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How to Influence People with Your Ideas

So you think you have an original idea, but you don’t know how to engage the public, to influence and promote your unique and powerful vision. Harvard Business Review contributor John Butman says you’re not alone. In the world of TED talks, viral videos, and inspirational seminars, there are opportunities for promoting the next ‘big thing’ if you can ask and answer the right questions about your goal.

Fundamentals of Idea Entrepreneurship

  • What are your motives?
  • How can you connect with an audience?
  • How will your ideas be applied?

Are you driven by a crusading zeal to alter society? Do you hunger for fame, fortune, and power? Butman stresses the relevance of idea entrepreneurs who are primarily motivated to help other people. But in order to connect with others, you have to appeal to them on an emotional level. That is why a personal story (narrative) is so effective for eliciting support for your vision. Another crucial component of selling an idea is to stress its practical value and application. ‘Pie in the sky’ is fine as long as you can still eat it! Model your idea in everyday life and people will soon get the gist.

  • Do you have explanatory power?
  • Who benefits?
  • Where did your thinking originate?

Having an idea is one thing, explaining it…well, that takes effort. The more explanatory firepower you have behind your idea, the better. Acquire a depth of knowledge about the subject. Use a range of examples. Also, identifying your audience will help you establish the right voice and delivery. However, don’t assume your target is the only group that will respond. Seek a broad base of support, if possible. Finally, don’t forget to acknowledge your idea’s place in an ever evolving body of thought. Every “original” idea has its origins with previous idea entrepreneurs. The more you credit them, the more legitimate you’ll become.

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About Eric Anderson

Eric Anderson is a staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success. He is an intern at Computer Aid Inc., pursuing his master's degree in communications at Penn State University.

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