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Brain Rule #9: Stimulate More of the Senses

February 5, 2010

Brain Rule #9: Stimulate More of the Senses
Dr. John Medina: Brain Rules.

Essentially what this rule says is that we learn better when multiple senses are stimulated.

For the presenter, this means that it is extremely important to have the audience both hear and see your message.

When we receive a message through two or more of our senses, comprehension and memory is greatly improved-and that’s a good thing for your presentation. For me, there are a some very interesting implications of this, partly in Medina’s book and partly drawn from elsewhere.

One of them is that this only works when the message in the two channels is essentially the same and when the two channels are stimulated closely in time. So, be sure you deliver your key points in what you say and in what they see.

  • But remember—not simultaneously in two channels. As Medina also talks about, the brain can’t properly process two inputs at the same time. So, if you want them to see the picture, the diagram or, especially, read the text, close your mouth. And for heavens sake, don’t read the slide to them—you can let them read it or you can talk about it, but not at the same time if you want them to comprehend and remember.
  • Also you must ensure there isn’t a conflict message in the two channels, i.e., what they hear and what they see. When there’s a conflict between the inputs, the brain is confused and even less is comprehended and remembered than if there was only one input.  Also, “Brain Rule #10: Vision trumps other senses ” is important here. As the brain tries to resolve a sensory conflict, it pays much more attention to the visual input than others.

Now the thing the audience sees that’s especially important is you.

A few months ago I sat watching a senior rep in our organization give a presentation about upcoming organizational changes. Her words and charts were full of enthusiasm and support for it. But something bothered me and it suddenly dawned on me that she didn’t believe what she was saying. Subtle clues in body language and voice were contradicting her presentation’s message–and that message was losing. A few weeks later she quietly quit and went elsewhere. Not a surprise to me–or many in that audience.

If your body language conflicts with the words you speak, body language wins every time. Humans are very sensitive to such things and the audience will sense your hesitation or doubts about what you’re saying and the message in your words will be lost. Instead what they need and want to see in you is enthusiasm and sincerity—that way you are a powerful reinforcement for the message in your words and charts.

So, for presenters Brain Rule #9 means you’ll have more impact if you:

deliver your message through multiple channels,
and be sure all paths carry reinforcing, not conflicting, messages.

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