#72 How to light the flame of passion in your audience
Okay, audience participation time. Hands up those of you that have been awake late at night and found yourself voluntarily ‘trapped’ by an infomercial?
You know what I’m talking about, those professional actors, all on high octane energy pills, pitching products, interviewing the over the top owners or creators of these products that will literally change your life!
Yes, their presentations are well rehearsed. Yes, they are definitely polished. Yes, they follow all the rules. Yes, their story is well scripted and they even toss in a few psychological triggers just for the fun of it… you know… a limited time offer with a digital clock ticking over on the screen… tick-tock-tick-tock. Or scarcity… “once these are gone, that’s it… they will never be at this price again!
Yeah, all the tricks, bells and whistles. But almost all of them are fake! Something is missing. Sure… it’s all so very well-choreographed… but still, something is missing. Yes, I know, they all look sincere… but something is missing.
After watching a particular fitness infomercial, I determined to find out why I felt manipulated instead of motivated. Instead of being ‘inspired to move’ – which is the definition of motivation.
Manipulation, on the other hand, is an effort to be coerced or forced into a certain course of action or outcome that is not necessarily in your best interest. Or put another way, manipulators will use tactics like fear, guilt or shame to bend you, coerce you, control you into acting their desired outcome, no matter how needed or required it is for you.
Anyway, after watching this one particular fitness infomercial I was not feeling inspired to move, to take action, I was feeling coerced so I decided to examine, from a professional, objective point of view, what the presentation elements were. It had all the elements I mentioned before, It was well scripted, well performed, had the big name celebrity and the inventor of the product… it was all there but still, it was missing something that cannot be manufactured or faked.
It was missing that ingredient that cuts right through the layers of hype and settles next to the primal, instinctive motivator for action. It was missing passion. Oh it had excitement… but not passion. Yes, it had high octane energy in the voice and graphics galore… but not passion.
Without passion it didn’t feel genuine. It didn’t feel authentic. Passion is what would have connected it to my first brain motivation… I’ll explain more about soon.
Passion is what would have transformed me from being a couch spectator into an inspired participator. I can hear you ask me, “But Eugene, the owner of the product was there. Surely he had passion?” Yes I thought of that, so I examined it more closely and what I saw was someone trying to make a sale using someone else’s tactics and words. Now, if that owner had been left to engage me with their authentic self, it may have been a completely different outcome.
Not even the inventor of that product could fake passion. No one can fake passion. Well, maybe some people can.
Take for example Meryl Streep… I’m pretty sure she could pull it off. After all she’s made at least 55 movies, has 19 Oscar nominations, and has won 3 of Oscars! She leads the pack for nominations by the way. Or maybe Jack Nicholson with 12 Oscar nominations and 3 wins could pull it off.
But do you really think you could fake it? Would you put your hand on your heart and say you are multi Oscar kind of good?
I’ve been standing in front of audiences for over 40 years… and I know from first-hand experience, it is exceptionally hard to fake passion. The few times I’ve tried to ‘fake it’ the result was like famous line from Top Gun… “It wasn’t very pretty. I crashed and burned”.
Authentic passion cannot be faked! No excuses. No deviations. It is the bottom of the bottom line! A professional presenter can try to look sincere and look excited about their topic, but you can’t fool people (at least not most people), if it’s “just an act,” people will know. Genuine interest and true passion comes from the gut. It comes from the heart and soul.
I remember one time having a young HR Manager in a workshop. This is going back about 20 years ago now. He was a very quiet, studious sincere young man.
Now, you must understand, this was a training workshop. It’s been my experience that in such environments the best that can be expected is 50% of your true performance value. By that I mean, you will most likely not perform as good as you would if it was in front of a real audience and the adrenaline was real, not manufactured.
But this young man defied that little principle. He took to his position in front of his peers and suddenly a light came on. He talked with energy. He used his limited understanding of movement and vocal imaging with effect. He was memorable.
