October 28, 2009

It's just emotion



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I met with a client yesterday whose goal is to be really good at engaging the audience: making sure that they're enjoying themselves and making it worth their while to attend her presentation. Wow. That's not a goal I hear every day, believe it or not.

The main reason I believe she'll achieve her goals is that she has emotion on her side. She is passionate about her topic and thrilled to talk about it. She doesn't have to fake it or dig deep to find the excitement; it's right there on the surface.

The more we talked, the more ideas she came up with for engaging the audience, for finding new groups to speak to, and for bringing props and visuals to improve the presentation. To put it simply, she's fired up.

On the one hand, she lacks confidence. She's worried about what people think of her. She loses her train of thought and dwells on what movements she's making with her hands. She lacks experience.

On the other hand, her emotion can easily be felt by anyone who listens to her animated discussion about her topic, and I guarantee that the audience won't notice her nervousness or her hand gestures, because they'll be making an emotional connection with her.

In a way, she's lucky. Her topic combines history, art, culture and local historic places. The visuals associated with her presentation are stunning. It's not hard to imagine an audience falling for it. Whereas, you might be presenting on insurance fraud or VOIP technology and finding it a little more difficult to dig up some emotion to draw in your audience.

Why do you need emotion? Because facts aren't enough. If you want to persuade people, if you want them to do something as a result of your presentation, you will have to appeal to their emotions as well.

So here are some ideas to help you.

1. What's funny about your topic?

What makes you and your colleagues laugh when you're talking about your work? What funny stories do you take home to your spouse at the end of the day? If your audience can relate, use it in your presentation.

2. What's frustrating about your topic?

What drives you, your colleagues, or your clients crazy? Those long, complicated forms? Piles of cables and cords in your clients' homes? Bad customer service, clueless drivers, late fees on invoices? Whatever it is, tell the story. Make your audience feel that frustration!

3. What's inspiring about your topic?

Who have you helped? How have they succeeded? How much money have you raised for charity? How many foreign exchange students have you educated? Find the inspiration in what you do, who you help, how you change the world, and share that with your audience.

Keep going and ask yourself: What makes people angry about my topic? What makes people sad about my topic? What makes people scared about my topic?

No matter what your topic is, there are ways to appeal to your audience's emotions. And emotion is what will keep them engaged and will move them to take action.

Other posts on emotion:

There is no such thing as a dry topic


Don't forget the emotional appeal

2 comments. Please add yours! :

Jon Thomas, Presentation Advisors said...

Emotion is SO underrated. When you think about the people and presentations that have moved you, they all do it with so much emotion. Martin Luther King comes to mind.

It's not only about bringing emotion into the way you present, but also touching upon what moves the audience, like the 3 points you outlined. It's not just about poking and prodding at pain points. "Do you hate buying paper towels? Buy a ShamWow!" It's about creating a connection where both the presenter and the audience are conversing about what matters most to them (that being the topic on hand, hopefully!)

I see far too many presenters, business people selling a product more often than not, who fail miserably because they bring no emotion and don't pay attention to what the audience is emotional about. They spend too much time pitching their "value points" and a recent award they got. Your audience really doesn't care about that. They care about themselves. As a presenter, if you can remember that, you'll win.

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Thank you for your comment, Jon. It's unfortunate that in the business world, a presentation is not considered "serious" or "important" unless it's dry and fact-ridden. Let's bring back emotion!

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