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How to Persuade People Who Don’t Want to be Persuaded

By Murray Bourne, 26 Jun 2005

by Joel Bauer & Mark Levy
John Wiley, 2004


A Summary Review

"[Bauer's] experience proves that the best way to influence others is to employ fun and enterntainment to make a more convincing pitch."

Source: Dust jacket notes.

As a teenager, Joel Bauer used to work as a magician on cruise liners. So his approach is from a show-business point of view and this background is seen in his style of suggestions for persuading reluctant people.

It is a shame that a lot of educators dismiss the importance of entertainment in teaching. If you don't have students' attention, how are they going to learn from you? If they are bored, how can you convince them to do what they need to do (and what you want)? If they are not having fun with you, they will find it in other distractions (like mobile phones, laptop computer games, talking, etc).

This book is mostly aimed at sales and business people - but it has a lot to say to educators as well. Bauer has been extraordinarily successful at drawing in huge crowds at sales exhibitions. At first, the people in charge of the exhibition booth did not believe what he could do for them. So he would ask them to pay him if he was successful. With nothing to lose, they would agree. He would begin gathering the crowds away from other booths. Soon, he would have a crowd of a few hundred people hanging off every word - and willing to leave their business card or sign up for the product right there. He was extremely well paid for this ability to capture and hold people's attention.

The various techniques suggested (high concept, draw in the listener, use a transformation mechanism, use metaphors, the power of gifts, dynamic clarity) are all relevant in the classroom. The particular methods suggested may not suit your personality as a teacher, but the ideas behind the methods should be considered for use on a daily basis for motivating students.

High concept
The "high concept" of a movie is a one-line short summary, possibly using a metaphor. It is used when pitching the idea to a busy movie executive. An example for a well-known film could be:

"A teenager is mistakenly sent into the past, where he must make sure his mother and father meet and fall in love; he then has to get back to the future."


What is your high concept for your next lesson? What do you want your students to take away? Do you really need to give them 150 'factoids' per hour via Powerpoint slides, which they will forget anyway?

The book (p 17) cites a study in the Harvard Business Review where executives were asked what messages got their attention. In order, they were:

  • the message was personalised
  • it evoked an emotional response
  • it came from a respected sender
  • it was concise

The messages that both evoked emotion and were personalised were more than twice as likely to be attended to as the rest. Conclusions for the classroom?

I recommend this book for any educator - after all, we are often in the business of convincing people who don't want to be convinced.

Footnote: In the acknowledgements, Bauer thanks a group of his "life teachers" - people whose early influence still has an effect to this day. The potential for influence wielded by the educator is great.

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