John Medina’s Brain Rule #4 is that we don’t pay attention to boring things. Medina writes that “the more attention the brain pays to a given stimulus, the more elaborately the information will be encoded – and retained.”
When we can create an emotional experience for our learners that produces a visceral reaction, our audience will pay attention to what we have to say. This is especially true (and important) when it’s time to present information with which our audience is not familiar (or perhaps information about which our audience isn’t excited).
One of the best examples I’ve seen happened this summer. A colleague was kicking off a presentation on the oh-so-fascinating topic of documentation, and why meticulous documentation is essential to stay out of trouble.
He began the session by giving the audience a pop quiz abount a completely unrelated topic. Before he posed his pop quiz question to the audience, he promised a chocolate bar to anyone who got the question correct. He then asked his question and immediately three audience members shouted out the correct answer.
My colleague took out a chocolate bar, unwrapped it, and began eating it himself, as he started the main part of his presentation. There were some grumbles from the audience. One of the participants who had answered the question correctly shouted: “Hey, where’s my chocolate?!”
My colleague looked puzzled. He asked what people were so upset about. He didn’t recall promising anything. Could anyone produce any documentation to this effect?
When this point sunk in, the audience erupted in laughter. It was an experience they wouldn’t soon forget. They had been “had”. By losing out on an opportunity, they wouldn’t soon forget the point that documentation matters. It made the rest of my colleague’s presentation about how and when to document much easier and relevant.
Sometimes what’s true in the world of physical fitness training is also true for audiences in the world of corporate training: no pain, no gain.