Storytelling: Why you need to get a grip on emotion

Storytelling: Why you need to get a grip on emotion

Where were you when you heard Princess Diana had died? What about when September 11 happened? Most people can recall with crystal-clear clarity these events and how the news made them feel, whether it was shocked, angry or sad. That is the power of emotion.

Emotion is the most powerful thing in any presentation. It influences how your audience feels, thinks and acts. Most presenters are unaware of how important tapping into the right emotion is. Either that, or they’re scared of doing so. We’ve heard remarks like “It’s just year-end company data. There’s no emotion in that.” Or “My audience is made up of economists and they don’t do emotion.”

Don’t fall into that trap – no matter what you are presenting. As long as your audience is human, they have emotions. American life coach and performance expert Timothy Warneka once said that emotions are the untapped resource of every organisation. When it comes to presentations, emotions are the untapped resource of every presenter.

So how can you bring emotion to your presentation?

The first step is to understand what makes your audience tick.  Is it concern for the environment? Is it more money in the bank or more free time?

Now with your audience again in mind, think of what positive emotion you can you appeal to in your presentation? Would it be pride in a job well done? Is it about the satisfaction of having made a difference? Don’t appeal to negative emotions because it is positive emotions that inspire change.

Getting emotion right means people will care about your message and it will inspire them to take action. US motivational speaker Tony Robbins says it best: “If we get the emotion right we can get ourselves to do anything.” Just imagine the power of doing that for your audience.

Choose your words wisely

Words are powerful and emotive. They stop and start wars. I can still remember the opening line of Lord Earl Spencer’s eulogy to his sister Diana, Princess of Wales: “I stand before you today the representative of a family in grief, in a country in mourning, before a world in shock.” It was emotive, memorable and poignant.

Do your words paint a picture, or is it just mindless mumbo-jumbo? Can you say less, but have more impact when each word is carefully selected?

Tell a story

Stories have the simplest, yet most powerful emotional force. That’s why we’ve been telling and listening to stories since the dawn of time.

Candice Lance, a communications and events officer in Melbourne, recently shared this story to demonstrate her point that it’s OK to be out of control sometimes.

“The plane had just reached 12,000 feet – I was sitting on the edge of the open door,” she recalled.

“The time had come: it was my turn. In just a split second my mind raced – what was I thinking, what did I have to do, what did they tell me, was the guy behind me having a good day, was this such a good idea?

“It didn’t really matter what the answer was to any of those questions – I was out the door, no turning back. I was bending like a banana, holding on like I was told, remembering my training and plummeting towards the ground – I was tandem skydiving!  

“What a rush. I was flying. I was free. As we continued to fall I remembered the videos of the moment of people landing safely on the ground crying and hugging their instructor, and I thought, ‘What saps. I would never do that!’  Moments later my feet touched the ground I was jumping up and down, hugging my instructor and crying – yes, what a sap!  

“I am not sure if I would go skydiving again, but I did learn a lesson or two. Sometimes it is OK to let go; sometimes it’s OK to be out of control. And it is definitely OK to trust your training and the people who are the trained experts.”

When you get the emotion right in your presentation people will walk out remembering what you said, and being inspired to act on it. More power to you! 


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