Say What You Mean and Say it Well
I’m going to go ahead and say that every lawyer needs to master the art of persuasive speaking.
Even if you are not a trial lawyer and have no intention of being one, this skill comes into play with everyone you encounter as a professional. Judges, clients, associates, founding partners, public speaking engagements, networking, etc. The list is almost endless.
For some, persuasive speaking comes easily, but most people acquire this skill through practice and the application of proper techniques.
But, before we get to the good stuff and list out some of these tips and techniques, let’s quickly define what we are talking about here.
Black’s Law 9th Edition defines persuasion as, “The act of influencing or attempting to influence others by reasoned argument.”
Black’s goes one step further to define fair persuasion as, “Argument, exhortation, or persuasion that does not involve harassment, threats, or misrepresentations.”
To round it out, Webster’s definition adds, “The act of influencing the mind by arguments or reasons offered, or by anything that moves the mind or passions.”
The stress I’ve added here is on the word ‘anything’, because as we shall see, it isn’t just the words that come out of your mouth that you need to be aware of.
Applicable Tips For Persuasive Speaking
The more you practice speaking, and especially in front of an audience, the easier it will get and the more skillful you will become.
A great resource that I’ve mentioned in the past, which is worth bringing up again, is Toast Masters. This will help you overcome anxiety and get familiar with speaking in front of others.
Practice does indeed make perfect.
To speak well, you will want to apply the following advice:
- Start with your intention.
This is especially important when speaking in front of an audience. Let them know why you are speaking and why they should be listening to you.
- Have clear facts.
Emotion can move an audience and we will get to that shortly, but having clear factual points to back up any claim you are making is paramount.
Of course, as a lawyer, you already know this, but it bears repeating.
- Know your material.
Study your material first and know the information intimately. You don’t want to be standing in front of someone and draw a blank. Prepare yourself and go over it at least three times.
- Hold your posture.
People respect a confident speaker, and your body language is going to display that level of self-confidence to them.
With correct posture and alignment, you will also be able to speak with more clarity as your airflow will be unobstructed.
- Avoid trying to obviously impress.
People can sense the disingenuous, so keep it real.
- Look people in the eye, but don’t stare them down.
Turn your warm gaze onto your audience or recipient, and show them you are connecting with them. This is also another important display of self-confidence.
- Connect unconnected points with introductory language.
For example, when listing items that aren’t necessarily connected to each other, use statements like, “Another point that I need to address”.
You get the idea.
- Adopt a conversational tone.
Where applicable. This could be summarized as talking ‘with’ rather than talking ‘at’.
- Don’t be afraid to repeat key points.
Make it stick in their minds, which may be wandering despite anything you say. If it is important, repeat it.
- Interject a personal story if possible.
People relate to each other and individual real life stories. It gets people’s attention and connects you to them.
Do you have any tips or suggestions to add to this list for effective persuasive speaking? I would love to hear what works best for you.
Remember, there is no mystery, there is only practice.
Keep these tips in mind, and keep talking!
Until next time.