Ever notice that the best-presented arguments frequently don’t convince you to take action?  Does a well researched presentation filled with statistical data and expert analysis get you to sign up, make the purchase, and say yes with reckless abandon to the services and products being offered?

Let’s say there are two people selling the exact same amazing kitchen gadget that cooks a one pot healthy delicious meal in ten minutes.  (We’ll call this kitchen gadget Cook-It-Fast for the sake of this post.) The first person comes into the room and spends five minutes telling you how the Cook-It-Fast heats food, about the safety of the materials used in the pot, and how easy the clean up is.  All good facts, right?

Then, the other person comes in and shares that with the amazing Cook-It-Fast she can put a healthy meal on the table for her family even after a long day at the office.  She talks about how her two kids couldn’t get enough of last night’s dinner that was filled with the freshest vegetables.  She even tells us that her husband is so thrilled by the money that cooking at home saves he is talking about going somewhere nice on their family vacation this year.  Are you thinking the Cook-It-Fast might be the thing for you?

Emotion matters when people make decisionsWhile logic might be a part of the equation, when the actual decision point occurs, emotion is the driver.

Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio conducted important research proving this point.  Damasio studied people who had suffered an injury to the part of their brain where emotion occurs.  In all other aspects, these people were perfectly normal.  However, what Damasio found is these people were seriously impaired in their ability to make decisions.  Without emotion, subjects couldn’t decide where to live, what they wanted to eat, or what things they wanted to act upon.  Fascinating, right?

So, how do you use emotion in telling your story and getting people to connect to your value?  What are some of the emotions we can use to draw an audience in, make an impact, and inspire them to take action with you?  Listed below are five key emotions and how they play into our decision making process:

  • Alarm, fear, and a sense of loss – when fear takes hold, getting out of danger is all we can think about.  Think about all the successful insurance companies that occupy the top echelons of the commercial world!  Or maybe it is the server back up that no matter the cost, you make sure you have if for your business.  It’s not the downtime your worried about – it’s the fact that your customers can’t access your site and buy products when they want them.  It’s the possibility of losing sales to your competitors.
  • Passion – ignites the senses and promises pleasurable experiences.  In our Cook-It-Fast example above, the promise of a family vacation somewhere “nice” might be a way to tap into passion.  Sure, mom and dad could rekindle their romance at home, but the idea of an exotic destination, a beach, and a pool evokes a lot more sensory pleasure than does the previous two years of backyard staycations!
  • Loyalty and Trust – are gained by making sure things are familiar and consistent. Using the same format, being available at the same location on the same day all make us feel a sense of safety and comfort.
  • Pride and Prestige – play into our sense of one-upmanship.  None of us want to be thought of as snobs, but there are many things that play into our sense of rank and achievement.  Ritz Carlton, anyone?
  • Curiosity – by nature we are all curious.  Mystique, illusion, and unanswered questions are all ways to access the part of us that makes us want to know more.  Bold statements that make us wonder who is behind something or story telling that leads us along and keeps us asking what happened next are great ways to keep an audience on the hook.

For this week, I ask that you think about emotion and how you can use it when presenting yourself. Making emotional connections requires us to identify the potential emotions of our audience and to share our own emotions.  For many of us, we have been taught to “hold our cards close” or “focus on the facts” instead of sharing our fears or tapping into our audience’s sense of pride.

We have been taught that using techniques to access emotions and engage our audience is sneaky or manipulative, after all, that is what salespeople do. Sharing our own emotions can be scary because we fear losing control or being judged.

Next week, I’ll be back with some tips on how you can use and think of emotion as a tool.  I’ll share some ideas on how you can embody and express emotion in a way that feels comfortable and strengthens your connection in the situations that matter most.  In the meantime, drop me a note in the comments or via email and let me know what concerns you the most about emotion in presentations.

Until next time!