Win the Audience Over by Using Reluctant Agreement

In a business presentation, you are often trying to persuade the audience to agree with your analysis, support your program or approve your budget request. Most presenters use a logically sound, but persuasively poor argument. They present the facts but don’t really know how to persuade.

For instance, they may say:

“Since our competitor dropped prices, you can see their sales have increased 4% while ours have remained flat. I suggest we match their price drop to avoid future market share losses.”

Okay, great analytic approach. But the audience is stuck in analytic mode, mulling things over and thinking of alternate explanations. Did the competitor have a promotion during this period, in addition to the price drop? Partner incentives? What is the margin of error on these numbers? And so on. Your purely analytic recommendation may get rejected.

One alternative approach is something called the “reluctant agreement”. In this approach, you state you used to hold the opposing viewpoint, but the evidence is so overwhelming that you have to reluctantly agree with the new conclusion – your recommendation. It might go like this:

“I’ve always believed we need to hold onto our premium price strategy. I’d like to think we can maintain our price premium and regain market share. But after viewing these numbers, showing our competitor’s 4% market share increase after they dropped their price, I have to say I’m beginning to change my views. I’m becoming convinced if we want to increase market share we have to reduce our price.”

 The audience may still have some of the same questions they had previously. But they also have a view of you as an objective presenter, a careful evaluator of both sides of the argument and someone who has already been persuaded – reluctantly, of course. It may give you an edge the next time you have to sway an audience.

The “reluctant agreement” is one of many rhetorical approaches discussed in the book Thank You for Arguing by Jay Heinrechs. It’s a recommended read.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.