Persuasion is what moves companies, industries, markets, non-profits and governments. Whether you’re selling a product, pitching a startup, soliciting donations, trying to shape public policy, or revolutionizing an industry, the ability to persuade others is critical. “Command and control” is usually an illusion. If you want to effect change, you need to overcome skepticism and opposition in order to win minds and alter actions. Everyone’s influence—from the CEO to an intern—is determined by how good they are at getting ideas across and persuading others. Conversely, the most logical, sensible, and rational ideas can fail because they’re expressed poorly and unconvincingly.
This course is a highly practical guide to expressing your ideas more persuasively. We’ll take simple techniques for improving and sharpening our arguments, and practice delivering them in a compelling way. In week one, we’ll look at why we need to persuade, the strategy of deciding whom to persuade, and analyze some of the barriers to persuasion. Weeks two and three will focus on how to structure your communication. In week four, we’ll turn to the characteristics of great communication, the process involved in crafting your arguments, and how to build a persuasive presence. In the final session, we’ll talk about how to apply what we’ve learned to the challenges we face as we build our careers.
The course works exceptionally well online. The instructor and TA have run three previous versions of the course purely online, all of which have been very successful. The format is mainly a “flipped classroom”— you’ll be reading and watching videos about frameworks and concepts, and putting them into practice in the classroom sessions, mainly in small groups. There is hardly any “conventional lecture” during class time.
You will have writing, reading and viewing assignments every week, and video assignments most weeks. Some will be based on your personal experience, some on case studies developed specifically for the course. The final assignment will be an in-depth video exercise. You will also develop a personal persuasion plan which we will use to help you track your progress after the course.
The course will be made up of lectures, videos, readings, discussion, case studies, and exercises.
You will be judged on how well you have absorbed and applied the course material, rather than on the beauty of your rhetorical flourishes.
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