The 3 keys to persuasive communication

The 3 keys to persuasive communication

This article is based on the webinar delivered by bestselling author Carmine Gallo, which can be viewed here.

Although we might not be aware of it, we’re in communication mode all of the time. Possessing the ability to communicate our ideas persuasively is one of the most critical skills that will help to set us apart in business and our careers.

The reality is that we are frequently ‘presenting’ throughout the working day, whether it’s pitching in an idea to our boss, interviewing for a job, up-selling a service or concept to a client, or hosting  a team brainstorm. Communications advisor, Carmine Gallo, explains: “It is my experience that those people who can speak confidently and communicate most effectively, rise higher in their careers. They build brands, they grow companies, they start companies and they get hired. I have many examples of young people especially who get hired not because of what’s on their resume necessarily, but because they’re better communicators and can share their ideas more effectively.”

But the way we communicate is changing. We are living in a multimedia and hyperconnected world, largely driven by millennials, in which we are increasingly communicating through story form, photos, videos and 140 character tweets.

Gallo believes there are three core components to all persuasive communication, to help you stand out from the crowd – emotion, novelty and being memorable. These specific techniques will enable you to take your next presentation, formal or informal, from average, to great…


“Passion is everything. You cannot inspire unless you’re inspired yourself,” says Gallo. Passion can’t be taught. You either have it or you don’t, but it’s important to always try and talk about the topics you are genuinely passionate about, so that it comes across authentically.

Apple creator, Steve Jobs, wore passion on his sleeve. This passion didn’t necessarily stem from the computers and devices he helped to develop, but rather the ways in which they could be used to unleash creativity. In his last major presentation, Jobs paused towards the end of his talk and said: “it’s the interconnection of liberal arts and technology that makes my heart sing”.

It’s important to identify what gets you up on a Monday morning. Understanding what you’re passionate about is important, as passion is contagious. “When you meet someone who is genuinely passionate about what they do, it rubs off on you. It changes the perception you have about that person, or the subject or the product,” explains Gallo.

Amy Cuddy, a researcher at Harvard, within her book called ‘Presence’ writes: “we tend to put our faith in people who project passion, confidence and enthusiasm; these traits can’t easily be faked.”

One of the best ways to transfer your passion is through storytelling. It’s a very effective way to reach people emotionally. Hit movies and winning sales pitches, all follow the same storytelling formula. As researcher Brené Brown, speaking at TEDx Houston says, “stories are just data with a soul”.

But how do we take data and wrap a story around it? According to Gallo, we do this through ‘purposeful storytelling’. He explains,“storytelling is in our DNA. It began around a campfire some 400,000 years ago. When firelight extended the day, people gathered together and that was a major milestone in human development as they started sharing stories of other experiences.”

When two people are engaged in storytelling, a psychological process called neural coupling takes place, when the story synchronises the listener’s brain with the teller’s brain. Furthermore, when captivated by an emotionally engaging story, chemicals are released in the brain: cortisol which makes you pay attention, dopamine which makes you feel good about the speaker, and oxytocin which is the “love molecule” or empathy. So when two people are engaged in storytelling, they have empathy, which is important as it makes the listener more likely to back an idea or a cause.

The science of  storytelling

Successful businessman Richard Branson, said “storytelling can be used to drive change”.

According to Gallo, there are three types of stories we can refer to in our presenting…

1. Stories about personal experience

Bryan Stevenson, a civil rights attorney, generated the longest standing ovation of any TED Talk in its 30 year history for his talk entitled “We need to talk about an injustice”. It’s received more than 3m views, and if you take the time to watch it, 65% of the content falls under what Aristotle would call “pathos”; i.e. storytelling and emotion. The personal stories he tells are incredibly candid and that’s how he derives his audience persuasion…not just at TED, but also within his day job in the US Supreme Court. So when you’re giving your next ‘presentation’, think about the personal anecdotes you can refer to, to help build some emotion into it.

