5 Ideas — How To Use Brain Science To Create Persuasive Presentations

How many BORING presentations have you attended in your lifetime? If you are like most people the answer is “too many”! Recently I gave a talk on how to use brain science to create compelling and persuasive presentations. Here are 5 ideas from the talk:

1) Talk to the emotional brain with photos. Forget text bullet points on your slides. Those bullet points are your outline. Don’t bore your audience by showing them your outline! Use colorful photos to capture the attention of the emotional brain. But don’t overdo it. You don’t need a different photo every 10 seconds for every thought you have.
2) Tell stories. Our brain processes information best when it is in the form of a story. Use stories throughout your presentation. These can be true stories or allegorical stories that make a point. Stories make the information easier to understand and process, and they also get people’s attention. Everyone loves stories. Research shows that when you tell a story the brain is reacting as though you are the character in the story. You are, in essence, experiencing what the person in the story is experiencing.
3) Talk to the “old brain”. The old brain is the part of the brain that is most interested in survival. The old brain is all about ME ME ME ME . So make sure that you start your presentation with something that is interesting to the people in the audience. Tell them a story or make a point within the first minute of the talk that is about them, not about you. That will grab their attention and their old brain will say, “I’d better pay attention to this. It’s all about me”.
4) Look people in the eye. In order to be believable you’ve got to look people in the eye while you are talking. Pick out someone in the audience and look at them for about 5 seconds, then pick another person and look at them while you are talking for about 5 seconds, etc. Even if you are not looking directly at each person, just the fact that you are looking up and making eye contact with someone gives the (largely unconscious) message that you are telling the truth and you are reliable. Looking down at your notes all the time makes it seem that you are being shifty and not telling the truth.
5) Say what everyone else is doing. Make sure to use social validation during your presentation. Don’t say “Only 10% of the departments at our company are following this policy”. That tells everyone that hardly anyone else is doing this activity. The principle of social validation says that people tend to want to do what everyone else is doing. So try to word this as “There are now departments at our company who have tried this new policy and have had great success”.
I’ve got even more ideas, but I’ll save them for another post.
Let me know: What are your ideas of how to make a presentation persuasive and compelling?
Photo by: http://www.flickr.com/photos/scragz/
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5 Replies to “5 Ideas — How To Use Brain Science To Create Persuasive Presentations”

  1. I wish more people would follow these guidelines. I don't think I've ever sat through a Powerpoint presentation that wasn't boring! Why do people put their outlines on the screen AND hand out copies of the same outline so you can read along while the presenter reads it out loud?

  2. I totally agree with that, the presence and your body, also, its very important to keep the attentions.

    your web site, its amazing, i love the idea to study the brain sciences. But i cant buy your book, here in mexico, i dont find it.

    please continue that fantastic work.

  3. I recently attended a presentation that was all images. I think it is great when given live, but lacks staying power when handed out. Visual presentations probably should include speaker notes if the presentation is offered to the audience for personal review.

    Telling stories is a universal winner no matter the audience. Whether a pastor giving a sermon, a copywriter scribing ad copy, or a politician giving a stump speech, a good story can touch the emotional parts of our brain that influence our actions. good post.

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