Photos of people applauding – they are a classic representation of excellent public speaking and presentations. Indeed, I have one on my website homepage.
But what are these people applauding in the real world? It is usually because a speaker has been entertaining or funny, or appealing to peoples’ prejudices, or maybe a teller of excellent stories.
Ask people in a large corporate who the best speaker in the company is and the response is invariably something like: “Oh, that must be Ian – isn’t he fantastic? Great stories – and those jokes he comes up with….!”
But is that effective communication?
Purpose and memory
It depends on what the speaker is trying to achieve – a ‘feel good factor’ for the listener, a deep understanding of something, or getting action. Many people are unaware that these different outcomes need different message design.
In this context, let us consider the professional environment. The purpose of a business presentation is (most commonly) to persuade them to do something (or not do something). Not “in the moment” as an after-dinner speaker or comedian would want – creating immediate emotional response. And not just laying out facts or data which are historical.
Of course, for a listener to ‘do’ what you desire, they must remember what you asked, after you have said it. The often-ignored fact is that persuasion is about affecting the behaviour of your audience in the future. And if you are going to affect someone’s behaviour in the future, you must create memory – that is memory of the proposition, and memory of having been convinced through the evidence provided (and the credibility of the speaker). So, it is all about creating memory.
But that begs the question of how memory is indeed created. And it is not straightforward – particularly when we are dealing with both auditory and visual pathways in the listeners’ brains. They operate on entirely different bases – which is why the message design structures for spoken word messages differ from the written word. It also explains why asking someone to look at a complex visual whilst you are talking is so ineffective in creating memory. And when people do not remember your message a few moments after you have shared it – the norm – they will not undertake the action you sought.
But do not be downhearted! If you and your team want to learn the craft of persuasion – particularly in this new, virtual world – you can. By understanding the theory of how your listeners’ brains work and how you can structure your message to leave a lasting memory, you will know how to affect behaviour in the future. Influence and persuasion at your finger-tips – and all encapsulated in the Virtual Kipper® technique.
Or you can accept that people will continue to forget your messages instantly 😊.
As one of my delegates said about the Kipper® “It has changed my life!”