That first thirty seconds with your audience are critical. How do you start? Great persuaders craft and design their message. There is no room to wing it. Your opening is where your audience formulates and settles into their impressions of you. Think of your opening or introduction as comprising no more than 10 percent of your full presentation. Budgeting your speech in this manner forces you to organize your time so that you know exactly what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it.
As you move from the opening of your presentation to the main body, it is helpful to remember the acronym TESS, which stands for testimonials, examples, statistics, and stories. Top persuaders tend to incorporate each of these elements into their presentations. Our research shows that when speaking to an audience, each point of TESS will resonate with different audience members. On average, TESS resonates as follows:
Testimonials. A testimonial is a person’s statement or declaration of what they believe and assert to be true. In your presentation, it can be your own, or it can come from a third party. Testimonials are a source of social validation—people assume that if others believe in it, then they should too. Great persuaders know how to use testimonials when their credibility is low. Make sure your testimonials are believable and unbiased and that they are qualified for your audience.
Examples. An example is an explanation or model that demonstrates or illustrates your point. Instead of just spouting off facts, examples make your points come alive. Examples reinforce your ideas and make them vivid and real in the mind of your audience. Examples can be taken from research studies, from articles you’ve read—and they can be personal anecdotes.
Statistics. In a consumer climate that is increasingly skeptical, I recommend using statistics sparingly. Everyone knows that you can “cook the books” and find statistics to prove almost anything; your audience wants credible statistics. Statistics resonate with the logical mind, and when convincing, they are very persuasive. In particular, the analytical minds in your audience will love you and want to know the source. Most statistics need to be explained and often work best with visual aids.
Stories. The most powerful of the four elements of TESS are stories. They draw your audience in while helping them understand and appreciate your message. I’m sure you can think of a time when you were in an audience, not paying much attention to the speaker. You were probably off in your own world, when all of a sudden, you perked up and started to listen because the speaker started telling a story. When we hear a story, we automatically tune in and want to know what happens next.