Similarly, Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, gave a TED talk entitled ‘Why we have too few women leaders’, which was focused on encouraging women in the workforce. The presentation she delivered was incredibly open and honest about her own challenges as a working mother, and for this reason it quickly went viral.

When you’re giving your next ‘presentation’, think about the personal anecdotes you can refer to, to help build some emotion into it. If you have faced tales of hardship or failure, and learnt from them, it’s important to share those stories.

2. Case studies

Some of us (Brits notoriously!) are reluctant to share personal stories of struggle. If that’s the case, share the stories of other people, through case studies.

For example, US hotel mogul, Steve Wynn, gets his employees to share stories of great customer experiences. People learn from one another through these real stories. Case studies offer a great vehicle for managers to use storytelling techniques, in order to engage their employees.

3. Stories of brand success

A study was recently published in the California Management review magazine by two professors from Berkeley and Stanford Universities, referring to the impact of ‘signature stories’ within business. “A signature story advances the organisation’s culture, mission, values and business strategy,” the article says.

Stories of brand success are almost always more impactful than communicating facts alone. Management and accounting firm KPMG recently transformed its culture into a storytelling culture, where managers were taught how to tell the story of the brand and how it had influenced world events, which significantly improved employee engagement.

“Our partners and employees have flooded us with stories, our morale scores have soared, and turnover has plummeted,” shares Bruce N. Pfau,KPMG’s Vice Chair of Human Resources and Communications, in an article for Harvard Business Review. “Perhaps coincidentally, the firm also enjoyed one of its best financial years in recent memory.”


“Our brains are trained to look for something brilliant and new, something that stands out, something that looks delicious,” saysDr A K Pradeep, author of The Buying Brain.

In neuroscience, we call it ‘violating expectations’. Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, employed this technique within a TED Talk in 2009, where he unleashed a swarm of mosquitoes into the audience, to explain how malaria is spread.” It was memorable as it was so unexpected,” says Gallo.

Ocean explorer Robert Ballard, who discovered the Titanic, said “your mission in any presentation is to inform, educate and inspire. You can only inspire when you give people a new way of looking at the world in which they live.”

Ask yourself what novel moments you can create within your next presentation.


It’s critical to create a headline that grabs people. The human brain craves meaning before detail. It processes information by looking at the big picture. Richard Branson once said: “if your idea can’t be explained on the back of an envelope, it’s rubbish”.

When Steve Jobs launched the MacBook Air in 2008, he did so via a single slide with the headline: ‘The world’s thinnest notebook’.

When the Apple Watch was launched, within the media coverage that followed it was repeatedly referred to as “the most personal device we’ve ever created”. This happened because it was the way in which Tim Cook consistently spoke about it.

Always ask yourself, what is the one thing I want my audiences to know and remember, says Gallo. When you come up with that one line, rehearse it, and repeat it consistently within your presentation.

Make data meaningful

When the iPod launched in 2001, it came with 5Gb of storage, which at the time meant very little to the average consumer. So Steve Jobs put this data point into a context that people would understand and want, saying “5GB = 1,000 songs in your pocket”.

Recently K-Cups in the US said it was going to be creating coffee pods that were recyclable. Initially the news made little impact, but when a reporter claimed there were nine billion K-Cups sold every year, and once they were placed end to end, they would circle the globe 10.5 times, the analogy was picked up and referred to in hundreds of following articles. It made the data point tangible to the general public.

It takes great creativity to take data and make it memorable. So if you’re trying to make a data point more memorable, put it into a context that people will understand. It’s the visuals that people ultimately remember.

Bestselling author Carmine Gallo is a communication advisor to leaders of many of the world’s most admired brands. In his recent webinar for GoToMeeting in partnership with the Chartered Management Institute, entitled ‘The Three Keys to Persuasive Communication’, he reveals the tools that will help you stand apart in the world of ideas, offering proven, practical and effective techniques to pitch yourself, your ideas, your product, or your services.

The full webinar can be viewed here:

GoToWebinar: The 3 Keys to Persuasive Communication

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