How To Improve Your Conversations With Neuroscience

So—it looks like your presentation is ready to go. You’ve got a great topic, stunning visuals, a few charismatically-worded talking points, and even statistics to back it all up. Unfortunately, such preparedness doesn’t guarantee your audience will actually remember your message. In a world where distractions are everywhere, content volume is high, and competition is stiff, staying on people’s minds long after a conversation is over can seem nearly impossible. 

In our webinar this week, cognitive scientist, published author, and frequent keynote speaker, Dr. Carmen Simon offered some incredible insights for more memorable conversations. With the help of this David Thoreau quote:  “I had three chairs in my house - one for solitude, one for friendship, and one for society,” Carmen broke down the science behind how we can make our conversations more memorable.

In this post, we take a closer look at these three chairs and how they can help you stay on your audience's mind:

Chair #1: Solitude

As Carmen says, the brain will forget about 90% of what’s shared in a conversation after about two days. To make matters worse, the 10% that is remembered varies from person to person.

In order to take control of what people remember, she suggests making sure you’re taking some time alone to sit and think about what it is you want to be remembered for. Solitude and reflection enables you to become comfortable with yourself and your messages, and is just as important for extroverts as it is for introverts. 

Once you’ve defined the very core of your message, be sure your presentation repeats it at every opportunity. 

Chair #2: Friendship 

Conversations aren’t just for presenting information; they’re for establishing and sustaining a relationship. Approach your next presentation with the mindset of developing a friendship with your audience members and chances are you’ll have an easier time overcoming today’s common communication challenges. 

For example, the term “phubbing” means to maintain eye contact while texting. These days, even when people agree to be a part of a conversation with you, they still bring their phones along. Carmen recommends keeping people’s brains focused by switching up the stimuli frequently: go from a statement to a question; from simply speaking to sharing the presentation; from controlling the presentation to allowing the audience to interact with it (we call this conversational presenting). The more frequently you switch it up, the harder it will be for the brain to look for stimulation elsewhere (and the more back and forth, the more genuine the connection). 

Chair #3: Society 

One of the reasons traditional presenting may be more appealing than conversations is because creating a formal presentation implies that we can edit and retouch. In the end, we present clean and almost perfect versions of ourselves, which feels less risky than the messy and potentially demanding nature of conversations.  

However, we live in an age where when people make mistakes they can never be erased. It’s virtually impossible to delete something from the Internet (see politicians for example). What’s interesting is that Carmen actually advocates for embracing this reality. She explains that, “some of the best moments of a conversation will happen when you make mistakes together.”

Allow space in your presentation for your audience to add their own voice—to be vulnerable and honest. The stronger the emotion associated with the presentation, the stronger the memory of it. 

If being a better presenter or conversationalist in general is something you’re interested, we definitely recommend filling out the form below to watch Carmen’s webinar and see first hand how she involves her own audience.

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