Get your idea up and running

Why is it that some people’s ideas get up and running while so many others’ lie fallow?

Turn inspiration into something concrete by getting others onboard.

Workplaces are full of “aha!” moments: those flashes of inspiration that can come and go in an instant.

But unless they’re developed, workplace epiphanies are at risk of vanishing beneath day-to-day workloads and the trend for doing more with less.

So why is it that some people’s ideas get up and running and turn into innovation, while so many others’ lie fallow?

Getting your idea off the ground is really all about understanding persuasion – and techniques for this can be taught says Michelle Bowden, a leader in presentation and persuasion in business who tackled this topic at CPA Congress 2014.

Bowden puts empathy as the first rule of persuasion, followed by authenticity.

There are four critical elements, says Bowden, of what she terms the “competency of persuasion”:
  • Being able to establish credibility
  • The ability to provide evidence to back up a statement
  • Being able to establish rapport
  • Overall delivery – passion, charisma and enthusiasm.

“You’ll find people whose job is to persuade or sell have the last two abilities – they establish a rapport and have the passion behind what they are saying,” says Bowden.

“But they tend to fall down on hard facts and credibility.”

Accountants, she suggests, sometimes lack passion and rapport but are renowned for their technical expertise. The first job for an accountant is to work out what the stakeholder’s goal is, she insists.

“It’s about knowing what the gap between you and your audience is.”

Where Bowden aims to refocus content on empathy, Colin James, the lead facilitator at the eponymous Colin James Method, says the secret of getting your epiphany across is in the delivery.

James says his method is far more about putting on a performance. Content doesn’t necessarily win friends and influence people, but most people have something to say, and it’s how it comes across that counts.

“Method is everything. It’s about the architecture around content management,” James claims.

James highlights six components:
  • Voice modulation
  • Body language
  • Word choice
  • Energy
  • Ability to tell a story
  • Visual aids.
But let’s take the audience’s perspective. Every two weeks Sydney stockbroking firm BBY hosts pitches from start-ups. It’s the new business’s chance to talk to an audience of brokers and high-profile fund managers.

Nick Dacres-Mannings, BBY’s director of corporate finance, says there are many presentation styles that work, but no matter what the form of the presentation, some common themes resonate.

First is passion, which should be associated with “a quiet determination and confidence”.

The second is knowing the audience and its limits.

“If you have 10 minutes, make sure that you are not simply trying to jam a 30-minute presentation into a lesser time frame,” he says. “The best presenters take time to assess their audience upfront then adjust accordingly – it’s definitely a skill that has to be learnt.”

There is also timing and practice. “They own what they are saying. And that only comes from practice.”

He also belongs to the authenticity camp.

“In the end, it is not the pitch that counts, it is the business. If the business is a stand-out then the pitch will be much easier. For the emperor’s pitch to work he needs to be wearing clothes, otherwise … we have all seen how that story played out.”

Selling the idea

Professional persuaders know that there are “other” means to persuade – various ways to sink messages deeper into an audience’s subconscious. Colin James offers these tips for selling your epiphany.

  • In a meeting, talk calmly, slowly and with authority. People tend to speak with too high a tone and too quickly, which doesn’t cut through. It’s worth taping and listening to your own voice.
  • When empathising with the audience, use the royal “we”. Make the language inclusive. It’s not your journey, it’s everybody’s.
  • When presenting an idea, open the hands outwards as if you are offering a gift. When closing the speech or message, place the hands down on the desk to emphasise finality.
  • When someone asks a question, place one hand on your head and adopt the classic “thinker pose”. Then pause. The immediate impression is that you are truly cogitating on the question.
This article is from the November 2014 issue of INTHEBLACK.

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