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The power of authority

Blogginlägg   •   Feb 10, 2012 17:06 CET

Authority is truly a powerful thing! Have you read Robert Cialdini's book, "Influence, the psychology of persuasion"? A classic, check it out. (see:

A figure of authority is such a powerful thing that, when presented with one, the higher functions of our brain that are responsible for decision-making simply stop functioning!

In one interesting experiment a man dressed in casual clothes standing at a pedestrian crossing crossed the road against a red light. Of course a few people followed him. Then he changed into a suit and tie, a dark overcoat glasses and briefcase so that he represented a much more authoritative figure. This time 350% more people followed him over the road, walking straight out into the traffic. There are many such examples (and if you want some references just contact me) and plenty of evidence of the power of authority. The classic way of course to demonstrate your authority when you give a presentation is to say something about your background and qualifications. One small problem I have with this however, is that this is what everyone does. In other words it's predictable, and doesn't help you stand out from the masses.

So, while I think it's perfectly okay of course to say something about your qualifications, it would be nice if you could find a slightly different way to do it. The best way, in my opinion, is to demonstrate your ability rather than just stand there and say something about it. In other words, talk about the subject as if you really do know what you're talking about! Sounds a bit strange maybe but it starts with being well-prepared and speaking fluently.

Imagine the speaker who is constantly consulting their notes, seems a little surprised by each new PowerPoint slide they show and who can't get through a whole sentence without stumbling and repeating themselves. Doesn't work does it? No matter how much of an expert they are.

Apart from being professional, you can also consider how a figure of authority in your world dresses. Sometimes it's a formal suit-and-tie style that is needed, other times it may be a T-shirt and old jeans. Whatever it takes.

Authority is one of the six factors identified by Robert Cialdini as important for influencing and persuading others. It's possiby the most effective when used correctly, but can also easily be abused, for example to lead people straight out into traffic. Think about how you use, or diminish, your authority in presentations.

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Om Rhiannon Sanders Consulting AB