Reciprocity - Methods of Influence for Persuasive Presentations (1/6)

Reciprocity - one of the six methods of influence identified by Dr Cialdini - refers to the process of giving freely, with no expectation of anything in return. In reality, this ‘free giving’ creates a feeling of debt in the recipient, which in the fullness of time will be repaid in some way via the various swings and roundabouts of life in business.


How can the concept of reciprocity help you deliver more persuasive presentations?

Put simply, you should have something to give away, something of value to leave behind. Ideally, this ‘something’ ought to be inherently useful to the recipient and relatively cheap for you to create.

A well-produced, succinct handout, for example, will remind the audience how they can make use of the information delivered in your sales presentation. To be clear, a handout is not a copy of your PowerPoint slides. Handouts are separate, stand-alone documents that add value to material delivered in your sales presentations. 

You can increase the value of a handout by circulating a semi-completed document that the audience fill in (and finish) as you present. The probability of someone taking your handout away with them is greatly increased if they’ve personalised it in some way.

Elsewhere, you could offer a free review or consultation, maybe online, via telephone or video conference. Why? If your sales presentation is good, it’ll produce genuine interest in some members of the audience and they’ll quite naturally want to know what to do next. You’d be failing in your obligation as a presenter if you didn’t provide a road map to follow. Business presenting is about helping your audience and you should always be looking to encourage the 'next step'.

The important point about reciprocity as a method of influence is that you aim to freely offer help, with no expectation of anything in return. Does this in result in lots of people taking your freebies and running for the hills, never to be heard or again? Yes it does. Unfortunately, there’s no getting away from that but you shouldn’t worry about it. And here’s why:


  1. Whatever your offer was - it should not have cost you much, so there should be little financial loss to you
  2. Your freebie is better out there in the real world than sitting in a box in a cupboard labelled ‘Marketing Materials’
  3. Your message is with someone who witnessed you present in a passionate, persuasive way. Who knows? Maybe they’ll pass that on to someone else, who’ll end up contacting you. Having an ambassador for your message is invaluable and every audience presents you with an opportunity to generate at least one (maybe more)

So, review your next sales presentation from the perspective of reciprocity. How can you better use this concept as a method of influence when presenting? See if giving something away for free can really help you close more business.

This six-part series is based on Robert Cialdini’s methods of influencing people, as per his pivotal 1984 text Influence, the Psychology of Persuasion. We have adapted the six methods of influence to illustrate their applicability to the creation and delivery of memorable, more persuasive sales presentations.

Reciprocity at Work...

Our free advice library  offers useful presentation tips in a variety of key areas with a range of unique documents available to download. You may be interested in this Smart Sheet which explains how to create Presentation Handouts that support your sales presentations and adds value to your key messages.

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