The 7 Triggers that will Fascinate your Audience

Sally Hogshead has written Fascinate – a book exploring the seven triggers that fascinate people. In this post, I explore how the triggers can be used when you’re presenting. These triggers have tremendous power and executed skilfully will compel your audience to listen to you. But execute  in a hamfisted way, and not only will your presentation fail you may also piss off your audience.

1. Lust

OK, you’re thinking sex. But lust is about more than that. It’s about titillating all the senses of your audience. People lust after great design – like iPads or Nancy Duarte’s latest book (I love the lush colour schemes and the subtle glossy paper). Use the lust trigger by creating a total sensory experience.

How to incorporate lust into your presentation:

  • Create a welcoming presentation environment. Clear clutter and have tables and chairs neatly arranged.
  • As people walk in, play music that will appeal to them.
  • Create great-looking slides (get rid of any crap clip art). Either learn basic design principles or get a professional designer to give your slides the once-over.
  • And don’t forget to apply the same design principles to your handout (toss the stapled photocopy). Create a sleek and beautiful workbook that your audience will take pleasure in leafing through.
  • Wear clothes that make you feel good and look good.

Take lust too far…and your audience won’t remember your message, only your slides or how you looked.

2. Mystique

Mystique is alluring. Mystique compels people to want to find out more.

How to use mystique in your presentation:

Take mystique too far…and people will leave your presentations confused and frustrated.

3. Alarm

Alarm speaks to our survival mechanisms. Build alarm and people will take action. Here’s how to use it in your presentation:

  • Spell out what’s at stake
  • Dwell on the consequences if people don’t take action.

Environmentalists can have a hard time building alarm – for many people the planet seems to be doing fine. Last week I went to a lecture by David Suzuki, the Canadian environmentalist. He built alarm by explaining how bacteria growing in a test tube will seem to have plenty of resources until a fraction of time before the resources run out. The resources run out precipitously. The same applies to humans on planet earth.

Take alarm too far…and you’ll become the boy who cried wolf.

4. Vice

Vice is going over the edge of what is acceptable behavior. When you flirt with vice your audience will be transfixed.

Vice is saying the things that other people dare not say. It’s about being straight, no holds barred and telling it like it is. Yes, you may piss some people off, but others will find you compelling and become raving fans. Bland and predictable is safe, but it’s not fascinating.

Judicious swearing adds spice and adds to your passion and persuasion. There’s been research done on this. 88 participants were divided into three groups. Two groups listened to a speech with this line:

“…lowering of tuition is not only a great idea, but damn it, also the most reasonable one for all parties involved.”

One group heard the swear word at the beginning and one group at the end of the speech. The third group listened to a speech with no swearing. The two groups who listened to the speech with the swearing judged the speech as more persuasive. The word “damn” led the audience to think the speaker was more passionate about the topic – and hence more persuasive. It didn’t affect the speaker’s credibility.

How to incorporate vice into your presentation:

  • Say what other people are afraid to say
  • Swear.

Take vice too far…and you’ll be fired.

5. Prestige

This is your brand. Are you the Louis Vuitton of your area of expertise? Prestige is built up before your presentation. It’s what makes people want to hear you speak, irrespective of what you have to say. Prestige is built up not so much about what you put out there about yourself, but what other people say about you. However, people have to have something to share about you.

How to build your prestige:

  • Write a book and get it published by a traditional publisher
  • Write a self-published book
  • Write a blog
  • Collect testimonials from every presentation you make and display them on your website.

Take prestige too far…and you’ll turn into an arrogant prick.

6. Power

Exhibit strong leadership and your audience will be captivated. Human beings are attracted to power and prone to obey it. Use the power trigger by projecting certainty and taking control of situations.

How to use power in your presentations:

  • Stop using words which belittle your power, words like “just” and “kind of”.
  • Be straight and clear when giving instructions. “We will have a 10 minute break at 3, and finish at 4.30.”
  • Handle questions and hecklers authoritatively.

Take power too far…and you’ll be a dictator.

7. Trust

Trust is built up by being consistent over time. When your audience trusts you before you start talking, they will be fascinated. So focus on building trusting relationships with your audiences.

  • Be consistent in your style and messages
  • Show up regularly
  • Repeat your key message and don’t say anything that weakens it.

Take trust too far and… you’ve become a cult leader.

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8 Comments

  1. Great examples, Olivia. And remind me, what’s wrong with being a cult leader? ;-)

    • Ha…yes it would be nice ;-)

      • We’re ready to follow you to the end of the earth!
        Seriously, I love how you counter-punched each point!

  2. Denmark really enjoyed this posting – great inspiration and advice. Look forward to trying the ideas out in practice. Interesting to think about if there are cultural issues involved. Danes are known to be extremely critical, sceptical – foreign speakers would even say impolite. How to fascinate this type of audience is a good question.

    • I think it’s highly likely that cultural issues are involved. Take vice – what is regarded as acceptable or not acceptable behavior will differ from country to country, company to company, and even from team to team. Playing with any of these triggers involves using sound judgement.

  3. I am a big fan of yours and relish each of your posts via email. I am writing a book on the psychology of public speaking and many of your tips have led to productive research. I have a blog called ‘Round Robin Speech Writing’ at http://www.charliewilsonphd.com where I ask my visitors to critique the chapters (each one a 5 to 7 minute speech) as I write them. I am including your site on my links page if that is OK with you.
    Thanks, Charlie Wilson

    • Hi Charlie
      Thank you for your feedback – I’m delighted you find my posts useful. You’re very welcome to put a link to my site on your blog.

      And all the best with your book.
      Olivia

  4. I just love this article! You are really adding value Olivia- with everything you say and write using various media. Thank you for taking me from unconscious incompetence to my baby steps towards conscious competence in the world of presenting, communicating, training, engaging, inspiring and transforming…I work with people and that’s why you are a boon in my life!

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