Presenters Need Emotion!
Most of us can quickly recall where we were on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, yet far fewer of us can remember our whereabouts on Monday, September 10, 2001. The emotional toll of the terrifying and tragic 9/11 terrorist attacks demonstrates a truism that has been known since the ancient Greeks studied rhetoric: Emotion sticks. People remember emotionally charged messages much more readily than fact-based ones. In fact, modern scientists are finding that our emotional responses have a fast track to our long-term memory. For example, psychologist Victor Johnston in his book Why we feel: The science of human emotions writes that emotions serve as “discriminant hedonic amplifiers.” In other words, emotions act as attention and memory beacons attracting our interest and invoking memories. So when possible, try to bring some emotion into your presentation, whether in the form of your delivery or the content itself. This emotion will bolster engagement in the moment and memory in the future
To help your audience remember your message, work to have your tone and delivery match the emotional impact you desire. You must take time to reflect on the emotional response you want and then work to make sure that your delivery is congruent with the emotional impact you desire. However, be careful not to be too scripted or theatrical. For emotion to help you, it must be authentic and credible.
I am often challenged when I assert that emotion is an important ingredient for engagement and memory. My technical and scientific clients and students claim that their presentations need to be highly detailed and descriptive, and, thus, emotion is antithetical and incompatible to their speaking goals. I fully believe that even the most technical and scientific talks can have emotion infused in them. Further, I have seen firsthand how emotion can elevate the involvement, impact, and memory of these types of presentations. The best way to bring emotion in is to focus on benefits and implications of the technology or science. Benefits are inherently emotional….saving time, saving money, saving trees, saving lives…these are emotional. I recently worked with a large graphics chipmaker whose standard presentations are jammed full of technical detail, jargon, and data. These presentations lead to what one of my former students termed “verbal anesthesia.” Audience members were overwhelmed with the presenters’ information and underwhelmed in their comprehension and retention. However, once the presenters focused on the benefits of the graphics chips to the audience’s lives, such as powering their mobile devices, car navigation systems, etc., the presentations had more impact.
By including an emotional component to your presentations via your tone, delivery, and connection to your audience, you can expedite engagement and increase long-tern retention.