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Sheryl Sandberg Mastered 3 Presentation Skills in 3 Minutes. And You Can, Too

When it comes to making a persuasive presentation, there are several elements that are core to making it a success. As Aristotle posed eons ago, persuasion requires appealing to ethos (trust), logos (intellect) and pathos (emotions), no matter who your audience is. From sharing your company’s successes and telling a powerful personal story to using meaningful data and citing the experts – as well as delivering your message with passion — there are multiple ways to shift your listeners from feeling bored to getting on board.

In her Wall Street Journal presentation, Ending Gender Inequality at Work, Facebook COO and founder of Leanin.org, Sheryl Sandberg did all of that — and much more. In a three minute and 18 second clip, she petitioned her colleagues to speak up against gender inequality — and to levy consequences for those who tolerate it. Sandberg could have taken a predictable approach to familiar topic, but instead, brought personal credibility, powerful research, and fresh insights to her speech, engaging the audience from very start.

Among the many persuasive speaking skills she got right, here are three techniques that Sheryl Sandberg used in her presentation that you can use, too.

1. She involved the audience intellectually and emotionally from the start.

Sandberg didn’t begin by stating the statistics on gender inequality, or even telling her own personal story. She kicked off by getting the audience engaged and involved from the get-go. She asked, “how many people — and you have to raise your hand…think it’s ok if 1 in 10 subway stations run on time?” Her question required people to participate physically, intellectually and emotionally, meaning that they were drawn in from the very beginning — and likely to keep paying attention.

2. She made an evergreen topic fresh and evocative by connecting it to today’s headlines.

Gender inequality isn’t a new problem. It’s been around for a while. However, Sandberg made it feel current, pressing and urgent by drawing from recent examples that most people were familiar with. When she said, “We can’t tolerate Harvey Weinstein-like behavior” she helped people understand both the immediacy of the problem, and it’s ongoing relevance. She also helped create an emotional response from the audience (indicated by the applause she received after making that remark). And when people feel something, they’re more likely to do something.

3. She was personally vulnerable.

When it comes to bias, Sandberg confessed, “I have it too.” While some might worry that an admission like that might undermine her credibility on the issue, it actually made her more relatable. She isn’t showing that she’s immune to the problem. She’s demonstrating that she understands the challenge personally, from experience, and is still willing to work on being part of the solution. By revealing that she wrestles with what we wrestle with, Sandberg builds trust and empathy with her listeners.

You don’t have to do everything right in a presentation to make it persuasive and effective. But if you do these three things well – be engaging, be current, and be vulnerable — you are far more likely to win over hearts and minds, and have a powerful impact.

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