How the World’s Leading Persuasion Expert Gets Your Business Card


2014-03-18 19.26.34If you attend conferences, you’ll encounter lots of people doing things to get your business card. Walk the aisles of an exhibit hall, and you’ll see fishbowls for iPad raffles, booth babes handing out t-shirts… all for the price of a mere business card. Keynote speakers wouldn’t attempt anything so crass, of course, but how often have you heard a speaker promise a copy of her slide deck or a special white paper in return for a card?

Robert Cialdini, persuasion expert and best-selling author, delivered the opening keynote at Pubcon New Orleans. I had a chance to chat with him, as well as listen to his excellent speech. His keynote covered, in some detail and with numerous examples, his six principles of persuasion.

One of the six principles is reciprocation, or reciprocity – do something for me, and I’m more likely to be persuaded to do something for you. Cialdini pointed out that most websites get this wrong – they demand you give up your information, and only then give you a white paper download or other premium. The secret to making reciprocation work, Cialdini said, is simple: go first.

At least one study bears out Cialdini’s logic, even though it may seem counter-intuitive for many lead generation experts – see Collecting Visitor Info: Reward vs. Reciprocity.

Robert Cialdini & Roger Dooley
Robert Cialdini & Roger Dooley


So, at the close of his keynote, Cialdini didn’t offer up the usual, “Leave your business card and I’ll send you some free content.” Instead, he informed the audience that everyone in attendance would get a free gift as they left the room. He explained that in order to help everyone remember the key points of the presentation, he had prepared a card listing those points. The card (see photo) is the size of a credit card, and, Cialdini pointed out, could be carried in a wallet, purse, or pocket.

Only after that did he suggest that those people desiring free content about the topic of his speech leave their card at the same time. Persuasion by reciprocation at its finest.

Clearly, Cialdini practices what he preaches. He probably collected more cards than he would have with a typical “get my slide deck” offer. Even those people who didn’t leave their card no doubt now feel they have a tiny debt that needs to be repaid. And, those attendees who hang onto the card will have the contact info for Cialdini’s company.

This approach is a win-win for everyone, and shows that Cialdini is one of those uncommon experts who follows his own advice.

A Scoop For Neuromarketing Readers – The Small Big

Although there’s been little or no publicity in the U.S., Cialdini has a new book coming out in September, coauthored with Noah Goldstein and Steve Martin. The title will be The Small Big, and will focus on how small changes can make a big difference in results. Goldstein and Martin were Cialdini’s partners on Yes! 50 Secrets from the Science of Persuasion. Watch here for more details as they become available.

  1. Pascal says

    Even today SEO is based on reciprocity. The more information you give better ranking and conversion you will have. Google is based on that principle.

    I recently saw a great video on Persuasion that illustrate well all the little things that could make a big difference. (

    Thank you for your good work and keep up this great blog.

  2. Alessandro Adamo says

    Great article!

  3. Tony H says

    Great post, I definitely want to try out persuasion by reciprocation at my next keynote. Thanks for sharing!

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