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The Power of a Pre-Frame

As a leader, you understand the importance of clear and impactful communication. Have you ever walked into a meeting feeling unprepared, or presented an idea that needed to be met with the enthusiasm you expected? This is where the power of a pre-frame comes in.

Pre-framing isn't mind control but as leaders it can be a communication tool to help influence and guide conversation. Whilst it isn’t mind control it does possesses a certain magic that can subtly influence how you and your teams perceive information. 

It works by outlining the intention or mindset you’d like the listener to tap into. It’s similar to priming the brain to interpret the following message in a specific way.

What is Pre-Framing?

Pre-framing is the art of shaping your audience's perception of a situation before you actually present it. It's like setting the stage for your message, subtly priming your team or staff to be receptive and see things from your perspective.

How Does Pre-Framing Work?

Pre-framing works by tapping into the way our brains process information. Here's the magic behind it:

I wanted to delve a little deeper into the mechanisms behind this persuasive technique and explore some real-world examples:

  • Priming Attention: A well-crafted pre-frame grabs attention and sparks curiosity. Instead of launching straight into a status update, you could start by highlighting an industry trend or a recent customer challenge. This sets the context and makes your team more engaged with the following information.

  • Shaping Perception: Pre-framing allows you to subtly highlight the value proposition of your message. Is it a time-saving process improvement? Does it address a common pain point for your staff? By mentioning these benefits upfront, you prime your audience to be receptive to the details.

  • Anticipating Resistance:  Experienced leaders know that every idea can face some initial resistance. Pre-framing allows you to address potential objections pre-emptively. For example, if presenting a budget reduction plan, you could acknowledge the impact on some departments while emphasising the long-term benefits for the entire company. This disarms resistance and fosters a more open discussion.

  • Setting Expectations: Imagine a movie trailer filled with action-packed scenes and witty dialogue. This pre-frames the movie, setting the expectation for an exciting and humorous experience. When you finally watch the film, even if the humour falls a little flat, it usually still feels enjoyable because it aligns with the pre-established frame.  In presentations to teams, pre-framing can work similarly. Mentioning a problem your product solves before showcasing its features sets the expectation that the product is a solution-oriented tool.

  • Suggestibility:  Imagine a teacher announcing a surprise quiz. This simple pre-framing can subtly nudge students to review the material beforehand, even without an explicit instruction.  Pre-framing works in a similar way by planting a suggestion in the listener's mind.  For example, most recently my son had an ear infection, the treatment was a ‘simple’ application of ear drops. Unfortunately he has a phobia of anything touching his ears. I used pre-framing and suggestibility similar to setting the expecations of how long we'd be using ear drops, I used some coaching in there to remind him of how brave he is, and how's very good at doing hard things. Using pre-framing allowed us to work together to make sure he had a speedy recovery.

Pre-Framing Beyond Words:

The power of pre-framing extends beyond just what you say. Here are some additional tactics:

  • Sharing Data & Research: Distribute pre-meeting reports or research findings that showcase industry trends or competitor analysis. This primes the discussion for change or action.

  • Success Stories: Briefly mentioning how a similar approach benefited another department can pre-frame a new proposal, demonstrating its potential for success.

Mastering the Art of Pre-Framing:

By incorporating pre-framing techniques into your communication strategy, you can become a more impactful leader. You'll be able to:

  • Guide Discussions: Pre-framing sets the tone and context for a meeting, ensuring everyone is on the same page.

  • Introduce New Ideas Smoothly: By priming your audience to be receptive, you can present new concepts with greater ease.

  • Gain Buy-In: Pre-framing allows you to subtly address concerns and highlight the value proposition of your message, leading to greater acceptance from your team or staff.

The power of a pre-frame lies in its ability to subtly influence perception and guide thinking. As a leader, use this tool strategically to ensure your message resonates and your team thrives.


If you are interested in having Ally speak at an upcoming event or would like more information about Ally's Programs please book a call.

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