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When you present, your audience wants to feel something. So give them what they want!

Tapping into someone's emotions can lead to better retention. So can immersing the audience with physical reminders of your content.

In his book Brain Rules, John Medina writes, “Emotionally arousing events tend to be better remembered than neutral events.” A key goal, then, is to tap into the audience’s emotion and try to stir up feelings that will make their learning experience memorable.

What happens if you don’t feel like you’re able to tap into your audience’s emotions? How then can you help them to feel something?

Chris Ernst from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation recently offered a solution to this quandary.


During his presentation, he literally had us feeling something. He distributed a series of cards to have his audience sort and then reflect on the images and concepts on each card.

During his keynote talk to a gathering of more than 100 training professionals working in globally-focused non-governmental organizations, he kept everyone engaged for over an hour in a talk about organizational capacity building. I’m not going to lie, the topic itself didn’t get me very excited. The way in which he presented it was masterful, and three weeks later I’m still thinking of the various structures and phases of my own organization that will lead to more effective capacity building.

I’ve been to many, many, many presentations and keynotes and I can’t remember the last time the speaker involved everyone in the audience, immersing them in his or her content.

It was a powerful reminder that we, as presenters and training professionals, don’t need to rely on our own words alone. Sometimes if we want our audience to really feel something, we should give them something – cards or other materials – for them to really feel.


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