OK, you may or may not be a jazz fan as I am. But, Eddie Harris recorded a tune entitled, Listen Here. What I would like to suggest is that, there are several ways to effectively make your points in your conversations, presentations, interviews or counseling sessions. Before I offer these suggestions, it is fundamentally important that we agree that it is necessary that we support our points, arguments or positions, rather than merely claim or assert them.
There are some stylistic differences that must be observed depending on whether the venue is conversational, written, presentation format or confidential in nature. There are many variables, so perhaps we should take them in “bite sized” pieces. The secret is the effective use of evidence.
Evidence plays a vital role in the communication and persuasive process. You do not want to bludgeon your target with evidence, but rather to use it appropriately and to the right degree. The more serious or important the communication is will dictate the amount of evidence that is required.
There are many forms of evidence, but herein, we will examine five (5) forms. Here are my five (5) suggestions:
- Expertise – The first offer of expertise may be your own experience. You can refer to policies or programs that you have written or published, presentations that you have composed, PowerPoint decks that you have presented for similar audiences or situations. The second technique for using expertise is to use the opinion or agreement of someone that your audience will accept as an authority on the subject. It always adds value if you have an expert opinion on the subject. In most important court cases, an expert witness is frequently used by one side or the other, or both.
- Statistics – Factual and statistical information is powerful, but is not always the most important type of evidence. In a business environment or communication, it is customary to consider costs, value, timeliness and quality. Therefore, current or historical statistics can be effectively used to help you make your point. On the other hand, statistics may be less effective in a situation that may involve emotional or empathetically charged issues. So, if you have a set of ten (10) powerful statistics or data sets, you might consider initially presenting the top five or six and reserve the balance for any questions that may arise later.
- Case Studies – Case studies are a very effective type of evidence, particularly if it is similar to the situation under consideration. This type of evidence is most useful when used with audiences or groups that value empirical proof that demonstrates applicability to the situation under consideration. This technique is very effective with business audiences and others that rely on research for guidance where processes need to be measured, and must conform to business, legal or industry standards.
- The Story – This could be characterized as “Your Story.” There is something that is particularly compelling when we tell a story from our own experience. You can also invoke the previous suggestion (case studies) by presenting video experience of someone else. Your story may not readily prove your contentions, but may help your audience focus on the issue under discussion. If presented timely and appropriately with high authenticity, it is an effective form of evidence.
- Pictures – The old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words is still true. Except, today we can show more effective pictures. Today, we can show before and after video clips with actual commentary or “voice over” as appropriate. We can more easily show variations of a particular process or technique, or even a sequence of steps with the corresponding results. All of this can be accomplished with a laptop and/or a projector. This is powerful and should be employed as applicable.
We use our communication skills in a variety of ways. In a professional context, we answer questions, provide guidance, but when we stake out a position, this is where it is necessary to illustrate and prove the validity of our point or position. You can communicate more effectively when you facilitate meetings, problem solve or any other professional context if you are able to effectively utilize the evidence that supports your viewpoint.
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