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Evoke Emotion

Written by Rebecca Okamoto on Sept. 22, 2013

I am an engineer. I like well-constructed rationale, and simple, direct statements. I am also a leader, and I strive to be compelling, motivating and inspirational. It's hard to be an "inspirational engineer leader." To be more inspirational, I tended to be a bit wordy. To be simpler, I tended to be too "rational."

Then I learned the secret of being more compelling with fewer words: Evoke emotion.

When I say “emotion" I don't mean speak emotionally. I mean, evoke an emotion from your audience. I used to talk a lot more and spend a lot of time chasing follow up after my presentation. Now I invest my time in making the right emotional connection during the presentation, and the rest is easy.

The power of emotion hit home for me a couple of years ago while listening to a presentation on social media marketing. I'm pretty social media adverse for privacy reasons, so initially I was not the most receptive. That changed when the speaker started the presentation by showing a video called, "Social Media Revolution."

Initially I was amused learning that Ashton Kutcher and Britney Spears had more Twitter followers than the population of Sweden and other countries. Amusement turned to unease when I internalized Social Media’s phenomenal growth with one fact: If Facebook was a country it would be the third largest behind China and India. My apprehension increased with every fact posted.

After the video my attitude had completely reversed, and I spent the next 90 minutes fully engaged on a topic that I had dismissed 95 minutes earlier. I was hooked by the strategic use of a four minute video that evoked the emotion of fear.

Today I start every presentation focusing on the SINGLE emotion I want to evoke (for example: pride, indignation, frustration, or confidence) to bring about the outcome I want to achieve (more funding, project approval, additional resources, etc). Next I decide on what vehicle to use to convey the emotion: a video, a story, a picture or music.

Finally I design the presentation - I keep it brief. I use the same concept - each section has a single emotion associated with it - I avoid the temptation of piling on details. I have details on hand if needed. If I do the right job compelling my audience, they’ll ask to engage on the specifics.

Think about the most memorable speech you've ever heard, and what do you remember? How you felt. People are compelled by what they feel. Once your audience is compelled, they will listen, engage, and remember. And they'll ask you back.

P.S. A way to get comfortable with evoking emotion is to experiment with different audio and video tools. Emotion can be evoked with a powerful blend of visuals, music and messaging in a short period of time. Any of these can be used to set the stage, close the discussion, or punctuate a point.

Here is the video that hooked me. This was used to create tension and set the stage: Social Media Revolution

Use music or a music video to evoke emotion: Check out Dom's music video for "Walk" in his post Walking Through Fear. It's a perfect example of evoking regret.

Use a commercial to evoke emotion: Hairdressers at Heart from The Wella Corporation is a campaign to support the salon industry. Here is the sizzle reel.

Hairdressers At Heart Sizzle Reel from Hairdressers at Heart on Vimeo.


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