Humans are fickle, complicated and multifaceted beings, which can cause trouble for those trying to engage a great number of them at once. However, what they lack in consistency they more than make up for in curiosity and as such, science holds a wealth of information, tactics and insights into human nature. But just what can it teach us about capturing – and keeping – an audience’s attention?
Engagement is key in stimulating the cortex and creating memorable content from which people then truly recollect information, connecting stories with valuable content is a key facet of successful events. Understanding the science behind the power of stories is worth spending time on, it really could make a difference to the power of your event.
Writing for Inc.com, Ian Altman, a writer and keynote speaker, draws first on the universal power of storytelling. He stated that in his past speeches, he often followed stories with recommendations. Yet years later, it was the stories that stuck in the audience’s mind.
Since adapting his strategy, he was able to interlace the narrative with the actionable advice and as a consequence, was able to better convey his message. When combined with science, storytelling becomes even more effective. Here are four science-backed tips that are sure to revitalise your next conference.
From barbed parables to indigenous groups whose culture and philosophy is told through their oral histories, the act of storytelling is as old as human consciousness itself. While stories nowadays mainly entertain, they still hold significant power over people and politics. Storytelling is cathartic and explanatory, amusing and engaging, and possesses the potential to both build and destroy worlds.
Scientifically, telling stories builds trust thanks to its triggering of oxytocin, which is widely deemed to be the love hormone. Once released, this neurotransmitter makes us feel good while also encouraging a feeling of empathy. In fact, according to communication and neuroscience expert Leslie Ehm, “When you tell your audience a story, the brain lights up like a freaking pinball machine. Motor cortex, sensory cortex, frontal cortex – the whole thing just goes nuts."
Tell them well
Telling a story isn’t enough – you have to tell it well. A story’s ability to amuse, educate and inspire is contingent on the speaker and much of this comes down to delivery. Speakers who take too long to get to the point or those who can only speak in a monotonous tone are likely to lose their audience.
Timing too has a hand, both as a means of creating tension and packing the punchline. Human nature is to crave the answer and by sustaining attention, speakers can summon emotional reactions. This is backed up with research published in the Harvard Business Review, which found that characters who captivated viewers provided the most illicit and lasting emotional reactions.
Keep it simple
Brains for all their brilliance can only take in so much stimuli at once. Speakers should utilise visual aids like illustrations and charts, but they should not usurp the speech itself. Interactive platforms and applications– like our very own Chime suite – are straightforward and immersive tools that generate this audience engagement as well as gaining real-time insight that support the storytellers. Get in contact with us today to learn more.