Why? Because he loved his subject. He had unmitigated belief in what he was talking about. It shined in his eyes. It resonated out of his voice. There was conviction and an undeniable attraction to what he was saying and how he was saying it.
I have trained over 10,000 people since 1991. Only a small select handful has secured a place of remembrance on my mental bookshelf of those who stood and engaged me in an actual workshop.
This young man (1) had a clear interest in his topic and about sharing it with us that day, (2) expert knowledge of his material and a sound structure for clearly communicating it, and (3) authentic passion for his subject and this connected with us, his audience with authority.
So, what does passion mean?
The Japanese translation of the word passion means ‘feeling & heat’. According to Chris Anderson, the innovative visionary behind TED Talk, the most successful TED talks are delivered by speakers who have a passion for their idea and consequently deliver their talks with ‘emotion and imagination’.
So, for purposes of our conversation today, when we encourage you to speak with passion, we are saying ‘speak with feeling, heat, emotion and imagination.’
Okay, here we go with audience participation time again.
Grab a blank piece of paper and turn it landscape. Draw two circles side-by-side and over lapping each other, leaving enough room for you to write a word in it.
Next, draw a horizontal line in the middle of each circle creating two circles with four halves. In the left circle, top half write the word Feeling and in the bottom half the word Heat.
Now I’m sure you know what’s coming next. In the top right half of the other circle write the word Emotion and the bottom half the word Imagination.
Finally, In the intersection, the over lapping of the circles, write the word Passion.
This little illustration demonstrates essential truth: Passion does not exist without all four elements working together.
So, how does a platform master do it?
How do they stand in front of an audience, any size, small or large? How does the insurance professional sit at a young couple’s kitchen table talk about a risk product with feeling, heat, emotion, and imagination?
Or how does financial planner sit at the round table in the corner of corporate manager’s office and connect with passion? No faking. Authentic.
How about that business owner standing in front his employees in the packed lunch room and talks with feeling, heat, emotion and imagination about the new manufacturing equipment that is coming in to help them take their business to the next level and every employee feels valued, valuable and vital? How does happen? How dos that business owner do it?
How about that conference speaker that stays with you for years, like Og Mandino or Paul Harvey, or Tom Fred Tenny or Cleveland Becton or Mark Hanby… all speakers who have reached out and touched my life with feeling, heat, emotion, and imagination.
How did they do it? How did they connect with several thousand conference delegates and make us feel like they were engaging us… one-on-one?
That’s what we are going to explore in the second half of this episode today.
Lighting the flame of passion in your audience.
So, where does it start? It starts with knowing how to light a flame in the audience. Let me unpack this for you so you can use this wonderful little tool the next time you stand in front of an audience.
There are three types of psychological needs you must meet if you are going to light a flame in your audience.
The first of these are intellectual needs.
To light the flame of passion in your audience, you need to understand why your topic is important to them. The more you understand this the greater your chance of lighting a flame. Plus, you will be able to express yourself with more passion and confidence.
The second are emotional needs.
We talked about persuading with emotion in Episode #62.
When you speak with passion, you transfer energy and it’s this energy that helps your audience will feel the same emotions that you do. Your audience will feel the pain, the joy, the hope, and the fear of the characters in your stories. They are no longer be passive listeners… spectators. They engage and become participators. If you don’t utilise emotions well, then your audience will not be motivated. This leads to boredom and disengagement.
As satisfying as meeting intellectual and emotional needs may be, there is a third need that is deeper, more primal, more instinctive and it is where the flame sits.
The third need is visceral.
A visceral need is intuitive, it’s from deep within. Some call it a gut feeling. It’s from that place where there might not be a rational explanation, but you feel that you know what’s best. It’s instinctive. It’s primal. Remember those four words because they are very important to lighting a flame of passion in your audience.
Okay, let me take this a little deeper for you by taking you all the way back to the 1960s and a neuroscientist by the name of Dr Paul MacLean. Dr Maclean came up with the Triune Brain Theory, or the Three-Tier Brain Theory, as some call it.
