someone.
Imagine a coworker has reached out to you for assistance.
They sent you an email because they needed some information or insight from
you. You share your expertise with them and then you add one more question at
the end of the email. That question might be something like one of the
“Does that help?”
“Is that what you were looking for?”
“Is there anything else you need?”
Why is asking one more question so important?
I think there are three reasons.
First, you’re confirming what you’ve provided
is what they needed. There’s no miscommunication because they’ll reply to tell
you it’s exactly what they were looking for or they’ll clarify and ask you more
questions. Either way miscommunication is avoided.
Second, your follow up question reinforces
what you’ve done for the other person. This engages the principle of reciprocity. Should you ever need
help in the future they’ll be very likely to return the favor because this
principle of influence tells us people feel obligated to give back to those who
first give to them. If you don’t do a quick follow up the other person might
get what they need and simply move on without acknowledging what you’ve done
for them. While it may seem rude to not acknowledge the help, many people don’t
just want one more email. But, when you ask one more question is almost
guaranteed they’ll reply.
Third, and most importantly, when you ask one more question to make sure they got what they needed people seem to answer much more
positively. What I’ve noticed is the response I get is much different than a
simple “Thanks!” Here are a few responses I’ve received over the past month:
“That is outstanding – thank you – you’re the
“OMG yes thank you so much! I really
appreciate you!”
“Yes, that makes sense to me. Thank you for
“Thanks. All good stuff!”
I think you can see each response was much
better than a simple, “Thank you.” Everyone wins. Each person I helped was very
thankful. They felt better about me, which engaged liking, and my authority was enhanced in their
eyes. I also benefitted because, as noted above, reciprocity was engaged. If I
need help down the road don’t you think each of these people would happily step
up to the plate? I know they would.
My persuasion advice for you is this – ask one
more question this week. Whether by email or phone, after you’ve responded to
someone’s request for help ask, “Did that help?” or “Does that give you
everything you need?” I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the responses you
get. Over time you’ll find it translates into becoming a more persuasive
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.
Cialdini “Influence”
 Would you like to learn more about
influence from the experts? Check out the Cialdini “Influence” Series featuring Cialdini
Method Certified Trainers from around the world.


5 Tips for Persuasive Presentations

In June, I had the pleasure of giving a
keynote presentation to about 200 members of HRACO (Human Resources of Central
Ohio). It went really well and the best thing I can say is I persuaded many
people to try some of the influence tips I shared.
Often people ask me what I do to prepare for a
presentation. I’ll start by telling you what I don’t do – wing it. I always put
in lot of time, effort and practice. Here are five tips you might find helpful
next time you want to give a persuasive presentation.
1. Preparation – Vince Lombardi,
Hall of Fame coach of the Green Bay Packers, said, “Most people have the will
to win but few have the will to prepare to win.” This can’t be overstated
enough. Nobody would expect an athlete to perform with excellence without
countless hours of practice so why should you expect to give a great
presentation without plenty of practice?
When I do the Principles of Persuasion workshop
I stress this point – what you do before
the thing you do quite often makes your attempt at influence much easier. I’ll
spend at least an hour a day for weeks on end practicing my presentations. As I
do so I’m timing myself to make sure I stay within the allotted time. I work on
hand gestures, head movements at key times and voice inflection.
When I’m alone in the car I turn the radio off
and use the down time to practice. When I’m working out alone, between
exercises I practice parts of the talk. I’ll even record myself so I can hear
how it sounds.
2. Visual

– I use Power Point as a visual aid to almost all of my presentations and I’ll
have a handout for those who like to take notes. I highly recommend two books that
really influenced how I use this tool – Presentation Zen and The Presentation Secrets ofSteve Jobs.
I’ve moved away from traditional text-filled
slides, bullet points and lists. If I use words it’s usually one or two in very
large font to drive home a key point. Other that that I go almost entirely with
pictures because that’s how people think and best remember things.
I must tell you this; the first time you
present without the text and bullet points it’s a little scary because you
can’t glance at the screen for a reminder of what to say next. However, there
are several great reasons to go this route:
  • It forces you to know your material inside and
    out which makes you look more like a professional.
  • If you do miss something no one is any wiser
    because they’re not thinking, “He didn’t cover that last bullet point.”
  • It keeps the audience focused on you rather
    than the screen.
3. Questions – I ask lots of
questions. There are two reasons you want to do this. First, you can physically
engage the audience by asking for a show of hands if they agree or disagree.
The more you can physically involve people the more attention they’ll pay.
The second reason is people feel compelled to
answer questions. When you ask questions, even without asking people to do
something like raise their hands, they’ll get involved. You’ll see it with the
head nodding. Even those who don’t nod, I’ll bet they’re answering the question
in their heads so they’ve moved from passive listeners to active.
4. Introduction – A strong
introduction is key because it sets the tone for why people should listen to
you. This means you need a bio of less than 200 words so the event host can
introduce you. This leverages the principle of authority because people pay
attention to those they view as having superior knowledge or wisdom.
When I speak there are two critical
differentiators I want people to know. First, I make sure people know I’m one
of just 27 people in the world certified to train on behalf of Robert Cialdini,
the world’s most cited living social psychologist. In addition to authority this
also leverages the principle of scarcity which says people value things more
when they think they’re rare.
I also want audience members to know people in
185 countries have taken time to read my blog. That’s a great “Wow!” factor
that incorporates the principle of consensus. I want those in attendance to think, “If so many
people around the world are reading his stuff he must be pretty good.”
5. Take Away

