Today’s post is by Dr. Vikas Jhingran, author of EMOTE: Using Emotions to Make Your Message Memorable (CLICK HERE to get your copy).
More than decade ago, my wife and I witnessed a stunning incident near the Pier 39 waterfront in San Francisco. On a balmy day, with sea lions and seals soaking sun all around the pier, we noticed a man sitting quietly in a corner with a leafy branch in his hand. When an unsuspecting tourist walked by, he would jump up and shout “Boo!” The reactions of the surprised tourists were incredibly funny and being enjoyed by a vociferous crowd.
This went on for a while until the prankster tried his trick on a tall, strong man with muscles bulging everywhere. The prank worked to perfection and this giant got the jolt of his life, spilled half his popcorn on the floor, and looked remarkably funny for a few seconds. The laughs from the crowd were loud and exaggerated. This did not sit well with the huge man who went after the prankster. Seeing this hulk tower over the prankster, my wife and I were sure that the seals around the pier were going to get something different to eat that day. It took a lot of people and some time to calm our huge friend down but the prankster had learned his lesson and made his way out of there.
It has been over ten years since that trip, but my wife and I still remember the story and have talked about it with our friends. It intrigues us that we remember this event after such a long time. The question is what makes this and a few other events more memorable?
Years later I found the answer in the phenomenon called Emotional Memory Enhancement (EME).
EME provides you, the leaders, professional speakers and corporate managers, a way to write speeches that will leave a lasting effect on your audience. By understanding a speech as an emotional experience for your audience, you can align your message with the emotions that are evoked by your speech. This alignment of the message and the emotions is an ingenious way of making your message memorable.
Few speakers understand the significance of emotion in the formation of long term memory. In research experiments, subjects were shown pictures that were either emotionally neutral — chairs, tables, etc. — or emotionally charged, such as angry faces. The subjects tended to remember the pictures that had emotions in them better than the neutral images. Such experiments and others have led researchers to identify a part of the brain called amygdala as critical in enhancing memory of emotional events. The amygdala does not store emotional memories but enhances them by making sure they are noticed when the event occurs and then having a better cataloging system so that they can be retrieved. In other words, emotions with the help of the amygdala trigger a better filing system for memories.
In his book, Brain Rules, Molecular biologist John Medina explains this process in simple words. He says “When the brain detects an emotionally charged event, the amygdala releases dopamine into the system. Because dopamine greatly aids memory and information processing, you could say it creates a ‘Post-it’ note that reads ‘Remember this’.”
In our story above, the strong emotions of fear and surprise we saw in the big, strong man, along with his reaction to the prank evoked emotions in us. This is why we still remember the event. Memory formed in this manner is potent, can be recalled years later and is formed in a relatively short duration.
You are probably wondering “how does this impact me?”.
How can you align your message with the emotions evoked by your speech? This is best understood using an example. Suppose you want to write an elevator pitch (a short speech typically two to three minutes long), to convince a venture capitalist to invest in an idea or company. It is unrealistic to imagine that an investor will provide major funding after listening to a three minute pitch. A good outcome will be if she invites you for another, more detailed meeting to discuss your venture. While preparing for this speech, you have to ask the question: How should the investor feel at the end of my pitch for her to invite me for the second meeting? Your elevator pitch writing process should start by understanding this ‘feeling’ that needs to be evoked in the venture capitalist and end when you have a script that is able to do so. By clarifying the purpose of your speech and understanding the emotions that must be evoked to achieve that purpose, you can write a more effective pitch that will be memorable and have a higher chance of success.
This emotion-based approach to preparing and delivering speeches works with the basic human qualities of feeling and emotion. It strips down a speech to the fundamentals, helping align the message of the speech with the one thing that will make that message memorable – emotions. Perhaps the simplicity of the concept is also the reason for its effectiveness.
– Dr. Vikas Jhingran is a speaker, author and engineer. His new book, EMOTE: Using Emotions to Make Your Message Memorable (CLICK HERE to get your copy), introduces a unique emotion-based approach to verbal communications. Vikas has a PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and leads a team of engineers in Shell Oil Company. Find more information about Vikas at www.VikasJhingran.com.
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