Layman’s Guide to Persuasive Communication

I feel as though our communities and institutions are plagued with horrible presentations. This article is meant to serve as an inspiration to do better.

The ideas shared in this post can be applied to:

  • flyers and posters
  • email
  • videos
  • speeches
  • blog posts
  • songs and other art forms
  • sales and email opt-in pages

Unstructured vs. Formulaic

It seems as though folks think there’s only the choice between a unstructured presentation or a boring formulaic kind.

Here’s the deal, structured isn’t necessarily something formulaic. Without structure, things fall. Creativity can be appreciated when it’s framed within a context or some sort of framework, which goes back to structure.

The idea of a presentation isn’t just to share information. It’s about making information relevant to your audience. Best way to do that is to communicate what it means and the impact it’ll have on their lives.

Show, Don’t Tell.

Unless you’re sharing a very compelling story, you cannot limit yourself to simply telling. You have to show.

When producing multimedia, take advantage of the fact that you’re on a digital platform. You can edit the heck out of a recorded video to communicate your ideas and message with more clarity.

Take for example this green screen test video I shot a little while ago:

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Now look at what happens when you throw in a few graphics:

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The first video is barely watchable past the 10 second mark. However, the second video is the same content but keeps you visually engaged to the end.

Here are a few more examples from the same series of sales presentations:

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Notice how there’s a clear structure and deliberate use to certain language and words to drive the attention of the viewer.

Each video:

  • Opens with a statement, or question to grab your attention
  • Follows up with a clear problem
  • Offers a solution
  • States the benefits of the proposed solution
  • Clear call to action

Watch again and pay attention to the breakdown.

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The Power of “Same but Different”

Some folks see the following movie posters and may think, “Hollywood is running out of ideas.”

movie posters

The truth is, there’s deliberate use of recognizable symbols behind these advertisements. The Batman and Star Trek symbols, Empire State Building, and purple jacket of the Joker are all recognizable trademarks. You see the poster and you immediately know what to expect in terms of genre, scale, and performance of actors.

Some of the posters leverage the names of the starts to lend more credibility to the film.

If you want your mind blown, take a look at these amazing collages of similar movie posters. There’s something to say about leveraging cultural expectation of design for specific genres and emotions.

Seth Godin wrote about the use of creative type along the same context. He mentions that after legibility, all that matters is what the recipient is reminded of. If the type, or in the case of posters the colors and design don’t match up with something specific then you’re just confusing the individual.

However, if you have the skill set to be creative, be original. But, if you’re like most people, leverage the culture’s expectations.

12 Tips to Write Effective Persuasive Content

When you’re writing content to persuade the visitor to take action, keep the following tips in mind.

  1. Refer headline to where the visitor came from, or at least have it be relevant what what the visitor is searching for online.
  2. Have a clear “Call to Action.” Ask for one thing. Focus on one objective. Drive everything toward it.
  3. Write in the second person, ie “benefits to you”
  4. Be clear with your message.
  5. Tighten up your copy. Start long, then edit down. Say what needs to be said, not more.
  6. Be clear on audience goals. Cut the rah rah and tangents.
  7. Keep the most important points at the top. Make them bullets if you can.
  8. People read the beginning and ending, then go back to the middle. Write accordingly.
  9. First paragraph should be short. No more than one or two lines. No paragraph should be more than four lines.
  10. Regardless of where the visitor is on the site, a call to action should be clearly visible.
  11. If you can, kill the navigation bars and clutter.
  12. Focus copy: highlight benefits and provide social proof.

One thought on “Layman’s Guide to Persuasive Communication

  1. Azzam

    JazakAllah Kayrun.

    Appreciate the descriptive examples from the videos. I believed this explained the context more that just writing about it.


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