Pete’s Blog

Brain Science Tips to Engage Any Audience

Attracting — and retaining — an audience when you’re a speaker can be a challenge. People get distracted by phones, sometimes aren’t interested in your topic, or, worst of all, you feel like they don’t like you.

But there are pieces of brain science speakers can use to get the most of their time in front of an audience.

Dr. John Molidor, a professor of psychiatry at Michigan State University and past president of the National Speakers Association board of directors, visited the “Change Your Mindset” podcast. And he was full of brain-science tips for speakers to incorporate into their presentations:

Mix story and emotion with data and facts

We’ve heard plenty about “left-sided” and “right-sided” brains (brains that are more analytical and data-driven vs brains that are more emotion-driven). But as a speaker, you have to learn to touch both sides. Our brains crave an integration of both pieces.

Some presentations and keynotes are naturally more numbers-driven or more story-driven. But if you find yourself leaning too far to one side, try targeting the other side of the brain.

“Talk to both hemispheres,” John said. “Tell the story. Show the emotion. Give the data. Give the numbers. Both of them the brain processes, and it actually would like to have both.”

Be consistent

It may feel natural to want to switch up aspects of your presentation sometimes — font, headers, symbols. But our brains naturally gravitate towards patterns. Once the brain is able to find that comfort in a pattern, it’s better able to pay attention to other things (like your presentation). If there’s no consistency to your presentation or slide show elements, your brain is going to inherently be too distracted trying to find a pattern that it doesn’t retain the actual information as well.

Use an F-pattern on your slides

No, this has nothing to do with using salty language.

Eye pattern studies have shown the ways in which our eyes naturally move when looking at something new. So presenters could benefit from using that science. Typically, our eyes move in a pattern that looks like an F: up and down, then left over the top, and then in the middle. When creating slides for a presentation, it can be helpful to keep that pattern in mind and keep the important text higher up.

Incorporate brain breaks for your audience

Naps to increase learning potential? That’s just one brain tip John shared. To put it simply, the human brain is not meant to be a machine when it comes to retaining information. We have to give it a break every now and then if we want it to actually perform optimally. One of the best ways to help your brain learn something, John says, is to give it time to rest directly after.

Of course, you don’t want your audience napping during your presentation. But you can still incorporate pre-planned breaks into your time on stage.

Cater to the brain’s need for visual elements

Use pictures to break up all the text you want to get across. “The visual cortex in the back of your brain is a huge amount of real estate,” John says — so take advantage of it.

“Death by bullet points” is not the way to go: So be sure to include pictures that will help illustrate all your main points.

Eliminate unnecessary words

Did you know that your brain sometimes naturally fills in words and letters that are missing? Even if two letters of a word are switched, your brain will naturally unscramble the letters and read the word as the correct word (like if “please” was spelled “plaese,” your brain would still read the word the same).

So how to translate that knowledge as a speaker? Take out unnecessary words — your presentation doesn’t need every “a” or “an.” John has even been experimenting himself with taking some verbs out, in an effort to pull audience members in and have them actively participating in the presentation.

Remember that your audience’s brains need oxygen

Much like the human brain needs frequent breaks to keep up its productivity, it also needs oxygen. John incorporates “fact or crap” sessions, where he invites audience members to yell out whether they think a particular sentence is true or not. Telling a joke (laughter brings in oxygen) also works, or encouraging everyone to get up and stretch.

Get out of your own head

This tip is the simplest at its core, yet often the hardest for speakers to do. If you focus in on the one person in the audience not paying attention — or not exhibiting overtly positive body language — instead of the 50 other people who are engaged, your brain will take notice. John equated this to your cells eavesdropping on what you’re sending your brain: “If you’re sending your brain sort of this negative information or positive information, your cells tend to pay attention to that,” he said, “which then can cause a chemical reaction.”

So staying out of your head (and all the worries and scenarios your brain has cooked up) will help in any speaking scenario. A particularly helpful mantra to remember is the one John uses before his speaking engagements: “I will tell myself all I can really do here is share what I know. That’s so much easier for me to go, ‘I’m just going to share,’ versus ‘I hope they like it,’ or ‘Are they getting it?’ or ‘Oh, you know I’m not getting the reaction I wanted.’ In the end, am I sharing it and am I doing it in a way that’s real? I’m not judging myself as I do it.”

To listen to the entire interview with Dr. John Molidor, you can click this link and download it from my website or you can download the episode on C-Suite Radio, iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, or Google Play. Just search Change Your Mindset with Peter Margaritis.

 

Facilitated Collaboration Key to Surviving the Evolving Corporate Landscape

 

Today’s business buzzword? Collaboration. But how do you do less talking about collaboration and more… well, collaboration?

“We think the secret sauce is that it should be facilitated,” said Eddie Turner, who joined me for the Change Your Mindset podcast. “Facilitated collaboration is what accelerates performance and drives impact.”

Eddie is a C-suite network advisor, international certified coach, a professional speaker, and President of the Association for Talent Development’s Houston chapter. In short, he knows facilitated collaboration better than most.

Facilitation can be the way through a myriad of issues: process mapping, conflict resolution, and strategy planning, to name a few.

The key to that facilitation? Having a dialogue — not a monologue — and asking engaging questions that allow leaders to come to their own conclusions, without being told what to think. Through that facilitated approach, where they’re being asked probing questions, leaders learn more. And now — with sweeping changes affecting nearly every industry in the world — is not the time to forget the importance of continued education.

“Some people never take a class after leaving a university. I know some people who don’t even pick up a book after leaving university,” Turner said. “So if we’re not continuing to educate ourselves, we’re leaving ourselves vulnerable to the disruption that technology will introduce.”

