Nanette-ing your approach to influence

Much of the power of Hannah Gadsby’s hit show “Nanette” was her deconstruction of comedic performance, lifting the veil and stepping us through the set-up, tension and release.

The comedian’s role, Gadsby shared, is to deliberately create tension so they can then relieve us of it.

That’s your role too, by the way, if you are interested in gaining traction for your ideas or winning new business. Whether you are creating a PowerPoint presentation, writing a tender or pitching over the phone, you need to generate tension to gain interest, and then provide relief so the person you are influencing is not too daunted to take action.

Here’s how to Nanette your approach.

Act I: About them

The beginning of any pitch, proposal or presentation should be full of stories about who you are, how wonderful you are and how others agree.

Ah, no. Actually, that’s where most go wrong.

It should be all about your client or stakeholder and their problem state. Remember, we are the heroes of our own story, and that means the person you are trying to convince is most interested in themselves. They are only interested in you to the extent you can shed light on their issue.

To gain interest, show interest.

Topics to cover in Act I include:

  • Current state– sets out the status quo and is your chance to prove you have been listening;
  • Problem with the current state– this may be what they have told you but should ideally go further as to what you see the real problem being. You want them to nod in agreement but also be excited by your insight into their world. Giving them a fresh perspective or new level of clarity is gold;
  • What’s at stake– here you want to drive home the tension inferred in the problem by putting some numbers or ramifications behind it (i.e. lost market share, customer numbers, revenue); and
  • Your take on how to resolve it– time to provide relief by giving them a glimpse of how you can make their world better. Here you can introduce some of your approach but careful not to overwhelm them with process, models and technical terminology.

Act II: About making it happen

In Act II you are building on their interest in how you will resolve their issue. Now is the time to detail your intended process, timeframes and cost. Price is usually a sensitive topic, so:

  • Use numbers psychology (e.g. dollars signs, decimals, font size) to reduce the likelihood of an unfavourable reaction, and;
  • Where possible, anchor them to the cost of past projects or an ugly doing nothing scenario so your solution looks comparatively better.

Act III: About you

In Act III you can add your bio, case studies and credentials for external clients. If they can be bothered to read it, great, but it’s really there to signal you are a safe pair of hands.  Importantly, include a Call to Action in the final page because too many proposals leave the client hanging instead of taking the opportunity to nudge their next move.

For internal stakeholders, let them know what comes next, and make them feel the decision is an easy one to make.


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