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15 Tips For Giving A Presentation That Will Persuade A Skeptical Audience

By News Creatives Authors , in Leadership , at September 15, 2021

Perhaps you are scheduled to deliver a big presentation to senior leaders at work who don’t seem enthusiastic about hearing your input. Or maybe you’re developing a pitch for potential investors who have already expressed skepticism about your idea. In these situations, figuring out how to persuade such lukewarm audiences can make the task feel doubly challenging.

Rather than take your chances and hope for the best, there are ways to ensure you get your main point across in the most persuasive possible manner. Check out the tips the members of Forbes Communications Council share below to give yourself the best shot at successfully convincing skeptics that you are on the right track and that they’d be wise to support your efforts.

1. Lean Into Trusted, Authenticated Data

The best way to persuade even the most skeptical person about a particular topic is by leveraging data. Using trusted, authenticated data throughout your presentation not only incites buy-in, it also provokes the right kinds of questions to debate and find clarity on together. Leave all of your anecdotal stories behind and lean into data. – Camille Weleschuk, ATB Financial

2. Bring Benefits To Life With Video And Create A Connection

Too often, we present an idea or material as we want it to be presented, without giving any thought to the audience or what will inspire them to react favorably. There are three ways to better sell an idea. First, think about why the idea benefits the audience and focus primarily on that benefit. Then, add video content to bring it life. Finally, leave the audience with little choice by creating an emotional connection. – Ken Nahigian, Nahigian Strategies

3. Use Voice Of Customer Insights And Employee Feedback

To convince audiences to buy into your idea, include research data and voice of customer insights to explain the “why.” Leverage employee feedback too. Combining all of these elements can be very convincing and powerful. – Stacy Sherman, Stacy Sherman & DoingCXRight®‬

4. Leverage Both The Head And The Heart

Leverage both the head and the heart to reach your audience. Use humor or personal stories to help ease the tension, then rely on data to persuade skeptical audience members. Address and validate their concerns up front, then explain how your idea will work. Prove the value of your idea with specific data, then demonstrate the benefits for your audience to make it a clear win-win. – Amanda Ponzar, CHC: Creating Healthier Communities

5. Be Humorous And Vulnerable In Addressing Any Elephants In The Room

Being humorous and showing vulnerability can break the tension during any presentation. I had a job interview the day before I gave birth. This was a tough crowd, as they were hiring quickly and I wouldn’t start until after maternity leave. My first slide featured an elephant—I started by addressing the literal elephant in the room: me. I then explained my vision and why I was worth the wait. I got the job. – Lisa Walker, Fuze


Forbes Communications Council is an invitation-only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies. Do I qualify?


6. Incorporate Solutions To The Skeptics’ Concerns

Get feedback from those who are skeptical and incorporate solutions to their concerns in the presentation. Addressing potential issues and making these stakeholders feel as if they have contributed to the idea is a great way to get buy-in. – Erica Mau-Schank, Vibe Creative Marketing

7. Present Less Text And More Appealing Images With Passion

Using less text and more appealing images is always one way to entice an audience when giving a presentation. Another way is to get back to the basics and deliver your idea with passion and positive energy. Optimism is contagious, and when you’re really fired up about an idea, your audience will feel it and be more willing to buy into your idea too. – Melissa Kandel, little word studio

8. Present Bulletproof Facts And Back Them Up

Have undeniable facts with credible sources to back them up. If you can present your idea in a way that seems bulletproof to the audience but also lowers the downside risk, this will usually result in a successful idea launch. – Christian Anderson, Lost Boy Entertainment Company

9. Focus On Examples To Demonstrate Your Idea’s Value For Them

If we’re skeptical about something, it’s often because we don’t appreciate or understand the value it brings. When presenting to a less-than-enthusiastic audience, keep the focus on how your product or idea will make life easier for them and offer tangible examples. It’s easier to build trust and gain support by solving problems and demonstrating value than by arguing head-on. – Melissa Zehner, Foundr Magazine

10. Give The Audience A Chance To Be Heard To Gain Their Trust

If they are lukewarm, then you need to gain their trust first. Turn the tables and give them an opportunity to be heard. Focus less on presenting your idea and more on getting them to talk about the challenges they are facing. This allows you to better understand them, and it allows them to feel understood. They will then be more likely to trust you and be receptive to how your idea can help them. – Christina Crawley, Forum One

11. Call Out The Skepticism Head-On

Define and address any concerns with or hesitations about the idea being presented and validate them. This allows for a well-rounded and open conversation. It also shows your confidence in the fact that it is an “all things considered” kind of proposal—not one without consideration for those with alternative opinions. Skeptics need their views to be addressed and considered to really buy in. – Austin Helton, Tally and Mass, LLC

12. Show Them You’ve Done Your Homework

Talking up an idea is baseless unless you can cite your sources and include relevant data points to substantiate your claims. Whenever I’m pitching an idea, I make it clear that I’m not just asserting my opinion. Instead, I find the relevant numbers that back up what I’m saying, and I include them in the presentation or the pitch. – Amine Rahal, Regal Assets

13. Address Their Worries Up Front In One Of The Initial Slides

Define why they’re feeling lukewarm toward the idea either by straight-up asking or polling your audience, then address that head-on in your presentation. Ease their worries in one of the initial slides with a clear explanation of the benefits of your idea and then dive into your vision. If you can successfully address these worries up front, the rest of your presentation will be seamless. – Victoria Zelefsky, The Menkiti Group

14. Turn Your Presentation Into An Honest Conversation

Presentations seldom persuade the skeptics. Find a way to have a conversation instead. Tell the audience that you have the slides, but you will only use them if needed. Let them ask questions and share their concerns, and give them honest answers. It is okay to acknowledge good points and say that you don’t have those answers, then circle back with the updates later. This will convert them into your advocates! – Raghunath Koduvayur, IQM Quantum Computers

15. Tell A Good Story That Shows Something Is At Stake

Any time you are presenting, you have to realize that you are really telling a story. Any good story has a few key elements that you have to hit. There is a beginning, a middle and an end. There is a journey with a hero and a villain, and there has to be some emotion and something at stake. If you tell a good story, nobody will be lukewarm to anything. – Stacy Gentile, Vengreso

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