Viralizing your ideas

Confused listener

Confused listener
© Jaimie Duplass

When trying to communicate an idea there is a stealthy nagging problem. It’s called the curse of knowledge. Well, it is if your trying to communicate a message that you’re too familiar with, to an audience that doesn’t have a clue.

As you prepare your lecture, you can never play the part of the listener, because you are tainted with the knowledge of the subject. You will never be able to see the lecture with the eyes of an ignorant viewer.

So, what do you do to get your message across?

We could start by studying the launching of one of Apple’s products. Steve Jobs is probably a master at this art. With one phrase he presents his products, e.g., The iPhone reinvents the telephone.

Steve avoids to dilute the only message. He labors to great pain to deliver a wonderfully unique and evocative message that describes his product, which involves his audience emotionally. He later reinforces the message with a few, select features that make the iPhone excel.

He repeats and enhances the message through all of our senses. Images and music in the background, — with the casual outfit and cheering crowd backdrop.

Steve jealously guards the secrecy of his product before the launch to create expectation. He gradually builds up his audience with a little story. The crowd is enthralled by the time he finally shows the gadget.

Next, let’s review the Heath brothers advice. SUCCESs is the acronym which synthesizes the results of years of their research into what makes ideas stick.

They found that ideas that stick have the following traits in common:

  1. A simple message gets across.
  2. The message has to be simple (less in quantity and complexity). It has to get to the core of the subject at hand. Not an easy thing to pull, though. The message has to be reduced to the core, because awareness is an extremely narrow path for information to travel, with strong filters in perception and recollection from memory.

    Interestingly enough, though, our minds capture an enormous amount of additional information — that we’re not aware of — into our subconscious. In a stunning experiment, a group of patients under anesthesia was asked to pull their ears during the doctor’s visit after the surgery. Which they did, in 90% of the cases.

    Michelle Barry Franco stresses in her coaching that a speaker should focus his lecture to no more than three points.

    So, a simple reinforced message sticks a lot better than complex ones.

  3. It’s easier to recall unexpected messages.
  4. You know that. I know that. The weirder the situation, the better the recall.

    As a matter of fact, it’s the basis of a proven method to memorize peoples’ names. Let’s say you want to memorize the name of a girl you just met called Penelope Trunk. I would visualize the girl with a pen in her mouth, inside a huge manila envelope, inside a trunk. It’s crazy enough for me.

    Talking about crazy. Fark is a hugely successful website based on shocking news.

    All novels deal with extraordinary subjects and situations. We are hard-wired to be interested in the out of the ordinary. The experience could potentially pay off by saving our lives, e.g., paying attention to how a guy avoids getting trampled by a mammoth.

    So, put a little pizzazz in you message.

  5. It’s easier to visualize a concrete message.
  6. I love this one. Maybe, because I hadn’t thought about how easier it is to visualize concrete images. Most proverbs are built on this rule. Consider the beauty of saying: “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”, or, “A smooth sea never made a skillful mariner.”

  7. A message needs credibility.
  8. If the messenger has a good reputation, great, — remind yourself to include that in your message. If you don’t, ask your listener a question related to his own experience that will support your message. Hard to beat his own credibility.

    Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter in 1980, by asking voters a simple question: “Before you vote, ask yourself if you are better off today than you were four years ago.”

  9. Involve your listener emotionally.
  10. In order to get people involved, they have to care about what you say. As a general rule, people care most about individuals (their own children and pets included), —not abstracts. Their attachment is better if it’s to one particular orphan, than orphans as a concept.

    You have to be authentic and show that you are vulnerable. Nobody’s perfect. Stop faking it. Show your readers some of your weaknesses. We all want to feel connected to one another. We all feel closer to people that open up to us.

  11. Story telling combines all of the above to deliver an unforgettable message.
  12. Just think of the wonderful stories in the Bible: Adam, Eve and the serpent, Moses and his family, and the seven plagues, Noah’s Ark, the four horses of the apocalypse, etc. These stories, have been around for a long, long time…

    People relate better to personal stories.

    The following is a list of brief pointers on how to build a story:

    • Dig deep into the subject matter till you find the true interesting story.
    • Grab your listeners from the very beginning with something unexpected, emotional, or otherwise “sticky.”
    • Build up your story to a climax. Then, finish it with a new observation, to trigger your audience to continue to think about your story after its conclusion.

One final note. Think of how you can incorporate… Paris Hilton into your message’s story, or anybody attractive (filthy rich is attractive). People are curious about anything they do. It’s hard-wired into their genes to follow the successful — it’s usually useful.

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