Influencing Your Audience With Your Presentation

Graham Young

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Styles of Influence

Different people influence and are influenced in different ways. Most people will usually try to influence others in the way that most influences themselves. So if you are convinced through logical argument based on facts, you will usually try to convince others based on the use of logic and facts. The problem with this is that it is not always the best approach. There are four main influencing styles, each of which will appeal to a different type of person.

Common Vision

Common Vision aims to identify a shared objective for the future of a group and to strengthen the group members’ belief that through their collective and individual efforts, that vision can become reality. It involves appealing to people's hopes, values and aspirations and by so doing, animating them. It also aims to makes participants feel a part of a group, which shares a common purpose. This gives the group added purpose, strength and confidence.

To be successful with the Common Vision approach, you need to be able to share the bigger picture with a degree of enthusiasm and commitment to carry people with you.

There are two aspects of Common Vision:

  • Articulating Exciting Possibilities,

  • Generating a Shared Identity.

    People who use Common Vision tend to be able to see and articulate exciting project possibilities and are able to appeal to the emotions of others. People who are most influenced by this style will become bored with lots of detail and will only be interested in the overview.

    Assertive Persuasion

    Assertive Persuasion is an evidence-based approach. It uses the power of logic, facts and opinions to persuade others. The basis for agreement and approval is the soundness of the other person’s reasoning. In other words, for every point you make, you should provide supporting evidence.

    It is a “push" style (like R&P below) because you “force" others to accept your view or conclusion by the logic of your arguments.

    Assertive Persuasion has two aspects:

  • Proposing Solutions

  • Reasoning For and Against.

    The focus is on logical argument versus appealing to the emotions.

    People who use Assertive Persuasion tend to be highly verbal and articulate, persistent and energetic and usual come forward with ideas and suggestions. People who like this style will often ask for examples or the evidence to support your claims. This style is a favourite of many scientists and technical staff.

    Reward and Punishment

    Reward and Punishment uses pressure and incentives to control others’ behaviour. It is the classic carrot and stick approach to influencing. This style involves outlining the positives and negatives of a problem. It involves showing what the group will get by complying with the suggested changes and highlighting the potential threats if they do not.

    Naked power may be used, or more indirect and veiled pressures may be exerted through the use of status, prestige, and formal authority. Liberal use of praise and criticism is common, although it is most effective when it involves the heavier use of praise than of criticism. e. g. if we make the change we meet the standard, but if we do not change we will be sub-standard.

    There are three aspects comprising the Reward and Punishment style:

  • Evaluating

  • Prescribing Goals and Expectations

  • Incentives and Pressures

    People who use Reward and Punishment tend to be very specific and detailed in their communication and are often more critical than balanced in their use of reward/praise. People influenced in this way will often look for problems with the plans.

    Participation and Trust

    Participation and Trust pulls others toward what is desired or required by involving them in the decision making process. By actively listening and involving others, the influencer increases the commitment to the task, with follow-up and supervision becoming less critical. To be successful, people should feel that they have something to offer and that the group appreciates their contribution. An atmosphere of mutual trust and co-operation is conducive to participation. You can achieve this by asking them their opinion during your presentation. e. g. “What do you think about the proposed changes?" or “How could you help this project?"

    There are three aspects to Participation and Trust:

  • Personal Disclosure

  • Recognizing and Involving Others

  • Testing and Expressing Understanding

    This style makes others feel that their contributions are valued but you must leave yourself open to influence in order to influence others.

    People who use Participation and Trust tend to be active listeners who seek other people's contributions and are willing to give freedom and responsibility. Those who are influenced in this manner like to get involved with what you are saying.

    Which styles do you normally use?

    From the above descriptions, it may be obvious to yourself which styles you tend to favour. If not or if you would like to confirm your normal style(s) run the quiz that is available from our web site This questionnaire is written in Excel. It provides an analysis of your default styles. It is probably more important to recognise the styles that you favour least. This will highlight areas where you can improve.

    The next time you talk to a group of people, that you communicate with regularly, try using the style with your lowest score. You may be surprised by their reaction.

    Which style to use when?

    Prior to giving any presentation, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to determine the preferred influencing styles used by your audience. The best approach is to ensure you use a variety of different influencing styles through the course of your presentation. By using the questionnaire, you will find out which style(s) you use most often and which style(s) you rarely use. You can then make a conscious effort to include the influencing styles that you usually ignore, in future presentations.

    The most persuasive approach to use in a presentation to a group is a mixture of all four styles. The best order to use these styles in is:

  • Common vision

  • Assertive persuasion

  • Rewards and punishment

  • Participation and trust

  • Common vision

    This allows you to set the scene, defining what you want to achieve at a high level. Then you can put across the arguments for the change, identifying the benefits of making the change as well as the downside if they do not change. A call to unite everyone in a common action is then followed up by restating the vision of how the change will improve the current situation. This helps people to take away from the meeting the reason why they are going to have to change.

    I wish you every success in influencing your audience at your next presentation.

    Copyright Young Markets 2005

    Graham Young has held senior marketing management roles in multi-national software and high technology organisations. During his career, Graham has given countless successful presentations to audiences both large and small. He has also developed and run a wide variety of technology and soft skills training courses.

    Graham now runs Young Markets ( ) a niche marketing consultancy that works in the areas of Marketing, Presentations and Copywriting.

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