2300 years ago, Aristotle wrote down the secret to being a persuasive speaker, the secret which forms the basis for nearly every public speaking book written since then.
Do you know the secret?
It is simply ‘ethos’ which is your credibility; ‘pathos’ which is your emotional connection to your audience; and ‘logos’ which is your logical argument. In this article we explore how to build strong pathos in your presentations through a variety of emotional pathways.
The best way I can think of to convince you of the power of using emotions in your presentations and public speaking is to reflect on your own life. Think back to the times that are most memorable. Was it the day you graduated, got married, got that promotion, or the day your first child was born? It differs with each one of us, but one thing is common – it is made memorable by the emotions felt.
A speech is not about facts and numbers; it’s about story, meaning. A memorable speech rests on the quality of the connection between the speaker and the audience.
What follows are some ways you can consciously create an “emotional encounter” between you and your listeners. Do so, and your influence will soar far above where it would go if you only drably delivered content—a mistake far too many speakers make.
Know your audience
You have many theatrical choices in how you open your presentation, but remember that to foster true engagement, always let your audience know you have their best interests at heart. Too often, presenters will start with, “I am going to talk about…” or, “What I would like to do first is…” The reality is, nobody cares about what a speaker plans or wants to do. Your audience cares about whether or not your message is relevant to their own interests and concerns.
Identify the emotions that are needed for success: A presentation typically has purpose, but rarely is this purpose understood in terms of emotions. It is important to understand what your audience needs to think and do as a result of the presentation, but it is even more important to understand how your audience should feel at the end of the speech. Success is achieved when the final emotion is aligned with the purpose of the speech.
Build on emotional story themes
Conquering adversity, overcoming personal fears, protecting the innocence of children, fighting for freedom of the human spirit, experiencing outstanding heroism and spreading a sense of belonging are emotional themes which, when executed skilfully, cannot fail to strike a chord with an audience. No matter how complex your subject matter is, you can connect it emotionally to your audience if you present it in story form.
Stories build suspense by introducing a hero, a challenge, a journey, and finally, a resolution that delivers the hero into an improved reality. Stories cause chemical, physical, and emotional responses in listeners. When stories make people feel things like trust or kindness, the brain releases oxytocin, which motivates cooperation by enhancing empathy. This means that stories make people more likely to adopt new ideas and act based on those ideas.
Show your engagement
Content can never live on its own; make it come to life and spark some electricity between you and your audience. Inject emotion into your voice – Your voice is an instrument to stir emotions all on its own. Its pitch, strength and timing beat out a message that depicts excitement or sadness and despair. A well-timed break in your tone can bring tears to people’s eyes. Practice ways to use your voice to reflect the story you are telling.
Match your body language to the emotional mood
When you hold your body still and lower your head, you indicate sadness. When you stand straight and tall, you indicate pride and resolution. When you slouch at a podium, you indicate disinterest in what you are doing. Audiences are able to pick up these cues and respond to them emotionally. When you are sad, the empathetic people will immediately begin to feel sad with you. When you are resolute, you can count on an emotional response of inspiration and shared pride. When you are disinterested, you can count on an emotional response of boredom. Your body language and your delivery techniques are of paramount importance in your efforts to connect emotionally with your audience.
Use meaningful visuals
Abstract styles, geometric illustrations, and minimalistic designs can all be used to create impactful slides. However, to help your audience connect to your presentation emotionally; you should not use these styles exclusively, if possible. At least occasionally you will need to include a photo, graphic, or other visual element that will evoke an emotional response from your audience members.
For example, instead of using an arrow to communicate growth, use an image like the one below. Your audience will probably never emotionally connect to an arrow, however most people will have a positive emotional response to the child in the photo.
Motivate your audience to act
If you utilise pathos well, your audience will feel the same emotions that you do. Your audience will feel the pain, the joy, the hope, and the fear of the characters in your stories. They will no longer be passive listeners. They will be motivated to act.
In just two and a half days, our Effective Speaking and Presentation training course will equip you with all the tools you’ll need to present to any audience – whether it’s conference delegates, a board of directors or your colleagues. You’ll learn how to communicate with people in a way that engages them, as you deliver polished presentations with confidence.
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