– I want to make sure my audience has tangible ideas for each of the principles
I talk about. It’s nice if they find the material interesting but the bottom
line is showing them how it can help them enjoy more professional success and
personal happiness. To do this I clearly state, “And here’s the application for
you,” then I share with few ways they can use the principle I just discussed in
every day situations.
Whole books are written on the subject of
presentation excellence so there’s no way to do it justice in a short blog
post. However, I hope you find these tips helpful. I know focusing on them has
helped me make great strides in giving more persuasive presentations and I’m
confident they can help you do the same.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT® 
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

To Question or Not to Question? That’s the Question!

To question or not to question? That’s the question! I recently had an uncomfortable discussion about politics. Although conventional wisdom is to steer clear of sex, politics and religion, it’s hard to avoid politics with a presidential election only months away.
Believe me, talking about sex would have been much more fun and less confrontational
than what I experienced.

During the course of the discussion a family member who is very well read and very smart asked me lots and lots of questions. Not having the passion for the subject, nor the desire to do the
in-depth reading on the various topics involved, I didn’t know the answers to the barrage of questions that came my way.
Frustrated I finally said, “Don’t ask me anymore questions you clearly know I don’t know the answer to. If you have something you want to tell me, just tell me.” Moments later came more
questions to which I replied, “You did it again. I told you I wouldn’t know the
answers so what would you like to tell me?”
Apart from understanding the
principles of influence, a couple of key components to being a master persuader
are knowing your audience and how best to engage them.
My family member clearly wanted to persuade me to see things from his viewpoint with the goal of getting me to
vote for his candidate. Despite his many facts, figures and detailed arguments I’m willing to bet he’s not very successful in his efforts with people because he doesn’t get the human element of persuasion. You see, everyone isn’t as logical and well read as he is but he operates as if they are. The reality is, people are not rational beings and like it or not, you have to understand how others think and what’s important to them if you want to persuade them.
For example, if someone is unemployed, then the economy is probably #1 for them because they want to get a
job. Give them a candidate who can make that happen and they’ll likely vote for him. Talking about military spending, health care, etc., aren’t  going to press the unemployed person’s hot button. That’s analogous to the salesperson who feels the need to tell you about every detail of a car when all you care about is good gas mileage and a sporty look.
The real crux of this post however is about questions in the persuasion process. When you attempt to persuade someone, good questions can be a tremendous help but only if used correctly.
Questions that open people up to share their past experiences, thoughts, feelings and values can be useful because they tap into the principle of consistency. This principle of influence tells us people feel internal and external psychological pressure to remain consistent in what they say and do. If I tell you the economy is most important to me then you can tailor your conversation to show why your candidate might be the best choice. The same could be said of any other topic related to the election. Get to know what matters to someone then you can speak to those issues.
However, when multiple questions are asked that people can’t answer, how do you think that makes them feel? I bet many of you are thinking of words like stupid, dumb or ignorant. Asking people
questions about your area of expertise might make you feel smart but it also can make other people feel ignorant. Do you think people appreciate being made to feel ignorant? Of course not. Do you think people feel compelled to take your side or do what you want after you’d make them feel stupid? Absolutely not.
And such is the case sometimes with intellectuals who lack the ability to read people and adjust their
communications accordingly. It doesn’t matter how smart you are if people can’t
understand you or if your communication style repels them. My relative isn’t alone in this by any means. I’ve seen countless people “shoot themselves in the foot,” so to speak, during their attempts to persuade people because they miss the human element.
Several years ago I wrote a series of blog posts on persuading personality types. Based on results I collected
from an online survey, it was clear you don’t persuade the Donald Trump (pragmatic) personality the same way you might the Oprah Winfrey (expressive), Sandra Bullock (amiable), or Albert Einstein (analytical). Master persuaders recognize the differences and adjust their communication accordingly.
To question or not to question? That’s really is the question! If you take the wrong approach you’ll do nothing except alienate people and hurt your chances to win them over. However, done the right way sometimes it can be far easier than you ever imagined. Pay close
attention next time and make the necessary adjustments if you want to enjoy more success.

Brian, CMCT
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.