The Goal is Change II
Last week I wrote about changing your audience’s feelings. I concluded, in brief, that you can and should change people’s feelings during your presentation. But I also cautioned that changing their feelings is a short-lived phenomenon. By their very nature, feelings come and go, rise and fall, intensify and dissipate. What people feel during and shortly after your speech, they won’t be feeling tomorrow or the next day.
So what else can you change in the relatively brief time you’re speaking?
You may be able to change your audience’s actions.
The question I most frequently ask my clients when they’re strategizing their talks is, “What action do you want your audience to take as a result of listening to your talk?”
Do you want them to approve your budget? Give your project the green light? Use your procedure? Buy your product? Make an appointment to speak with you about your services? Give you their input? Join your organization? Volunteer their time? Go to your website for more information?
The more specific and immediate the action, the better. Why? Because you increase the odds that people will do what you want them to if they know exactly what it is you want them to do and if they can do it while it’s still on their minds.
(Andrew Lightheart, in a post titled Focusing on your Outcome without Manipulating People, raises some good questions about taking this approach. He rightly points out that it makes it sound easy to people’s actions, when doing so is actually quite difficult. And he’s also concerned about manipulating people, which I agree, would be an issue if you’re going about it in a covert or sneaky way. But I suggest you be upfront and honest about your intentions. Say, in effect, “Here’s what I want you to do and here’s why.” People always have the choice–you’re not coercing them–to do or not to do what you want them to.)
Although I believe you can and should change your audience’s actions, I’m more skeptical about your chances of changing their behavior.
An action is a one-time thing. “Do this [approve my budget, buy my product, call me to set up an appointment] now.” And that’s often a good thing. (If the selection board, for example, awards your company a multi-million dollar contract as a result of your oral proposal, pat yourself on the back.)
But behavior is an ongoing pattern of acting. It’s a habit. And people rarely, rarely, rarely change habits in response to a one-time event, such as a speech.
You might think, from last week’s post and today’s post, that I have a limited opinion of what a speech or presentation can change. But I wouldn’t be a speaker or a speech coach, if I thought that were true.
I actually think you can accomplish a lot–even in a single speech. But I think you do so by changing how people think, because if you change how they think you also change how they feel and act. Not just for a moment, but for years to come. Maybe for a lifetime. How you do that is the subject of a future post.
What do you think?
Photo courtesy of HeyPaul at Flickr.