3 Ways to Persuade In a Virtual World

“My meeting was cancelled so we’re doing it by Zoom”

“We’re doing it by video.”

“Let’s just get on a Google hangout.”

Coronavirus is changing the way we are communicating already. Meetings, big and small, are being cancelled. Teams have to connect over technology, and you may have to pitch investors or clients from miles away. What happens when you have to advocate for yourself, your products or your ideas from afar? How do you do it?

After 20 years as a trial attorney, I teach people how to advocate for themselves, their products, and their ideas using the tools of a trial attorney. Communicating is sharing perspectives, but advocating is changing them. And when you want sales, attention, loyalty or engagement, you need to advocate.

Depending on what my client is preparing for, we work on advocating across the table, from the stage, on camera, and most often all three. But with coronavirus taking over the media airwaves (and perhaps the actual airwaves) it seems that, at least for a while, we all may have to get more comfortable advocating for what we need on a video call rather than in a meeting. And that changes the tactics we use, but the strategy remains the same — to see things from the other’s perspective, and then change their perspective when necessary.

Here are 3 ways you can be your own best advocate when you have to advocate from afar.

1-Know Your “Jury”.
You have your jury — of clients, customers, investors or team members. These are the people who you have to persuade in order to get what you need. When you’re advocating for your product, your ideas, your innovation or your raise, you have to know your jury and you have to know their perspective. If your jury sees the world the same way you do, that’s great. You’re ahead of the game. If they don’t, you have to convert them. And in order to make them see the world through your perspective, you have to see theirs first.

When we can physically see our juries, in person, we start to know a little bit about them. We can see how they dress, how they wear their hair, and whether they take notes in a notebook or an iphone. Looking at your jury helps you to know whether they’re millennials or boomers, their gender identification, and their ethnicity. All of this helps you to understand your jury’s perspective. But you can’t physically see your jury, you have to find new ways to know them.

That means that you have to ask more and different questions. I always tell my clients that questions are an advocate’s secret weapon, and that’s especially true here. Before giving a presentation by webinar, Zoom or video conferencing, see if you can survey your audience. Ask them about how they see the world. Trial attorneys have juror questionnaires that ask about where the juror lives, how old they are, how many children they have and also how they feel about police and whether they have family members who are healthcare providers. You lose the ability to see your jury when you present via video. Do what you can to make up for that loss by asking questions before you start advocating.

And then keep it going. Any time that you have the opportunity during your video presentation, ask your jury a question. Get their feedback and their perspective. You can’t read their body language, facial expressions or tone of voice when you present by video. But you can take surveys and get feedback. Take advantage of the technology available to get as much information about your jury as you can.

2-Give them evidence.
My clients and I spend a lot of time collecting evidence to support their pitch, sale, or cause. And anything can be evidence. Data about your product, price comparisons, statistics and ROI are all evidence. So are testimonials, recommendations, stories, and videos. I have a system my clients use to collect their evidence and then weigh it to see which evidence helps their cause and which evidence hurts their cause. Then finally we determine the best way to relay the best evidence they have to their particular jury. Some of your jurors will like charts or graphs. Others will like quotes, stories or pictures. When you use the best evidence in the best way for your jury, you’re far more likely to win.

But what happens when your jury isn’t in the room with you? Provide the evidence ahead of time. I recommend that my clients put together a package with their best evidence for their jury. If they’re advocating to potential customers about a new product, we email charts, graphs and videos about the product before the first meeting. If they’re looking for investors for a new innovation, we email stories from happy users and research on the outcomes ahead of time.

In this way, advocating from afar may actually be better. When we advocate in person we often bring these pieces of evidence with us, and then our jury gets distracted reading and reviewing the information while we are speaking. When we advocate from afar and send our evidence ahead of time, your jury has time to review the information and ask questions. And I’ll say it again — questions are magic.

Finally, providing this evidence serves another important role. It helps you to “leave an advocate behind”. And this is key to a win. When the jurors in my cases go to the jury room to deliberate on a verdict, I want at least one of them advocating for me. I want one juror repeating my arguments and bringing up my strongest evidence. And I make it easier for them when I give them concrete evidence to support my case.

You want your jurors advocating for you as well. That’s what word of mouth and referral business is all about. Give your jurors evidence, and they become better advocates for you.

3-Build Credibility

A big part of my work with my clients is helping them to build credibility. I think we focus too much on trust in business, and not nearly enough on credibility. Trust takes time and effort, which we often don’t have in business. But credibility is much easier to build quickly and from afar.

Credibility is built by setting expectations and meeting them, and making promises and keeping them. That means when you say you’ll be there for the video conference at 2pm, you’re there. When you promise to provide a piece of follow up evidence, you send it as soon as the video ends. Look for ways you can build your credibility — promise by promise and expectation by expectation. These small steps have big returns. But the most effective opportunity to build credibility happens when you can’t keep a promise or meet an expectation. Then you have to own it.

If the tech is failing and it’s due to a mistake on your end, own it. If you don’t have the stats for your product that an investor wants, own it. When you run over your allotted time, own it (and stop it). Owning it when you miss the mark always brings you closer to a win. Doing so when advocating from afar is especially effective.

Advocating from afar is still advocating. You’re changing perspectives to get what you need and using technology to do so. The coronavirus may be pushing you to find good ways to advocate from afar before you feel ready. But you were always going to have to do it. Get good at advocating through technology, and you’ll start adding up your wins.

Today I’ve focused on the message and how to use it to advocate from afar. Next week I’ll be sharing how you can hone the messenger — your body language, tone of voice and facial expressions, to maximize your impact when you advocate via technology. In the meantime, stay well and keep your hands away from your face!

Author of The Elegant Warrior-How to Win Life’s Trials Without Losing Yourself. Host of The Elegant Warrior podcast. https://advocatetowin.com/