The best way to think about the constantly-changing landscape that requires constant education? Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready.

To stay ready — no matter what changing industry you’re a part of — you could stand to benefit from facilitated collaboration.

Whether you’re lower on the totem pole and need to stay up on the latest trends, or you’re a leader looking to inspire the masses, you have to be facilitating. Because “collaboration” runs the risk of being just a word without facilitation.

And without facilitation? You risk being left behind.

“We need to be continuous learners,” Turner said, “scanning the horizon looking to see where we can improve ourselves as individuals and staying ahead of the curve.”

 

To listen to the entire interview with Eddie Turner, you can click this link and download it from my website or you can download the episode on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, or Google Play. Just search Change Your Mindset with Peter Margaritis.

 

Ep 92 Show Notes: Mary Foley – Dawn a Red Cape, Be Bodacious, & Take Charge of Your Life

Mary Foley energizes female entrepreneurs with the clarity, confidence, and tools to attract, engage, and win more clients. She is an author, energizing keynote speaker, business mentor, host of the P.O.W.E.R. Plug Podcast, and a lover of red capes.

On today’s episode, we discuss her book Bodacious! Woman: Outrageously in Charge of Your Life and Loving It! Her sense of humor and positivity comes through on every page of – as it does every minute of this podcast!

This book isn’t just for women, either. Her stories encapsulate the principles of improvisation and the philosophy of Yes, And (which is especially evident when she shares the story of showing up to work without a pair of pants).

If you look at Mary Foley’s website, you’ll see that being “bodacious” is more than something she uses to brand her content it’s a personal rallying cry.

“I realize that if I want to create the career I want, let alone the life I want, I need to get more bold and more guts – and that’s why the word “Bodacious” became a personal rallying cry.”

When you read the book, or hear Mary describe her journey towards bodaciousness, you’ll see that she is willing to do something that is very scary for a lot of people: take risks.

And if you are, like many of us, wary of taking a risk because you don’t know what’s going to happen, because you might fail, Mary has two words for you – So what?

If you try and something doesn’t work out, so what? You might be working off of a bad definition for failure, anyway. Mary’s definition of failure is “simply not trying” and making that internal mindset shift can dramatically change your relationship with risk.

“Your ability to take risks more easily and often, bounce back, and have a “Yes, And” perspective isn’t just a nice thing – it’s more and more a critical strategy for not just surviving, but thriving.”

Ep 90 Show Notes: Laura Stoll – Using Improv to Develop Internal Talent & Manage Change

The episode will be live on Monday, February 19th at 8:00 am EST. Here’s a sneak preview:

Laura Stoll is the Talent Development Consultant at Ernst & Young, and she has a fascinating perspective on how you can develop top talent within your organization that is influenced by her background in improv.

Laura studied at Second City, iO, and ComedySportz Chicago. She even has the distinction of being the only student ever thrown out of previous guest (and current husband) Jay Sukow’s classroom!

At EY, Laura strategizes, designs, and consults on large-scale programs designed to improve the value of the internal talent organization, which includes over 8,000 people. Their big focus right now is on the Career Journey.

In every organization, people tend to resist change, especially the kind of large-scale change that Laura aims to create. So change management becomes critical, and that’s where the fundamentals of improv can really come into play.

Improv isn’t about making things up––it’s about planning like mad, and then being prepared to throw your script away to meet the needs of the person you are talking to or working with. Learning improvisational skills inspires a more adaptable mindset, and you can’t approach change without that.

Possibly the most exciting thing about Laura’s work at EY is that other people see the value of these skills, and the top leaders in the organization are getting excited about improv. There’s simply no way to effectively inspire a change in culture without buy-in from the top, so this is a huge step for a huge organization.

And taking that step isn’t optional any more, for any organization. Global markets and whole industries are shifting rapidly – the organizations and individuals who resist change will be left behind.

“If you’re not actively moving to shift your skill set so that you can be more in the moment, react, and respond – and ultimately be a trusted business advisor – you’re going to be left behind because that’s just the way things are evolving.”

If you want to take your first step today, just practice awareness: When you feel yourself putting up a wall, saying no, or reacting negatively, pause and ask yourself, “How could it work?” It’s basic, but that little tweak will start you on the path to change.

Show Notes – Episode 88: The Roadmap to the New Firm with Jody Padar

Jody Padar, AKA The Radical CPA, is a leader driven by a passion to foster real change in the accounting profession. She represents the next generation of accounting professionals, leading the vanguard for both digital CPAs and future-ready firms.

Jody returns to the show to discuss her new book, From Success to Significance: The Radical CPA Guide, which is a practice-proven roadmap to a new business model for CPA firms. If you’re looking to change and you’re not sure how to begin, this lays out the steps of creating change through practical strategies, tools, tips, insights, guest experts, and case studies.

So what does the New Firm look like?

•Technology is part of the core of the firm and is used to facilitate closer client relationships.

•The business model transforms: instead of doing every kind of work for every kind of customer, they’ve niched down.

•They productize everything offered, so they don’t track or bill by time and, instead, offer everything they do at a fixed or value price.

There’s no question: technology is having a significant impact on CPA firms. So how are our firms going to evolve and transform their business model to react to them, and to innovate with them?

“We can’t change fast enough. We really have to transform our accounting firms so that we can be relevant. Change doesn’t work anymore. We really need transformation.”

And this transformation isn’t just at the firm or technology level – it’s a total mindset shift that everyone needs to buy into. Everyone in The New Firm needs to be adaptable, forward-thinking, and more than just an accountant.

The computers are going to do most of the accounting work, so we need to be better consultants and trusted business advisors.

We need to be Radical CPAs.