Before becoming a leadership consultant, LaRae Quy worked for the FBI, where persuasion was her most critical job skill.
“As an FBI counterintelligence agent, my job was to recruit foreign spies to work for the U.S.,” Quy writes in one of her blog posts. “I asked them to betray their country.”
As a business leader or owner, you may not be involved in international espionage, but Quy believes persuasive skills are no less critical to your success. “You recruit employees, customers or investors to buy into your solution or idea,” she explains. “To be successful, you need more than a title or position to persuade them to accept your agenda.”
Of course, Quy did most of her coaxing in person. But in today’s business environment, where one-quarter of U.S. employees are remote workers, more and more interactions with customers and colleagues now occur in virtual settings.
5 Ways Moderating Tools Can Enhance Persuasive Discussions in Virtual Meetings
When we persuade people, “we appeal to their logic or emotions,” says Quy. In face-to-face sessions, meeting leaders often rely on direct eye contact and body language to aid this mission. Digital distance lessens the leverage of those visual cues in virtual settings where often webcams come between moderators and their audience or the discussion is audio-only.
But online meeting platforms offer other means of connecting with participants to pique engagement and influence thinking. Here are five ways our moderating tools can augment your persuasive efforts:
1. Ask Open-Ended Questions with Chat
One key to persuasion is discovering your audience’s priorities and opinions to inform your part of the conversation. One way to gather this sort of intelligence during online sessions is by chatting with participants. Quy recommends these messages be open-ended questions.
“When you ask open-ended questions, it encourages people to give you long-form answers instead of simple Yes or No responses,” she elaborates. “This is where the buy-in begins... when you ask their opinion, you give people a sense of ownership.”
Quy also advises taking “small steps instead of giant leaps when you’re trying to persuade others. It will give you time to gage emotional reactions before you press forward.” The short format of chats is ideal for this approach.
2. Share Slides Articulating Your Conclusions Before You Start Talking
Leadership coach Dan Rockwell believes one way to encourage people to listen to you during meetings is to begin a discussion by presenting your conclusion rather than make audiences wait until the end of the session to hear your point.
“It’s irritating to try to figure out why someone is talking,” Rockwell writes on his LeadershipFreak blog. “Assume listeners have no idea why words are coming out of your mouth until you tell them.”
To apply his advice to a virtual setting, type your conclusions on individual slides and share this presentation with participants at the start of a meeting. Like Quy’s open-ended questions, these single statements can spark interest and engagement before you say word one.
3. Add Inflection to Your Virtual Voice
One of Rockwell’s simplest pieces of counsel for supplementing persuasive style is “Add some inflection to your voice. Listen to a recording of yourself.”
So, next time you hold an online meeting, record the session. Reviewing your performance enables you to tweak your delivery for the next time.
And during your review, look for places in your presentation where you can zoom into important words or phrases on your slides. Zooming can provide a sort of textual inflection to your persuasive method.
4. Clarify Jargon and Technical Terms with Annotations
Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker believes many business people suffer from what he calls the “Curse of Knowledge”, which he defines in a recent interview with Inc. magazine as "a difficulty in imagining what it is like for someone else not to know something that you know.” This “Curse” often leads meeting moderators to lace conversations with jargon and technical terms in pursuit of rapid mutual understanding. But padding persuasion with this kind of verbal excess can obscure rather than clarify.
What’s the fix? “Adding a few words of explanation to technical terms” says Pinker, which online moderators can accomplish quickly and concisely by annotating presentations.
5. Let Video Illustrate Your Point
In addition to illuminating jargon and technical terms with short explanations, Pinker advocates illustrating your points with examples. Sharing video clips during online meetings to serve as examples is a wonderful way to engage participants – and entertain them.
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