Whether it’s asking a colleague to help out on a project or convincing a friend to go to one restaurant over another, we all use persuasion on a daily basis. So why not hone your persuasion skills to help develop internal communication materials that resonate with employees and impress leaders?

Check out Episode 13 of Employee Buzz as Jamie Wisniewski, public speaking professor, shares persuasion best practices with host, Alyssa Zeff. Tune in now to discover valuable techniques that’ll help you achieve your goals.

Episode transcript: 

Alyssa Z:
Welcome back to Employee Buzz. I am Alyssa, your ex-cheerleading captain, Bergen County, New Jersey resident, fan of the television show Friends. I'm here with Jamie, a former specialist at Davis & Company. Jamie is a plant connoisseur, an expert porch designer and decorator, and a huge fan of the show, The Office. Is that the U.S. version of The Office?

Jamie W:
Yes.

Alyssa Z:
Okay, good. Thanks for clarifying. Jamie is also a professor of public speaking, and since she has a lot of experience with public speaking, we're going to focus on that in this episode and specifically on persuasion and how that connects to internal communication. Jamie, tell me a little bit about how you got into teaching public speaking and what that's taught you about persuasion.

Jamie W:
Sure. Well, it was kind of a surprise how I got into teaching public speaking. I got my start when I was in grad school, so I was a full-time student, and I got my teaching assignment and, well, it's kind of a funny story.

Jamie W:
I found out that I was going to be tutoring in the public speaking resource center, and I freaked out because a long time ago, I actually failed public speaking when I was in college. I said, "Are you sure you don't have anyone else? Am I qualified to be doing this?" And they were like, "Oh yeah, yeah, you'll be fine."

Jamie W:
Come to two years later, time to graduate, and they offered me a public speaking course of my own. I never would've thought I'd in this situation.

Alyssa Z:
It's funny, I took a class in college on persuasion, which was interesting. It felt like more like a debate class, but where I really feel like I started honing my persuasion skills was when I started in public relations. And I literally had to persuade reporters to write about whatever it is I was trying to get them to write about. That's where I really feel like that skill started to come to life for me.

Alyssa Z:
But we are experts in internal communication here at Davis & Company, so let's talk about how that translates to internal communication. What do you think are some examples where persuasion would be valuable in internal communication?

Jamie W:
I think it's really in so many scenarios. First, creating content for employees, so trying to engage them, getting employees to actually read your content and not just to read it but getting them to know something, do something and think differently.

Jamie W:
Next, leaders, especially as communicators persuading that we have a seat at the table, what we are bringing to the table is important, and we deserve to be there and internal clients as well so getting buy-in from, say, marketing, buying into our key messages or whatever we're working on. Obviously, there's always persuasion with your bosses showing the work that you do, you bring value.

Alyssa Z:
Yeah, I think it's a great point. I mean, one of my favorite stories when I was here for not very long, a former colleague of mine reached out, and she was trying to go for a job at internal communications, and she asked to have lunch.

Alyssa Z:
She wanted some advice, and she said, "One of the things I'm going to do, Alyssa, is sit down with all the leaders and find out what they want from communication." I said, "You could do that, but what would be better is if you find out what they're trying to accomplish, and then you show them how communication can help them."

Alyssa Z:
It's a good example of leaders and internal clients and bosses and some of the things that you're talking about, but it's about using that persuasion skill, which is rooted in your expertise. You can only persuade somebody on something if you're an expert on it.

Alyssa Z:
What do you think are some of the obstacles that get in the way of good persuasion or effective persuasion?

Jamie W:
I think there's a lot of obstacles. I think first what happens a lot is not being armed with all the data or all the facts, missing information. You know what you want to say, and you get in there, but you might not have all the information you need to back it up so then you're not taken seriously or you're pushed to the back burner.

Jamie W:
Another thing that sometimes gets in the way is being too political, not wanting to step on anyone's toes, being too nice. It's a fine line between being persuasive and going in there asking for what you want and then trying to navigate the consequences.

Alyssa Z:
Yeah, I mean, I think building on that there's something that I like to call influencing without authority. A lot of times, I'm trying to persuade people who have absolutely no connection to my role or no connection to internal communication.

Alyssa Z:
You have to come armed with their perspective, whether it's a legal or regulatory or somebody who's more senior to me. Like you're saying, not only being political, you don't want to upset them, but you kind of have to influence them even though they don't really answer to you.

Alyssa Z:
Let's talk about some ways that our listeners can use, things that they can do in their day to day work, to help persuade. Let's talk about some ideas. What are some best practice techniques that you have for persuasion?

Jamie W:
Sure. I mean, going back to the point that you just mentioned, it's about doing your homework and knowing who's in the room. What influence are they going to play at the table, and knowing even if it's personality-wise or who does this person report to? Knowing the connections at the table, being comfortable, making arguments, going in there confident. Just sell it. Speak confidently. If you're selling something, you're not going to be wishy-washy. You're going to go in there and say, "This is why we need this."

