What are the 3 steps for getting people to pay attention? Hello? HELLO?

In her excellent book 100 Things Every Presenter Needs to Know About People, Susan Weinschenk lays out a research backed 3 step process that really impressed me:

1) Start with what you know they believe.

If you start your presentation with the opposite of what they believe, they may turn you off right away. For example, if you start a presentation to me by saying how amazing Android phones are or that Android phones are superior to iPhones, then you’ve likely lost me already. But if you start with an idea I agree with or know about— for example, how amazing iPhones are— then you have a chance of getting through to me.

2) Surprise people.

One way to get past people’s filtering is to present them with information or an experience that they did not expect. For instance, I recently heard that over 50 percent of smartphone sales are Androids and only 33 percent are iPhones. That surprised me and made me stop and think, “Perhaps I should find out more about Android phones.”

3) Set up a situation of cognitive dissonance.

In 1956, Leon Festinger wrote a book called When Prophecy Fails. In it, he describes the idea of cognitive dissonance, which is the uncomfortable feeling a person gets when they are presented with two ideas that they believe might both be true. For example, if I believe that I am a person who cares about others but I don’t give money to charitable causes, then I now have cognitive dissonance. The two ideas conflict with each other, and the cognitive dissonance will make me feel uncomfortable. I can either deny one of the ideas (for example, I can deny that I’m a caring person or deny that I didn’t give any money to charity this year) or change my behavior to get rid of the dissonance (for example, I might now be interested giving a donation to the charity I hear a presentation on).

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About Eric Barker