I – like many tourists have been – was recently scammed by a Tuk-Tuk driver in Delhi. The experience wasn’t a happy one – but the guy was incredibly persuasive and made a damn good argument. Making the best of a bad situation, I’ve pulled together the bits of his approach that really worked and explored what they can teach us about creating a persuasive presentation.

For those who aren’t aware, it is common practise in Delhi (and other tourist hotspots) for drivers of Tuk-Tuks – small, brightly-coloured, three-wheeled diesel-powered rickshaws – to lie in wait for fresh-faced tourists outside train stations and popular attractions. After offering to take said tourist to their hotel for a very reasonable fee, they inform the weary traveller that in fact their hotel is a) Fully booked, b) Closed for renovation, or c) Burnt to the ground. ‘Never fear!’ they say, they know a much better place. And the green-eyed visitor is promptly taken to a different hotel run by the driver’s brother-in-law, is charged double the going rate, and left to fend for themselves. There are variations on this theme, but you get the idea.

Before we start, I should point out that all we lost as a result of this experience (aside from an hour or so) was 30 rupees (about 45p) in Tuk-Tuk fees. No-one was conned out of any significant amount of money, and no one was put in any danger. What’s more, another 5 couples staying in our hotel each – completely independently – fell for the same scam, which shows how effective it was.

Despite having read exactly what to expect, and how to avoid these scams, I was taken in. After leaving our hotel, I walked straight passed the drivers lying in wait outside the gates (doing as the guidebook said, and feeling very streetwise as a result). I stopped for a drink, and got talking to a passer-by conveniently standing at the same drink stand (error number one). I asked him about the area, and said we were on our way to the local bazaar to do some shopping. That was going to be difficult, he said, ‘They’re laying a Metro line and the whole road has been dug up’. Thoroughly disappointed, I asked where else we could go (error number two). ‘Tricky’, he said (he played it cool), ‘The roadworks are all around this area. You probably couldn’t walk there. Sorry about that.’  ‘Well, I guess we’ll have to get a Tuk-Tuk’ I said. ‘Be careful’, he said. ‘These ones will be very expensive. I’ll find you a cheaper one’. We followed, (error number three) and were led into a Tuk-Tuk that was indeed cheaper, but didn’t take us to the bazaar. It instead took us to a string of hugely-expensive shops, miles out from town, at which the driver was undoubtedly earning commission. I had been persuaded by this man – despite my hesitation – but why, exactly?

The experience wasn’t a great one, and I’m definitely not advising you should mislead your customers, but the construction of the man’s argument and the techniques he employed were a great lesson in persuasive messages.

Take your time when creating a persuasive presentation

Firstly, he took his time – this was definitely soft sell. He didn’t come out and immediately offer his Tuk-Tuk services as it would have fallen on deaf ears – just as the offers of those directly outside the hotel did. Instead, he took the time to demonstrate his knowledge of the area, to gain an understanding of what we were looking for, and what would convince us to follow his advice.

In a sales environment, coming out and saying exactly what you’re selling, what it does and how much it costs isn’t the best way to go. Instead, it is important to spend time addressing the problems that your customers face, exploring what damage these challenges are doing, and how a solution to these problems might look. Then introduce the way in which your solution can help solve these challenges, and the benefits of using this type of solution over others. By the time you’ve done this, the prospect’s decision to buy should come naturally; you haven’t told them to buy, but you’ve led them to a point where it is the natural conclusion.

Do your research 

Secondly, he had done his research. There were in fact road works blocking the way, without signposted diversions, and he knew that this area was full of tourists, and that tourists in India tend to want to sightsee or shop. Spotting likely candidates wouldn’t have been difficult, but he knew exactly who he was looking for.

It is essential to know what you are selling, know how it will change your prospects’ lives, know what else is available, know what benefits your product offers over the competition, and any other factors that will affect their decision. Talking about how great your product is, is one thing, but showing how it can ensure compliance with an upcoming legislative change, or illustrating the real world impact it has had on a similar-sized SME is far more powerful. By contextualising information and making it relevant to your audience, you’ll make a much greater impact.

Know your market

Thirdly, he knew who his target market was, and the things that motivated them. This wasn’t an approach that would have worked on a Delhi local, or even an Indian tourist. His language was tailored to us, and his discussion revolved around things that we were interested in.

Trotting out the same presentation to different types of audience won’t work. Your slides and your language need to be tailored to whomever you are speaking. CFOs will have different concerns to technical experts; IT communication firms will have different needs to oil and gas operations. Having a specific market is crucial in knowing how to best position your message in a persuasive presentation . If your market is wide, customise your content to suit your audience.

Allay their fears

Fourthly, he allayed our fears. Venturing out into a new city – let alone in India – is an exciting but scary experience. We weren’t sure if we’d get lost or even how we’d know where to go. This man was able to address and remove these concerns by providing guidance and directions; he removed the hurdles we were facing.

It is important to understand the impact your product will have on your audience, both in terms of what it will give them (time, productivity, revenue), and also what it will allow them to avoid (legislative challenges, bad publicity, high maintenance costs). Companies – just like people – have fears and concerns, and like people, they are looking for ways to avoid them. If you are able to show that when creating your presentation you can make life a little easier, you will make an impact.

Be brazen

Finally, he was brazen. One of the things that we couldn’t get over was how easily we were taken in, but with hindsight it was his confident, bold attitude that had a powerful impact on us.

It is not uncommon for an audience to be hesitant to listen to a persuasive presentation – either because they have other things to be doing, or because they have no intention to changing the status quo. Buy-in will come as a result of a well-constructed, benefit-focussed presentation that speaks to them, but it also needs to be earned by the presenter. An apologetic, excusatory or self-conscious delivery will not bring your message to life, and will turn your audience off completely (unless your slides are so fantastic they can’t look away). Confidence – not only in what your selling, but also the material you are presenting – is hugely important, and is something that every audience looks for whether they know it or not.  

So, the afternoon wasn’t a total loss. I was able to experience how a persuasive message can genuinely influence people – even if it wasn’t for a particularly genuine or positive reason. After the initial anger had worn off, I was able to laugh and later analyse exactly what he’d done that worked so well on us.

Everyone has to make a living, and no one was hurt. If anything, I got a masterclass in how to create persuasive presentation for a reluctant audience, and that was certainly worth my 30 rupees. If you want to learn more about creating persuasive presentations, why not check out our events page and sign up to our Powerful Presentation Openings free online masterclass.

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Written by

Kieran Chadha

Managing consultant

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