The Originals: 18 Powerful Lessons in Persuasion

I just finished reading Adam Grant’s brilliant new book, “Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World” (get it here).

originals large


There are some exceptionally powerful insights for any communicator.

Here are my highlights:

1. Quantity predicts Quality

If you’re preparing for a presentation, do a brainstorm and gather a large variety of ideas. The more ideas you generate, the higher the quality of your final work.
Produce a greater quantity of work
Take Mozart as an example
Quantity leads to better quality

2. Intuitive decision makers are swayed by the speaker’s delivery

pitch investors
Check this study…
pitch steve jobs
Steve Jobs was an intuitive decision maker

3. Be subtle when using persuasion tactics

persuasion study
We raise our shields

4. Admit to your idea’s drawbacks

persuasion drawbacks
Don’t be afraid of highlighting the holes in your idea

5… But only the obvious ones

persuasion obvious
Don’t give them ammunition they might not have

6. The Mechanism: Ease of Retrieval

When we highlight the obvious weaknesses in our idea, it becomes much harder for the audience to come up with more weaknesses, making your idea seem stronger. However, if you don’t highlight the obvious weaknesses, the ease of retrieval for holes in your idea is (well) easier…making your idea seem weaker.

public speaking ease
Acknowledge the obvious weaknesses so that they have a harder time identifying concerns

7. People like ideas they are frequently exposed to

The more often a person is exposed to something, the more they like it (the mere exposure effect). To increase the chances of your idea being accepted, find ways of bringing up the idea before the big presentation day.

public speaking mere exposure effect
Make the mere exposure effect work for you

8. People are most persuadable by people who started out negative about the idea and then became positive

persuaded by negative to positive
Someone who hated your product, and then had a change of mind is your best persuasion ally

9. Metaphors and linking your idea to already known concepts makes your presentation more persuasive

metaphors in public speaking
Lion King was pitched as “Hamlet with lions”
metaphors in public speaking 2
Give the group a single point of reference

10. Persuade people by positioning your product as a means to advance what’s important to them

persuade with values
Don’t convince people to change values; show them how what you are proposing will help them achieve what they already desire…
williard pitch
For example, when fighting for women’s rights, Willard appealed to conservative women who cared about the household by pitching “women’s voting rights” as a way of passing laws to restrict alcohol abuse by husbands

11. Appeal to people’s identities

public speaking identity
Appealing to doctors identities as professionals who care about patients increased compliance
It even works on children
It even works on children
identity persuasion
Persuasion via identity is powerful

12. Deal with public speaking anxiety by getting excited rather than calming down

public speaking anxiety
Reframe public speaking “anxiety” as “excitement”

13. Saying you’re anxious makes you anxious

public speaking fear
Don’t admit to “anxiety”…call it excitement

14. Bring in a customer / beneficiary to share their story with your target

pitch with customer
Bring in someone who benefitted from your product to talk about it
pitch with skype
Share your vision, but then invite a customer to bring it to life with a personal story

15. Urgency is the key: Why Now?

persuade with urgency
The distinguishing factor was a sense of urgency
why now public speaking
Answer the “Why now?” question

16. If what you are proposing is risky, present the status quo as a guaranteed loss (fear-based pitching)

status quo pitch
Taking is a risk is more appealing when they’re faced with a guaranteed loss if they don’t
kill a company exercise
The “kill our company” exercise drives executives towards innovation because it reframes innovation from a gain-based activity to one that looks at what happens if they don’t

17. Present the problem with the status quo before you present the solution

public speaking 101
Even Martin Luther King Jr. did it…

18. When presenting, show your passion not through surface-level acting but through deep acting (actually changing how you feel)

inner feelings
Delivery of your pitch is not just about the surface-level gestures, but about “deeper” feelings

Get Adam’s excellent¬†book here.

Want to become a powerful speaker? Click here and here.



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