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Being memorable - what speakers can learn from colonoscopies (and other things)

Hi, there - how have you been? I guess the Corona-virus caught everyone in the event-industry by surp
Standing oration
Being memorable - what speakers can learn from colonoscopies (and other things)
By Kristian from Speakers Loft • Issue #41 • View online
Hi, there - how have you been?
I guess the Corona-virus caught everyone in the event-industry by surprise. I, for one, must apologize for being absent - some things are just of our control. We look forward to picking things back up and try to get an overview of the damage.
Many countries are starting to open back up, and we look forward to following the progress for the event-industry right here in Standing Oration.
Here is a heartfelt thank you to everyone who took on the responsibility thrust upon them and wore it gracefully.
With that out of the way - let us get back to the way things were. I want to introduce you to Matt.
________

Matt Johnson is a San Francisco-based Ph.D. and neuroscientist who has helped us understand how public speaking and the brain of the audience interacts.
His new book, Blindsight, connects the dots between marketing and neuroscience. We decided to ask him the question, that is probably on your mind right now: what can speakers get out of reading the book?

As speakers, we’re all in the business of creating memories. We want to deliver incredible experiences to the audience. That means crafting enduring impressions. 
Clever speakers are adept at creating experiences that optimize not only for the event itself but for the resulting memory. The audience needs to remember you. This is where psychology and neuroscience can help you. Research over the past few decades has found that not all parts of an event are encoded equally into memory. Instead, there is a pattern behind what tends to be most memorable, and it was uncovered using the unlikeliest of sources: colonoscopies.
As if the procedure wasn’t uncomfortable enough, in a study by Daniel Kahneman, colonoscopy patients were given the task of reporting how much discomfort they were currently experiencing using a handheld dial. Once the procedure was over, they also filled out a brief questionnaire about their memory of the experience. What they remembered (via the questionnaire) versus what they reported (via the dial) revealed a pattern behind how experiences are remembered.
Turns out, the study subjects’ memory of the overall painfulness of the procedure had little to do with how much absolute pain they reported. Rather, their memory was tied to two elements.
Do you have a memorable peak?
Do you have a memorable peak?
Steady now
The first was the peak of the pain they experienced. If there was a moment in the procedure in which pain suddenly spiked—the doctor’s hand slipping, for example—patients would remember the entire experience as being much more painful overall, regardless of what they reported the rest of the time via the dial.
The peak of an event affects our memory of the event. It is not (just) that the peak stimulus during an event is encoded more deeply. Rather, the peak stimulus dictates our ultimate impression and colors our memory of the entire experience. In other words, if the average pain on the dial is a 5 on a scale of 1 to 10 but the peak pain was 8, our brains remember the whole experience as closer to an 8 than a 5.
Endings matter more
The second element that impacted patients’ memory of the experience was its end. Procedures that ended in pain were remembered as more painful than was actually reported via the dial, and those that ended “not so bad” were remembered as such despite what was reported during. Even if they experienced more objective pain, if the end wasn’t so bad, their memories of the event were far more favorable.
The duo of insights—that the memory of an event is heavily weighted by its peak and its end—is appropriately called the peak-end effect. While its discovery came through exploring pain and discomfort, it’s a stable property of human memory that applies equally to positive experiences.
In the consumer world, this is most often seen in the hospitality industry. Hotels are masters of designing mini-peaks designed for customers’ enjoyment. Hand-stamped toilet paper, towels folded into swans, elaborate lobbies, “surprise” chocolates on pillows, and welcome glasses of champagne are all minor peaks designed to create a fond memory of the hotel stay.
Speakers can also implement the peak-end effect to optimize the impression they leave audiences. Ask yourself, what is my peak? How can I add a positive peak to this story, or this information? And of course - how can I optimize the close and leave them with the most positive impression possible? Introducing these elements can go along way in optimizing for the memory of the speech. 
If you found this insightful, you may want to check out this author’s new book, Blindsight: The (mostly) hidden ways marketing reshapes our brains. Connect with Matt Johnson on LinkedIn or sign up for more insights like this at PopNeuro.
The ending matters. If you want to improve one thing about your talk, start with the ending.
The ending matters. If you want to improve one thing about your talk, start with the ending.
Take care and keep talking, where ever and whenever you can.
And wash your hands.
Kristian
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Kristian from Speakers Loft

Standing oration is a bonfire for public speakers. Huddle around with the rest of us, as we talk about living and working as a public speaker. We're also creating www.speakersloft.com.

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