Involve Them

Making Speaking Magical: part 4

When you involve them in the process, they invest in the outcome.

We love to help.

It might be helping wash the car as a kid, or bake cookies, or to be involved in raising money for a promising NPO; human beings are wired to work together for a cause.

Most speakers, though, assume the audience wants to sit and be taught without having any input in the outcome.

Involving them is all about inviting your audience into the process of discovery

Our brains can retain information when delivered audibly, but the amount of that retention skyrockets when the brain has had to participate in some way to understand the information. When this happens our brains create new connections & pathways to make sense of what it has experienced; the brain can literally be transformed by good communication.

If you can help your audience be involved in the process, your communication will become more about transformation than information. 

“To instruct someone…is not a matter of getting him to commit results to mind. Rather, it is to teach him to participate in the process that makes possible the establishment of knowledge. We teach a subject not to produce little living libraries of that subject, but rather to get a student to think mathematically for himself, to consider matters as a historian does, to take part in the process of knowledge-getting. Knowing is a process not a product.”  - Jerome Bruner, The Process of Education

Involving them in the process can be an intimidating concept. It puts you (the communicator) in a place of vulnerability, as if you are not in control anymore. Something we'll discuss more in ASK THEM. 

Yet, it is precisely this vulnerability that makes the experience so enjoyable for your audience. We are rarely motivated to change by an authority figure up front telling us how to think, we would much rather experience some kind of transformation for ourselves.

(be sure to watch the priceless moment with cancer and squeaky chairs at 1:14:00)

Rob Bell does this masterfully in his talk, Drops Like Stars. He gets the crowd moving, looking at each other, and exchanging something with one another - all to help them see they are not alone in their pain.

Rob has already talked about the idea for an hour, but this is the moment when it all clicks together for his audience. This is the moment when they realize he needs them for the talk to work; they are involved in the process, and as a result, they are much more invested in the outcome. 

As a communicator, what are you doing to help your audience feel like they are essential to your message? 

Here's four magical techniques for you to practice in order to involve them in the process: 

Invite Them To Move

From the stage, you can do this is all kinds of ways: invite them to stand to represent a certain group (like Rob Bell, above), invite them to act out a scene, get them to do something with their breathing (slow, fast, hold it), or get them to repeat some words throughout (especially if they are in a different language). Don't only get them to raise their hand at different points as a way to involve them, that's about as good as getting a 'like' on Instagram - it might mean they saw/heard you, but what you really want is a greater effort to know they are invested. 

Some Social Media campaigns have been great at this, getting their followers to go somewhere and find something.

Instead of feeling like they are being targeted for marketing, they feel like they are part of something special. 



Invite Them To Share

Your communication could extend beyond the moment you're in if you get the audience to share. I was in a talk once when the speaker invited us to call someone and tell them we love them. I called my dad (whom I hadn't spoken to for a month at that point). My father had no idea I was in a conference at that moment, until I extended the reach in the moment and shared the experience with him. 

You can get your audience to Tweet something out, to write a note to a friend they will deliver later, or send a message in the moment. You'll see companies doing this on Instagram and Facebook all the time, "To enter this contest, like the page and tag a friend" - when the audience involves a friend, it becomes a shared experience. 

If you don't want to have them reach out beyond the moment, have them share with the people around them. Give them an opportunity to share something about their lives or thoughts on the subject with people next to them. e.g. "...that's why I think cats are terrible, tell the person next to you about a time a cat made you angry, too."

Invite Them To Teach

You won't know your audience 'gets it' until you hear them teach someone else. You can make speaking magical if you help transform them from student to teacher. Bring someone up on stage with you with an incredible story of transformation, let them tell their story alongside you. If you speak often in the same place (church, for instance), give someone else the Sunday AM stage. 

If you are sitting across from someone, simply put the situation in their hands, "If we switched positions, what would you tell me?"

We won’t fully embrace an idea until we have to teach it to others. 

Invite Them To Solve a Problem

You may not have liked it, but this is why homework was important in high school (and also why I chose to boycott homework for grade 11), when you solve the problem yourself, your brain begins to put the processes in place for sustainable change. 

David Kolb wrote Experiential Learning, which invites teachers to extend their technique beyond just speaking to allow the student to physically engage in solving the problem. Some of the best workshops I've been to are built around the idea of experiential learning (problem-solving) together. Eagle's Flight is a Leadership Development organization that thrives in helping companies work through a process to reach a goal and spark a conversation moving the company forward. 

"Individuals are most likely to change their behaviors when they have developed personal convictions about the value of doing things differently; these convictions are best acquired when learning by doing." - Eagle's Flight website

There were a lot of great shows at DisneyWorld, but I'll never forget seeing the Lion King. We were pulled from the crowd waiting outside, and given the front row. Within the first 5 minutes I was invited to stand in the middle (theatre in the round) and encourage my section to 'cheer like a warthog'! I was engaged for the whole show, wondering if I would be called upon again. Then at the end of the show our kids were invited to march around the stage like a parade for the final song. 

We were part of the show. I was handed a microphone, our kids were given instruments. The trust and energy in that moment made it an unforgettable moment for all of us. Simply put, it was magical. 

When you involve them in the process, they invest in the outcome.