7 Power Tools of Persuasion

Don't undermine your presentation with qualifiers that undercut the message. Give your breakthrough ideas the striking presentation they deserve.

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By Bill McGowan


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Just about all entrepreneurs have experienced that warm, tingly feeling when they realize they've hatched a brilliant idea that could change an industry, make a meaningful impact and land them a fortune Perhaps the only thing standing between concept and cashing in is the clarity and persuasiveness with which this idea is pitched. Sadly, this is no small obstacle.

In fact, roughly two-thirds of all pitched ideas that are rejected, are not dismissed because they are bad ideas.They die on the vine because they were presented poorly. For entrepreneurs, a lack of persuasiveness when rallying support for an idea can be as detrimental to a business as an embezzling CFO.

Here are some skills that should be in every entrepreneur's tool belt:

1. Brevity is beautiful. Others will perceive greater conviction from you when you keep it short, sweet and certain. When you drone on too long, it can start to sound like you're trying to convince yourself.

2. Skip the filler. Filler language gives your presentation a half-baked, shooting-from-the-hip feel.To eliminate filler, keep this basic equation in mind: The less certain you are about the next sentence out of your mouth, the slower you should be speaking and the more pauses you should be using.

Related: 5 Steps to Conquering Public-Speaking Anxiety

3. Winning ideas mean never having to say you're sorry. It's astonishing to me how often presenters apologize to their audience: "Listen, I'm sure you've seen so many pitches on ideas like this, but," or "I know you're busy so I won't take up too much of your time," or "let me just show you this sizzle reel; it's not very long at all; I promise." Even the seemingly innocuous and ubiquitous, "let me just quickly walk you through this," has inherent apology laced through it. What you're really conveying is "I know you find this boring, but if I get through it quickly you'll be bored for a shorter period of time."

4. If you equivocate, you must evacuate (or go big or go home). In our quest not to sound too cocky and arrogant, many businesspeople have allowed wishy-washy terms of equivocation to creep into their pitches. The most common are "sort of" and "kind of." As an investor, if I'm holding the purse strings to your idea, I am not persuaded and filled with confidence upon hearing you say, "Tthis is how we kind of make a difference," or "Our idea sort of solves this problem." Be more declarative.

Related: Making Sales Presentations

5. Visualize success. Help your bosses or colleagues envision how good the result can be if your suggested course of action is implemented. You must paint a specific and visual picture of what success looks like thanks to your idea.

6. Lead with your best stuff. You're always playing a game of diminishing returns when it comes to capturing the attention and engagement of your audience. Gradually building to the strongest aspects of your idea is a bad strategy since some of your audience may have tuned out by that point.

7. Channel your Inner Bobby Fisher. An entrepreneur's pitch should be approached like a game of chess. Not only should you go in with your own strategy and game plan, but you also need to anticipate the other players' likely moves. See if you can predict how the naysayers will express skepticism. Where will they try to punch some holes in your idea?

Don't be so enamored with your own idea that you can't spot its potential flaws.When challenged in the meeting, don't get defensive. In fact validate that you've considered the very doubt you're now asked to address: "You know, I asked myself the same question ... and even applying a different model to the problem it still is a win."

Bill McGowan
Pitch Perfect

Bill McGowan is the founder and CEO of Clarity Media Group. Previously he worked for ABC News’ 20/20 and CBS News’ 48 Hours and won two Emmys. As a media coach, McGowan has trained Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Eli Manning of the New York Giants, actress Katherine Heigl, chef Thomas Keller, fashion critics Tim Gunn and Nina Garcia and singer-songwriter Kelly Clarkson. He is the author of a new book, Pitch Perfect

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