Jesse Scinto: Commitment Must Be Physical and Public

Here Jesse and Matt are talking about Robert Cialdini’s book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, particularly about the importance of audience members making their commitments physical and public, and how we can do that in a presentation…

“One thing that every presentation should have is a call to action.”

“Make your call to action immediate and physical.”

“Get people to say specifically an action they are going to take when they leave the room.”

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Matt: One thing that he mentioned is that it is very important for the show of commitment to be physical and public. Could you tell us a little bit more about that. You mentioned some very physical activities like raising your hand or handing somebody a piece of paper with a URL on it. These are very physical activities. That’s pretty important, isn’t it?

Jesse: It is extremely important. One thing that every presentation should have is a call to action. You want your audience to do something when you they get done listening to you. You should think carefully about what you want them to do, because if they take that action they are going to be committing to your way of looking at things. Let’s say we have to get up and give a quarterly report on profits, on revenues, the action might not be obvious. We might be thinking that I’m just informing my colleagues about our revenues. I would argue that there is no such thing as an informative presentation. Our point is never to inform, the point is always to get action. With something like the quarterly revenues, maybe the action is – I’m going to share some highlights from the revenues report, I would really love it if you would read the report. At the end of the presentation you hand out the report. The action that you are asking is for the audience to engage more with the report that you’ve made. If you can make your call to action immediate and physical, it’s all the better.

In other words, if you say, if you are at the end of your presentation and say, when you get home look up this website. Chances are people aren’t going to look up the website. If you hand them a take away with the URL on it, they are more likely to look it up. They will at least have that piece of paper at home and then three weeks later they might stumble across it and think, oh, I’ll look this up, and then they are continuing to engage with your message. One of the big challenges we have is that people remember very little from spoken presentations.

They might remember one or two points, so we need to give them a way to continue to engage with our message and we need to be able to continue persuading them after we get done talking. Handouts, pledges, URLs to be visited, raising of hands, anything that is physical. Ask for input from the audience and ask people to tell their own stories or ask them what they think they could do. What can you do when you leave the room to help move us forward on this. You get people to say specifically an action that they are going to take when they leave the room. Again, like you said that public declaration is really effective for keeping people on task.

Jesse Scinto is a public speaking expert and lecturer in the Strategic Communications Department at Columbia University in New York.