When was the last time you cried?
Properly cried, all snot and spit, like Juliet Stevenson in the film “Truly, Madly, Deeply”?
When was the last time you laughed so hard that people could see your fillings and you made that funny snorting sound?
You can probably remember those moments in some detail. You know who you were with and you know what you were doing.
But can you remember the last time you felt a bit “meh”? Sort of OK, but nothing special?
Emotion helps memory move from short-term to long-term storage, and there’s research that suggests emotional memories are even prioritised in the consolidation process.
Emotion makes the memorable unforgettable.
So why do our presentations use information before emotion?
It’s partly because when we’re dealing with business people, we want to appear as business people. The language we use says to everyone around us: “Look, I’m a business person too, so you can take me seriously.” We talk about KPIs and B2Bs and ROIs, and the only reason we do so is to present ourselves in a certain way rather than communicate effectively.
But one thing to remember is that business people are still people. We have the same need for emotional stimulus, the same need for empathy and the same need to just be people.
Talking with emotion treats people like people, and it fixes your presentation in your audience’s long-term memory. They will remember you for the right reasons.
These are my top tips for presenting with emotion.
1. What do they care about?
This question is very different from “what do they need to know?” Knowing is about information; caring is about emotional connection. So ask yourself what your audience cares about; you should make them care before rolling out the information.
2. Peaks and troughs.
You’re not an infomercial selling the latest gadget that cleans both sides of your windows at the same time. (Yes, it exists. And yes, I bought one.) You don’t need to be excited all the time when you speak — it gets very tiring. So try structuring your presentation like a film. The starting point is usually a problem. The second reel is all about building up to the third reel: disaster. Which makes the fourth reel’s triumph even sweeter. Don’t hide your difficulties. Rather, refer to them. Most businesses will have suffered similar setbacks and the audience can build empathy with you.
3. Where are the people?
Authentic voices bring more than just a personal perspective — they bring a sense of inclusiveness, of collaboration and community. If you’re talking about a warehouse redesign, have people from the warehouse itself tell the audience how good it is. Don’t worry if they’re not professional speakers. You can show a video of them or, at the least, a picture and quote. People respond to stories about people, and especially so when those people are named. It’s what the tabloid press have known for decades.
4. Choose your language.
I’m sick of passion. Passion has become a meaningless word. “We’re passionate about accounting” isn’t something an audience will connect with. Everyone in business is passionate these days. “Passionate about” brings up around 208 million results in google.
Please stop being passionate.
You can love the way accounting helps business succeed, and you can make sure that your accounting is market leading, but don’t try and tell us you’re passionate about it. Your goal is not to show off how emotional you are but rather to engender an emotional response in the listener. Tell them how good your services are, show them how committed you are and let them get a rosy glow about how professional and trustworthy you are. Avoid the emotional clichés.
One study suggests that people who speak quickly are more persuasive than those who speak slowly, especially when arguing against the listeners’ beliefs. So, if you think that emotion has no place in business, if I spoke quicker, you’re more likely to believe me. But pace is beyond a simple fast= good + slow = bad binary relationship. To create emotion in the audience, we need a mixed pace. The dramatic pause is splendid, and when followed by a rapid upswing resolution, it can’t help but get the audience involved.
If you’re still unsure about the power of emotion, get your phone out and ask yourself why you bought it. Was it because of the screen resolution? The connectivity to your other devices? The large range of apps?
No, you bought it because you liked it.
So if it can work for a phone…Image credit: J J via flickr