Alyssa Z: 
You have to believe it, for sure, and that helps with confidence. I think another technique is practice. People underestimate the value of rehearsing even for a meeting. Our CEO, Alison always says she never goes into any meeting without doing some preparation no matter what the meeting is. She never goes into a meeting blind, and I think rehearsal ... I'm sometimes rehearsing by myself in front of a mirror, sometimes just sitting in my office quietly rehearsing, preparing when I'm driving. That is my favorite time to rehearse. I have so many conversations with people when I'm driving along, and there's no one around me. I think these kinds of things are really important.

Alyssa Z:
Maybe you and I can put some of this to practice a little bit and have a persuade off. I was thinking that since you are a big fan of The Office and I am a big fan of Friends that maybe we could try and persuade each other as to why I would say Friends is better and you would have to convince me as to why The Office is better. What do you think?

Jamie W:
I'm a little nervous going back to the authority thing, trying to tell the vice president she's wrong here, but I'm armed with the facts.

Alyssa Z: 
All right. No, it's good. No, I mean, I think we're on level ground. I think both shows are highly credible, so you never know. I'll start. I think one of the biggest things about Friends was that core cast, right? The six of them and they were there from start to finish. Even you as a giant fan of The Office would have to admit it took a little bit of a dive after Steve Carell, Michael Scott, left. What do you think about that?

Jamie W:
All right, well, let's clarify. Is this Office pre-Michael Scott or ...

Alyssa Z:
The whole show. We're arguing the whole show.

Jamie W:
I will say maybe it wasn't as good as those original episodes, but same to you. I mean, there was a core cast. I mean, it was an office, so some people had to come and go, but people love The Office for the characters and the relationships throughout the series.

Alyssa Z:
I did actually recently see an article, and this is kind of an argument in complete favor of Friends that psychologists say, no joke, binge-watching Friends can ease anxiety. I was like, "Okay, there you go." Argue that.

Jamie W:
What resource is that?

Alyssa Z:
It was probably like Buzzfeed.

Jamie W:
Well, going off of that, The Office is so funny that it doesn't need a laugh track and I found a study that said in two episodes, in 21 minutes, The Office managed to tell 166 jokes while Friends only had 121.

Alyssa Z:
Wow. I did look up awards, so they both only won one time for best comedy series in terms of Emmys. Friends had 62 and won six, and The Office had 42 and won five. I mean, that's kind of a draw. I think Friends was on for one more season, right? Friends were on for 10.

Jamie W:
Yeah.

Alyssa Z:
The Office was on for nine. Listen, obviously, we're joking around, and this is about personal taste, but what's interesting is that and personal preferences ... I do know that you had never actually watched Friends, right?

Jamie W:
Whoa. Calling me out.

Alyssa Z:
Maybe you can give it a shot and then you can come back and tell me whether or not you agree.

Jamie W:
Oh, my God. I feel exposed.

Alyssa Z:
But I think what's interesting about this dialogue is that it shows the importance of, sort of, understanding who you're talking to's perspective. I understand where you're coming from in terms of The Office and one of the things that I think is important, it goes with negotiation tactic, but it's also a persuasion tactic, is knowing when to sort of step back and say, "You know what? I'm willing to concede on that point because these things are more important." Where do you think about that?

Jamie W:
Absolutely. Yeah, definitely. I think with all persuasion and negotiation, it's not just about knowing the other side and telling that person why they're wrong. You have to hear their side too. I think negotiation and persuasion is just a meeting of the minds a lot. Yeah. Like you just said, "I understand your point, but this is why you're wrong."

Alyssa Z:
Exactly. Well, and just to bring it back to employee communication because that's what we're about. I mean, we talk all the time about being employee-centric, and one of the first things you said was around creating content that resonates for employees.

Alyssa Z:
We are persuading employees in everything that we do to either know, believe, or do something differently. Every piece of content should have an objective, and if you don't understand the employee's perspective and what it is you're trying to get them to do or move from to, you're never going to be able to persuade them of anything.

Jamie W:
Absolutely.

Alyssa Z:
I think that's really valuable advice. I think it's a skill that most professionals can learn from. If we could close on one piece of advice for somebody who's working on this, what would you say?

Jamie W:
I would just say, Own it. Be confident. With persuasion comes practice, but going in there and being confident, no one can take that away from you.

Alyssa Z:
Great. Well, Jamie, thank you so much for sharing your experience and expertise with us today. Really appreciate it.

Alyssa Z:
Thanks for listening to Employee Buzz, where practical advice meets fun. Don't forget to subscribe, so you don't miss an episode.

Recent Podcasts