Compartmentalized Communicating

“I’m good at sharing facts. I don’t have to use emotion very often, but when I do, I need to speak at the emotion more.”

This came from a client in a recent Platinum Session, referring to the commonly-held belief that engaging emotions is an effort we make only for those presentations intended to motivate and inspire. For this client, he viewed the majority of his presentations as just providing information.

It’s human tendency to compartmentalize. We segment ourselves in all sorts of ways, including ideas about how we should communicate. It seems natural to separate motivational and inspirational focused speeches from data delivery presentations. However, what’s “natural” is not always best. A fragmented mindset can backfire when it comes to communication.

I asked this client a couple of questions:

  • Do you ever give a presentation in which you’re not presenting data?
  • Do you ever give a presentation in which you have no intention of impacting your audience?

By definition, a presentation intends to make an impact by conveying information. You can’t make an impact if your data doesn’t reach its destination (the receptive minds of your listeners). Though we might categorize presentations into different types, communication – by definition – involves both emotion and information.

The key to successful communicating is realizing that all communication is an opportunity to motivate and inspire, and all communication requires emotional connection to make an impact.

Bert wrote about this in You’ve Got to Be Believed to Be Heard. People buy on emotion and justify with fact. You can’t connect with the mind – the New Brain (Cerebral Cortex) – without first getting past the gatekeeper – the First Brain (Brain Stem and Limbic System). The First Brain is the seat of emotion and emotional response. Data destined for the New Brain travels through the filter of the First Brain. The First Brain is where the human connection (likability, credibility and trust) is measured. Without getting past the First Brain, the information intended to reach the New Brain hits a brick wall. No matter what type of presentation you are giving, if you want to produce results, you need to be human.  You need to incorporate your emotions.  You need to connect with the hearts and minds of your audience.

Hans Rosling is a master at bridging the gap between data delivery and human connection. On his Presentation Zen blog, Garr Reynolds wrote an excellent post detailing how Hans does this. You need only watch a minute or two of Hans in action to understand why he’s so esteemed.

Hans takes data, statistics and trends (information that could easily be a “just presenting data/data dump” presentation) and engages the hearts and minds of his listeners, delivering the data right through the heart and into the mind. Through storytelling, humor and an uncanny ability to perceive and respond to the emotional pulse of his audience, Hans glides right through the First Brain and lands extensive amounts of statistical data into the New Brain, making a memorable impact.

It’s easy to get buried in data and compartmentalize communication into different categories – some requiring emotional connection; others not. But when we do this, we fail to recognize the significance of connecting with our listeners. This is when we need to step back and remind ourselves: Communication without emotion is just data dump. It’s disconnected; it doesn’t effect change; it doesn’t make an impact. The data has no value if it doesn’t reach its destination. Successful communication incorporates the whole self – heart and mind – to connect with others in a basic human way. The human connection is the communications experience – not the data.

Photo credits: Café psicologico

2 comments on “Compartmentalized Communicating

  1. Jessica – so true! It’s simple to do, we just need to be willing to go there with our audience. And it’s not just presentations, but everyday communications. I’m amazed at how many clients we need to remind of that – we all pigeon hole this into ‘presentations’.

    Thanks for your comments.

  2. “By definition, a presentation intends to make an impact by conveying information” – so true. At the end of every presentation you want your audience to *do* something, even if that is just to understand, or to perceive something in a different way.

    I think there is a discrepancy in the global perception of emotion related to presentations. Using emotion to persuade does not have to involve bring your audience close to tears over a picture of a starving child – it can be as simple as demonstrating to a prospect how the figures you reveal could directly help their business; or explaining to students how knowledge of a certain subject can improve their careers. Ultimately however, some level of emotion (or, to think of it in another way, persuasion) is required.