From the Lab: Make It Human

In The Science of Speaking, I cite research showing that human stories are significantly more impactful than statistics. Here’s yet another study that sheds light on this bias, and suggests that it may be hard-wired in us.

In a 2007 study at UCSB, researchers asked participants to detect subtle changes in pictures, like those games in children’s magazines that ask you to spot the differences. When the changes to the pictures involved inanimate objects, 70% of the changes were noticed, in an average of 5 seconds. When the changes involved humans, however, 96% were noticed, and they were noticed even faster, in an average of only 3 seconds. Changes to other animals were in the middle, with a recognition rate of 83%. Interestingly, changes to animals were more recognizable than changes to vehicles, which suggests that these differences are evolutionarily hard-wired: despite that fact that vehicles are much more dangerous to us today, our visual attention is still more attuned to animals, which would’ve been dangerous to our ancestors.

When humans are involved, we pay greater attention. Therefore, the more human you can make your presentation, the better. Rather than simply citing statistics, tell human stories that make them come alive. And instead of simply showing the audience pictures of your product, considering showing them pictures of people using it, as humans will be more likely to draw their attention.

 

From the Field: The First Thirty Seconds

In a recent analysis by Twitter, they found that “users are most receptive to content as they first start scrolling through their news-feed.” In particular, “memory response is highest in the first 30 seconds of a Twitter session.”

In addition, they found that the first thing that users see, in this case, a video ad called “First View,” is perceived as more relevant (by 14%), more emotional (by 28%), and as a result, more memorable (up to 32%) than the rest of the content seen in a viewing session.

While this data is primarily intended to sell “First View” ads on Twitter, it’s also quite relevant to public speaking, suggesting that the first 30 seconds of your speech are essential. If you don’t hook the audience early, it’s likely that you never will, so it’s important to have both a compelling hook, and to get straight to the point, telling the audience your main point upfront. Then, once they’re hooked, you can get into the details, but only after you’ve ensured that they’ll remember the main takeaway by presenting it in that critical first 30 seconds.

SaveSave