how to be a persuasive speaker

How to Be a Persuasive Speaker-Are You Failing When You Need it Most?

Did you ever notice it’s easier to talk to your friend at happy hour after work than it is to talk to someone on a first date? You’ve got all kinds of stories to share with your friend but sitting across the table from your date; your mind draws a blank. You know you need to learn how to be a persuasive speaker in high-stakes situations.

How about when you complain to your cool colleague that you deserve a raise & then during a meeting with your boss, you don’t bring it up?

Did you ever notice a difference between telling your mom what you do at work & responding to a stranger who asks, “What do you do?” 

When you’re telling your mom about your job responsibilities, you’re smooth as silk. That same story becomes a bit reduced in quality when telling the stranger, most likely.

How To Speak Better

The more we want a particular outcome from a situation, the worse our ability to convey our message becomes. Ironic, right? 

Sometimes I call it, “Whenever there’s money in it.” These are the high-stakes situations in which you need to know how to be a persuasive speaker.

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9 Secret Steps to Influencing Others

Want to be more influential? We all want to communicate our most important messages in a way that encourages others to take action. Whether that action is voting for our candidate or picking up milk from the store, the words we use and how we speak play a huge role in getting the job done.

How to Be a Persuasive Speaker When You Need it Most

But it’s no mystery. In previous posts, we’ve been talking about evolution and how we go into fight or flight when “there’s money in it.” Here’s a cool article from Olivia Mitchell talking about Old Brain. Here’s Paul Drury’s take on drawing a blank during an interview.

Let’s get crystal clear here. When you go to the coffee shop & ask for a coffee, as long as you have 3 dollars & 93 cents, you’re going to get your coffee. 

Unless the shop is part of John Sweeney’s Suspended Coffee program, you don’t even need the 3 dollars & 93 cents. 🙂 You have no fear of the outcome. You’re going to get your coffee.

How to Improve Your Speaking Skills

But when you are in front of an audience, you have no idea if they’re packing tomatoes. You don’t know if they’re going to hate you. (They’re not, by the way.) If you ask for a raise, you don’t know if your boss is going to say, “What, that’s crazy! Your work is fair to middling at best!” (It’s not.)

You don’t know if your date will like you, or if the person you’ve just met will think you’re interesting. You don’t know if you’re going to get the job when you’re at the interview. That’s what spurs our early human brain. Not knowing the outcome.

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How to Be a Persuasive Speaker (to get what we need out of life)

Why do we need to learn how to be persuasive speakers? So we can get what we need out of life.

Here’s how to do it. First, think about the different categories of your life. For example, the situations you find yourself in, including the ones you avoid. Then stack ’em up in order of importance to you—easy speaking situations at the bottom of the stack; scary ones on top.

If you could be earning a better salary, if you could be more successful at nailing that interview, asking your boss for a raise, impressing a new acquaintance with your elevator pitch, then you need to improve your ability to communicate during those situations.

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All speaking is persuasive

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We need to convince people of many things:

  • I’m smart!
  • Trust me!
  • Know that I’m an authority in my wheelhouse.

The way to improve your ability to get your message across at the top of the stack starts at the bottom.

Practice the more routine speaking situations of your life (like ordering food & beverages, introducing yourself, making appointments over the phone, etc.) and master those levels.

That’ll make working on the more complex & terrifying levels easier. 🙂

How to Improve Your Elocution

Then, start by doing some relaxation exercises and recording yourself role-playing those easy speaking situations. Assess yourself brutally and fix it. Then record the new and improved version.

Wallah! You sound gorgeous! When you’ve mastered that speaking level, move on to the next level of complexity, and so on.

In general, people don’t connect persuasion with communication skills. But the fact is that your communication skills make you persuasive or not. 

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An Introduction to Accent Reduction

This brief introduction will get you started on the road to speaking Standard American English.


Watch this video of Ita Olsen: Why am I Not Automatically an Incredible Speaker

7 thoughts on “How to Be a Persuasive Speaker-Are You Failing When You Need it Most?”

  1. I never really thought about the differences between the situations I’m in. Yes, when delivering my presentations I’m definitely not as effective a communicator. That’s hard to admit but I’m determined to get better.

  2. I thought being persuasive was a skill that really couldn’t be taught. That people were just born with it. But you are making some sense right here! Thank you!

    1. Yes, most people think that. I’ve been doing this for nearly 25 years and people are still surprised at just how persuasive they can become.

  3. Hi ITA

    Thanks a lot for sharing the articles. You teach how not to think of the communication skills as assigned from birth.

    Do you have special trainings online covering the mentioned themes?

    1. The Voice Spa is the best place to start. It will teach you to be crystal clear in high-stakes situations. It’ll teach you to speak in a way that makes people follow you.
      Dive in, do the homework & your life will change for the better!

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