Wooing and Winning Business: The Foolproof Formula for Making Persuasive Business Presentations

Deanna F. Womack (Professor of Communication, Stonehill College)

Journal of Consumer Marketing

ISSN: 0736-3761

Article publication date: 1 June 2000




Womack, D.F. (2000), "Wooing and Winning Business: The Foolproof Formula for Making Persuasive Business Presentations", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 17 No. 3, pp. 263-272. https://doi.org/10.1108/jcm.2000.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

The authors, founders of a training/consulting firm called Speechworks, have translated their experience as executive producers of a daily news and talk show on Atlanta’s NBC affiliate into a book that makes their “woo and win” strategy available to readers as well as clients. Although one must be skeptical of a “foolproof formula,” this book provides sound advice and encouragement based on theoretical principles. Furthermore, the authors give reasons for the advice rather than forcing the reader to take their word for it. Audience analysis, a key principle of communication theory, provides the foundation for a range of specific suggestions for effective persuasive presentations.

The book is divided into three parts. Part I, “Wooing the Client,” discusses five topics: principles of organization, audience analysis, a formula for persuasive presentations, suggestions for visual aids, and tips for handling question and answer sessions. Part II, “All the Right Moves,” presents nine sections, mostly on nonverbal forms of communication such as gesture and movement.

Subjects discussed in Part II include stage fright, presence, eye contact, facial expressions, body language, voice variety, pausing, avoiding distractions, using microphones, and practicing the presentation. “Winning,” Part III, covers more advanced presentational forms: team presentations, seminars, presenting to a group of decision makers, meetings, job interviews, and impromptu speaking. Three appendices provide checklists, formulas, and samples on topics of special concern. Appendix A, “How to Cure a Common Case of Cold Feet,” lists 16 symptoms of nervousness with short suggestions for controlling them. For example, for dry mouth the authors suggest, “Bite your tongue!It will cause you to salivate” (p. 209). Appendix B presents a sample seminar outline and Appendix C a sample speaker introduction.

Bold headings, cartoon‐like illustrations, and sidebars summarizing key information make the book a quick and enjoyable read as well as a useful reference because information is so easy to find. Some of the advice contradicts standard approaches, but explanations ring true, like the following: “Most people strategize their presentations and wing the Q and A. Not a good idea. Most people don’t plan the Q and A because they believe the questions are unpredictable. Not true” (pp. 67‐8). The authors present sound ideas in catchy phrases and analogies that are memorable as well as useful: “Language that tries to impress fails to connect” (p. 44). “Don’t kill your listeners with bullets” [bullet points] (p. 160); “Bullets kill” (p. 52). “Off the cuff is off the mark” (p. 85). “Many speakers don’t end a presentation, they just quit. It’s like dinner without dessert; it’s like a great date without a goodnight kiss” (p. 45). Yet, while the advice goes far beyond the usual, the style is not only breezy but supportive and encouraging. “When the listener pops the questions and your heart begins to race, relax. Questions in one‐on‐one meetings, small team presentations, or large sales seminars are the business speaker’s winning opportunity. They let you know immediately what’s on your listeners’ mind, how they feel about your message …. A tough‐sounding question can work to your advantage. The worse it sounds, the more others tune in. A well‐thought‐out answer will get the audience’s attention and allow you to score points that add to your credibility” (p. 67). Examples from television (Roger Ailes’ “tape and ape” method, p. 118), business (many examples from a Big Five accounting firm client), politics (Ronald Reagan) and the military (Norman Schwarzkopf) provide true‐to‐life illustrations of the book’s principles. Acronyms such as the three Ps of the seminar checklist, “prepare, persuade, and pursue” (p. 172), help readers remember the advice and add to the book’s value as a reference. The book also includes occasional charts and exercises to aid the speaker. For instance, the chart of media options for visuals (p. 63) presents a matrix of visual aids associated with variables such as audience size, design complexity, and cost. Some sections contain exercises for techniques such as voice power (pp. 118‐19, 147), pausing (p. 125), posture (p. 144), facial expressions (p. 146), eye contact (p. 147), and gesture and movement (pp. 147‐8). Other helpful aids serve as references for future presentations, such as the rehearsal checklist (p. 163), sample seminar evaluation form (p. 171), seminar checklist (p. 172), and meeting questionnaire (p. 193).

There are few weaknesses in a book that translates current theory into clear and specific advice far superior to the average public speaking guide. Nevertheless, the authors repeat a conclusion, “the visual you … counts for 59 percent of what the audience believes” that most communication scholars now disavow. Because we almost never encounter nonverbal communication separate from verbal cues, current theory holds that separating them is artificial and pointless. There are several typographical errors. Also, some might complain that television experience should not be the model for speaking in small groups, yet the authors suggest adapting a news team lineup for group presentations (p. 161). Nevertheless, these weaknesses are small compared to the book’s strengths.

Wooing and Winning Business provides a peppy, upbeat, encouraging, and very useful guide for the marketing executive and anyone else who regularly prepares persuasive business or sales presentations. The sidebars and bold headings make it easy to skim a topic of interest or to return to refresh your memory. At the same time, the advice in the book is based on sound principles from communication theory. At $16.95, this user‐friendly, theory‐based, practice‐oriented public speaking guide is a real bargain!The authors are likely to gain training and consulting clients from satisfied readers.

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