I will give us a cut down, simplified version here today.
Dr Maclean’s theory was that we have three different brains appearing successively during the evolution of the human brain.
First, we have the reptilian brain, which is the oldest of the three brains and the basic ruling emotions of love, hate, fear, lust, and contentment come from this first brain. If someone says that they reacted with their heart instead of their head, what they are really saying is I acted with my primitive or instinctive emotions as opposed to the more calculating and rational part of the brain.
According to Dr Maclean, the reptilian brain is reliable but tends to be somewhat rigid and compulsive. It is however responsible for instinct and survival and its main focus is to avoid pain. This brain is what makes our decisions.
Then we have the limbic brain which records and embeds all our experiences on a two-scale measure: agreeable or disagreeable. Then these embedded memories are used to determine a behavioural or response, depending on whether it’s agreeable or disagreeable. This brain gives a gut feeling on a decision.
Then we have the neocortex which is responsible for the development of human language, abstract thought, imagination, and consciousness. The neocortex is flexible and has almost infinite learning abilities. This brain rationalizes a decision.
We like to think of our neocortex or thinking brain as being our conscious decision maker but it is only selectively conscious. Psychologists generally agree that at best we are only 15 percent conscious of our motivations and behaviours. We are deeply influenced by the first brain, the reptilian brain.
This means that even when we think we’re being rational and conscious, we’re largely being driven subconsciously by previous similar experiences and emotions.
Even though the brain only takes 2% of our body mass, it burns 20% of our energy just to keep running. This is without exertion. Because of this our brain has been unconditionally is optimized to conserve energy. It’s not going to waste precious energy if it not necessary for survival.
Okay, neuroscience lesson over.
What does all of this mean to us as business speakers? And more importantly, what’s that got to do with lighting a flame of passion in our audience?
To light a flame of passion in the audience you will need to penetrate through the rational brain, past the emotional brain and into the first brain where the primitive or instinctive emotions reside.
A speaker who is lacking in passion will never get to the first brain. In fact, I’d say a snowball in hell would have a great chance of not melting than a passionless speaker penetrating through to the first brain where instinctive emotion exists.
Remember our two over-lapping circles?
A speaker who brings feeling, heat, emotion and imagination to their platform performance, brings passion.
I remember many years ago when I was in my first three years of my training company, I was invited to work with a very large communications business here in NZ. I knew for a fact that this particular company was a client of my major competitor so I asked the HR Director why they had approached me? She smiled and said she had heard me speak at a recent conference and wanted my passion to rub off on her sales people. So, she invited me to run a series of workshops with them.
Passion is contagious. Passion is infectious.
It cannot be faked and it cannot be mandated. If you love what you do and you are passionate about the message you are bringing to audience… then they, the audience, will feel it. It will penetrate through to the instinctive brain. It will touch the heart of the audience and they will respond in kind.
When you meet three psychological needs, intellectual, emotional, and visceral, you are setting yourself apart. Lighting the flame of passion as a speaker is touching the instinctive. Putting your intentional finger on the primal.
When the stories you tell, the business cases you present, the pitches you deliver or the messages you bring across the podium to conference uses feeling, heat, emotion and imagination… you are lighting a flame in the first brain of your audience.
Here’s the action point of the day.
If you are not already, then fall in love with your message. Become completely and unashamedly besotted with the concept or idea. Be religiously zealous in perusing ways to tell your story better, deeper and with more credibility.
Find out more. More about your audience. More about their relationship with your topic. More about their attitude towards your topic.
And most importantly, step up to the platform with passion. Be an authority. Be an influencer. Be a fire starter.
When you do what we’ve talked about today, you know you are well on your way to becoming a platform master.
Next week, we will explore the constant factor of Purpose and its role in platform presence and mastery.
If you would like to explore further any part of this episode today, get in touch with me by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org
As always, there is more to come.