Michael Sterling

Appealing to the Right and Left (And I’m Not Talking Politics)


Your career can often rest on how well you communicate. The art of persuasion plays a primary role at work and in life. To make what you say impactful and memorable, you must speak to your listener’s right and left brain.


How can you craft a great presentation like those fascinating experts on TED.com? I’ve been reading Jeremy Donovan’s excellent book, How to Deliver a TED Talk, and gathering tips on how the experts do it (see my previous posts Scour Your Brain for an Inspiring Presentation and Why You Need a Catchphrase to Boost Your Career.) Here are additional ways to bring your message home.


The Body and the Brain


Build the Speech’s Body and Transitions. We more easily remember concepts when they’re delivered as three examples or elements. This progression helps you stay focused and primes the audience to remember your message.


This can be as simple as:


  • Tell them what you’re going to tell them
  • Tell them
  • Tell them what you just told them


Three narrative styles are particularly powerful:


  1. Situation-complication-resolution framework (Dan Pink on motivation at work)
  2. Chronological narrative, i.e. what happened (Jill Bolte Taylor on surviving a stroke)
  3. Idea-concepts description (Richard St. John on eight secrets of success)


Regardless of the structure you choose, appeal to both the audience’s right and left brains. Stories or activities pique the emotional right brain. Facts, strategies, tips and techniques convince the left brain. You want to lead your audience through an emotional journey, but include enough facts to anticipate the right brain’s logical objections.


Transitions between speech sections should reinforce the prior section’s key message, while also teasing the audience about what’s coming next. Using your catchphrase will help accomplish this.


Create Visuals That Inspire. Use as few graphics as possible or none at all. If using them, keep them simple with limited text and images. Never read from them or use them as an outline to keep yourself on track.


Prepare a Conclusion. Your conclusion is the final opportunity to inspire the audience or call them to action. Use language that clearly signals the speech is ending. Refer back to the “why” that powers your unifying message.


It may be worthwhile to allude to a personal story, shocking statistic or compelling question you’ve shared earlier in your speech. Call the audience to action with an easy next step and sense of urgency.


In Conclusion


Watching TED Talks won’t automatically make you a good speaker, but they will inspire you to improve your presentation skills.


Once you’ve learned a few tips, practice them by delivering a persuasive speech in a feedback-rich environment. Ask for help from trusted peers, a mentor or an executive coach.


This last suggestion is key. You can’t improve your chance to make a really big impact without practice and feedback. It’s a prime reason to speak with a coach.


If you have questions about this, contact me. I’ve spent my career coaching professionals and specialize in recruiting and counseling public accountants. Connect with me on LinkedIn or at sterlingfreeman.com.


Interested in more career nutrition? Check out the Career Wellness section of our website.





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