Message Doctor: How to convince people to support great ideas

Ok. Vagina. There, I’ve said it.

It made me feel awkward, but it needed to be said to outline an example of one doctor’s attempt to convince surgeons to change their behaviour.

A few years ago, I worked with Dr Marcus Carey, a Melbourne-based uro-gynaecologist to help him ‘sell’ his great ideas. He had developed a groundbreaking medical procedure to treat vaginal prolapse. My coaching program focused on refining his persuasive skills so he could change the behaviours of surgeons around the world.

Working with Johnson and Johnson, Dr Carey had developed a fantastic pre-packaged operation that contained the tools required, procedural instructions and a video. It was a clear and well organized system to complete the operation successfully, but Dr Carey still had to personally convince people to change what they were currently doing.

Great ideas do not always sell themselves.

This doctor was doing what all leaders have to do – convince people to change their thinking. But people don’t want to change because it involves effort and risk.


The message to convince people to change

Marcus Carey SpeakingThe statistics in this story are sobering. 1 in 8 women experience a variation of this condition, and the operations available at the time were quite intense and difficult.

Dr Carey developed a radically improved surgical procedure that was more effective in a number of ways. But his initial explanation was way too long and too technical.

So, together we applied the Vivid Method to his ideas.

The message we refined was:

“This new surgical method has 4 benefits over the existing method:
One, it’s quicker – reducing surgical risk
Two, it’s less aggressive – providing much faster healing
Three, it reduces the chances of later complications
And finally, it’s much easier to explain to patients.”

His earlier draft included many of these points, but they were lost in the details and not presented in a way that was vivid enough to be transferable.

After we defined his 4-point message, he had a flexible, memorable and transferable summary, that can be conveyed in less than 20 seconds. The fact that it’s short makes it more likely that people will repeat it.


Great ideas fail if the message is not persuasive

Marcus Carey Fistula_hospitalGreat ideas don’t persuade automatically.

Someone has to get the word out to convince people to change behaviour.

Dr Carey had the right idea; he was scheduled to speak at medical conferences around the world.

And there is a global need for his idea.


  • The current operation required tremendous skill by the surgeon and there aren’t enough trained surgeons to meet the demand.
  • The current operation took 3 hours, versus less than 1 hour for the new one.
  • With an ageing population, there is a 45% increase in the demand for prolapse surgery.

Although Dr Carey is a leader with a great idea, if his presentation is unclear, or too full of detail, his valuable message would be obscured and might cause this great idea to be ignored.

Unfortunately, many great ideas fail when they’re not communicated in a way that will convince people. And while a vaginal prolapse doctor is an unusual example, it’s still a relevant one!


Convincing people with certainty and clarity

ClarityEven with his message clarified, Dr Carey still needed to think clearly and stay on track in the spotlight of these large (and skeptical) audiences, and provide data to support his claims.

Getting clear about the key message is a great foundation to reducing uncertainty and building confidence in your talk.

And Dr Carey had compelling data to back up his message, so our coaching meetings then focused on three key components to ensure he spoke with certainty and convinced his listeners to change their behaviour:

  1. The ClarityFirst Principles to think clearly and control nerves.
  2. The Chunk Structure to logically layout his data and support his message.
  3. Tips and techniques to engage his audience with great explanations.

And, as often happens, once the first two components were in place, he naturally able to give great explanations.


Find a a vivid message to convince people of your great idea

Arrow_Red_Balls170JPGSo, this story is about an idea/technique/procedure that is much better than the existing one.

However, it still needs a vivid message to be delivered to all of the key influencers to ensure it takes its rightful place in the world.

And, many more great ideas will be recognised as valuable as more people develop the skills to deliver vivid messages – and the presentations that support them.


If you’d like to develop persuasive communication skills, consider:

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