Persuasive Writing Techniques to Get Buy-in for Your Vision

Persuasive writing (1)

My dad was a pilot, which meant he was always watching the sky with a pilot’s long-range vision. On family road trips, he could see sights his passengers would never have glimpsed without help.

“Did you see that hawk just circle above those trees? It was right over there.”

“Is that a falcon or a crow?…. Oh, it’s gone now.”

“There’s an eagle… Whoops, you missed it. Again”

Visionary leaders have that same gift of farsightedness. And, like my Dad, they can have trouble getting others to see what stands out so obviously to them.

When your team or potential funders can’t see how to get from the current state to the future state you envision, frustration can result all around. A roadmap can help, but just that’s just the starting point. On its own, a map offers nothing more than a two-dimensional, abstract sketch. That may be enough to get people intrigued, but it’s seldom enough to gain their commitment.

To take your audience from aware to all-in, you must bring your vision to life. This is where it pays to pay close attention to your communication technique. Here are five specific moves you can make to create a vision that leaps off the page and gets your audience excited about making your imaginary future real.


  1. Use Visual Language

If you want people to “see” what you see, then choose language that appeals to their sense of vision. Here are some examples of words and phrases you might use:

  • I/we see…
  • I /we picture…
  • I /we envision…
  • In my mind’s eye…
  • At first glance…
  • We get a glimpse of…
  • I/we visualize…

You can take this sensory language even further by incorporating words and phrases that appeal to the other four senses too (touch, taste, smell, and hearing). Grounding your writing in the world of the senses immerses your reader in the reality you see ahead and helps them connect to it.


  1. Include Conceptual Diagrams

Make important aspects of your vision more concrete by putting them into pictures. Are you envisioning a three-stage evolution of your company? What about representing that through a diagram instead of just a bulleted list? Are you suggesting a change in focus? What about a cluster diagram showing the new focal point at the center of your various research activities?

You don’t need a graphic designer to create conceptual diagrams (images that convey ideas rather than data). Just take a tour through PowerPoint’s SmartArt for a start. Here are just a few of the ready-made tools you’ll find there:

  • Venn diagrams (great for showing overlapping interests or pools of resources).
  • Cycle diagrams (to reinforce a non-linear pattern).
  • Process flow diagrams (to make steps easy to grasp and remember).
  • Org charts (for showing any kind of hierarchy, not just a reporting structure).
  • Nested circle diagrams (ideal for showing a ripple effect or layers of stakeholder interest).
  • Cluster diagrams (an easy way to show a shift in focus or a hub-and-spoke model).


  1. Give an Abundance of Examples

We hear a lot about business storytelling these days, but not enough about the power of the individual anecdote. Yes, there’s power in presenting your entire vision as a grand story, a series of events infused with drama. But don’t overlook the value of small stories as illustrations of the possible.

People reading or hearing your vision will be repeatedly asking themselves one big question: Why should I trust the person spinning this fantastic tale of the future? To gain their trust, you’ll need to answer that question again and again, and one of the most compelling ways to do that is by using real-life examples.

Those examples could come from your own life (stories of previous accomplishments, for instance), from history, from your research endeavours, or from the people in your life who inspire your work.

Seek out relatable vignettes that will inspire your audience and alleviate their concerns. Remember: it takes confidence, in you and your stories, to build commitment.


  1. Watch your Pronouns

So much can hinge on the difference between I and we, or between you and me. If you’re sharing your vision with a client or funder, rushing too soon into assuming that you and you audience are a we can sound presumptuous. On the other hand, presenting a vision that differentiates between you and me can place a linguistic barrier between you and your audience.

For example, let’s say you’re writing an initial email to a potential industry partner. Talking about “the strategic goals we will achieve” could sound a bit pushy. But if you’ve been working side-by-side with the industry partner for the same six months and insist on talking about “my project” or “the value I bring to the market,” that could leave your collaborator feeling like they’re getting the cold shoulder.

Gauge the state of your relationship with your audience carefully and choose your pronouns appropriately. Certainly, if you’re presenting your vision to your team, then you’ll want to speak almost exclusively in we and our. To get buy-in from colleagues, assume shared ownership from the beginning and make sure you communicate that collaborative approach throughout your document or presentation.


  1. Tease the Imagination

Ultimately, it’s all about buy-in. If you capture your audience’s attention, but don’t engage them in an imaginative journey toward the future, then you’ve failed.

Two magic words will go a long way toward helping your audience see what you see: “Imagine that...”

Paint a compelling word-picture of what your audience’s life will be like once your vision has become your shared reality. You might want to do this in the present tense. For example:

Imagine you’re a senior patient waiting for knee surgery, and by following this innovative physio program, you’re now able to postpone the operation—perhaps indefinitely. How does your quality of life change?

For starters, you’re able to get daily exercise now. You start walking your dog again, and you lose 10 pounds. As a result, your blood pressure goes down, and so does your risk of heart disease. With the renewed energy you’re experiencing, you’re feeling more social, so you join a local choir. The social connections you make there boost your mental health and improve your overall sense of well-being.

And you enjoy all these benefits without ever popping a pill, without any side effects from a pharmaceutical intervention.


Persuasion Dwells in the Details

As a visionary, you’re adept at imagining, to the nth degree, the future you know is possible. Your funding agents and policymakers may not be so talented at forward thinking.

While we hear a lot about storytelling as a means to persuade an audience, it’s not enough to just give the outline of a plot or a couple of character sketches. That’s the map, not the destination. Powerful storytelling emerges through details that make your vision three-dimensional, in terms your audience can easily grasp.

The deeper you can immerse your audience in the world you imagine, the more easily they can picture the step-by-step actions that will lead to concrete results. Only once they buy into the viability of your vision can they collaborate with you to bring it to fruition.


There are no comments yet. Be the first one to leave a comment!