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Sloan School of Management

Communication and Persuasion in the Digital age

Visual Persuasion in the Digital Age: Webinar with Edward Schiappa
Oct 1—2
2 days
Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
USD 3900
USD 1950 per day

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Grounded in extensive cognitive research on how we learn and observe, Communication and Persuasion in the Digital Age is designed to help executives and managers become successful communicators in person and in virtual contexts: from group discussions to presentations to social media.

Advancements in technology and the rapid proliferation of digital media, data analytics, and online collaboration require executives to lead their organizations with sophisticated communication skills, adapted for these new ways of working. To be a successful leader today, you must be able to effectively persuade and influence at all levels, in person and virtually, and with supporting data. Edward Schiappa and Ben Shields draw on cutting-edge communication research, theories of persuasion, studies on parasocial interaction, and empirical studies on compelling storytelling to help participants solve problems, make quality decisions, and motivate people. Session topics include speaking persuasively, visual persuasion, communicating quantitative information clearly, and adapting messages to audiences.

The program will help you leverage new communication skills and harness the power of persuasion to:

  • Influence attitudes and change behaviors in your organization
  • Understand how new technology shapes the way we work and communicate
  • Bring your message and your medium into alignment
  • Support your message with data analytics
  • Manage virtual communications with power and presence
  • Apply the latest research to become a confident and inspiring public speaker
  • Create a compelling story to galvanize and motivate people
  • Adapt and deliver your message across different media channels and to diverse audiences
  • Advance the level of discourse within your organization

Additional detail


Persuading, Fast and Slow

How do we influence the beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors of others? The answer is persuasion, which can be subtle or obvious, effective or futile, depending on the communication strategies pursued. This program introduces participants to two sets of persuasive theories—rational appeals that require and encourage “slow” thinking, and emotional appeals that encourage "fast" thinking. Theories taught include the Elaboration Likelihood Theory, Social Judgment Theory, and Narrative Transportation Theory. After a presentation of these theories, the instructor will discuss examples applying them to specific communication challenges, and then assign a small group exercise for each table to do collaboratively.

Speaking Persuasively

Every professional is called upon to present ideas to inform or persuade others within the organization from time to time. Studies have shown that most professionals rank oral communication skills as very important to their career, yet often feel insufficiently educated on how to speak in public effectively. This program provides 10 steps to effective public speaking, introduces persuasive appeals of ethos, logos, and pathos, and how to “perform” credibility. Lecture/discussion followed by practical assignment that culminates in each person giving an introduction to a speech to their table.

Telling a Compelling Story

When is a story more important than a set of facts or summary of statistics? This program focuses on the role of narrative in persuasion in order to unpack how one constructs a compelling story that resonates with difference audiences. We will include communication challenges such as adapting to internal and external audiences. Special emphasis on cross-generational communication within an organization, such as adapting to Millennials. Draws from Paul Smith’s Lead with a Story but integrates neurological research on the persuasiveness of compelling narratives. Will end with a table-side exercise involving narrative strategizing for different audiences.

Visual Persuasion

How do pictures communicate? How does the "meaning" of words and images differ, and how does that difference affect how we construct persuasive messages? This program describes the cognitive differences between how images and words are processed (dual-coding theory) in order to understand why no portfolio of persuasive communication is complete without a strategic approach to visual persuasion. Describes the notions of visual semantics and syntax and how to strike "the responsive chord" with audiences. Will end with a table-side exercise involving the application of these ideas to managing one’s online identity (parasocial interaction).


Digital Comm 1: Communicating in Globally Distributed Teams

Today’s professionals necessarily rely on virtual contact with others in their organizations, whether such communication is by email, videoconferencing, or other online media. What sort of adaptations must professionals make when working in teams that are dispersed geographically? This session draws on participants’ own experiences with geographically dispersed teams to map the landscape of challenges. It then goes more deeply into what research can tell us about the particular challenges of geographical configuration, trust, and mutual knowledge.

Digital Comm 2: Adapting Messages to Audiences

When is it more appropriate to send a text than an email, or meet face-to-face rather than send a letter? How does one adapt a message to difference audiences, from “messaging up” to the board of directors to “messaging down” to subordinates? This program provides a framework for understanding task-oriented and relational-oriented communication, then uses that framework to different communication challenges involving different communication technologies. After describing the framework and applying it to various examples, each table will be given a communication challenge and will generate a communication strategy.

Arguing Civilly to Produce Good Decisions 1: How Argument Works

Just what makes for a "good argument"? How can arguments be analyzed simply and efficiently in order to make good decisions? The goal of this session is to enhance participants’ ability both to generate and to evaluate arguments. Describes common types of claims and forms of reasoning that are used in all contexts. Will end with a group exercise involving the evaluation of a sample argument.

Arguing Civilly to Produce Good Decisions 2: From Argument to Inquiry

What is the difference between "having an argument" and "making an argument"? Why do we often treat the idea of "arguing" as a bad thing to do? This program describes how "argument" is often misunderstood in our culture as a form of combat rather than as a tool of inquiry and truth seeking. Will describe the causes of “verbal aggression” and how to avoid it, and how to encourage norms of civil discourse within an organization. Will end with role-playing exercise to rehearse some of the best practices identified.

Sample Schedule—Subject to Change


  • 8:00 AM - 8:45 AM Registration and Continental Breakfast
  • 8:45 AM - 9:00 AM Introductions
  • 9:00AM - 10:30AM Persuading, Fast and Slow
  • 10:30 AM - 10:45 AM Break
  • 10:45 AM - 12:15 PM Persuasion as Compliance Gaining: Persuading One on One
  • 12:15 PM - 1:15 PM Networking Lunch
  • 1:15 PM - 2:45 PM Speaking Persuasively
  • 2:45 PM - 3:00 PM Break
  • 3:00 PM - 4:30 PM Visual Persuasion
  • 4:30 PM - 5:30 PM Reception


  • 8:00 AM - 8:30 AM Continental Breakfast
  • 8:30 AM - 10:00 AM Defining Your Online Identity
  • 10:00 AM - 10:15 AM Break
  • 10:15 AM - 11:45 AM Communicating with Data
  • 11:45 AM - 12:45 PM Networking Lunch
  • 12:45 PM - 2:15 PM Telling a Compelling Story
  • 2:15 PM - 2:30 PM Break
  • 2:30 PM - 4:00 PM Adapting Messages to Audiences
  • 4:00 PM - 4:15 PM Program Feedback
  • 4:15 PM - 4:30 PM Adjournment

Who should attend

Effective communicators are valued at all levels of an organization. If your responsibilities include interacting in some shape or form with others, then this program is for you. Typical participants' areas of expertise tend to include:

  • Sales and marketing
  • Planning and development
  • Operations management
  • Strategic partnerships
  • Supply-chain agreements
  • Sales and marketing
  • Planning and development
  • Operations management
  • Strategic partnerships
  • Supply-chain agreements
  • Recruitment and human resources


Ben Shields is a Lecturer in Managerial Communication at the MIT Sloan School of Management.   Shields teaches Communication for Leaders, Social Media Management: Persuasion in Networked Culture, and Advanced Leadership Communication in the MBA program.  He also teaches in a variety of MIT Sloan ...
Edward Schiappa is Professor and Head of Comparative Media Studies/Writing and is MIT’s John E. Burchard Professor of the Humanities. He conducts research in argumentation, persuasion, media influence, and contemporary rhetorical theory. He has published 10 books and his research has appeared in ...

Next dates

Oct 1—2
2 days
Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
USD 3900
USD 1950 per day

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