Aug: Vegas vs Succulent

Audience Engagement: Are You Making Your Audience think too much?

In my quest to study audience engagement, I finally found an article to support my theory that audiences need time to process what you say and present. Meaning, if something you say or do takes extra time to process, they either take the extra time and miss your next sentence, or they don’t take the time to process, which then creates a mental (logical) gap in your presentation.

The article is about Las Vegas. In this case, what happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas. It’s leaking out. It has to do with the slot machines.

don't make me think Picture this: You bet $5, hit the button and the machine says you “won” $3. It even chimes and rings bells. The excitement causes you to quickly push the button to “spin” the numbers again – not processing that you actually lost $2. There wasn’t enough time for your brain to process the math.

Back in the day of the slot machines with the big handles, you had a few seconds to put more coins in and pull the handle – a few seconds to process that you actually lost money. Our brains don’t instantly process things – the new or complicated concepts take time.

It’s the same with your audience. You think they understood your great wording or phrase, but they didn’t have two seconds to process, so you lost them. They don’t know whether to figure out your phrase and all that it could mean, or don’t even try and hope they didn’t miss much.  Be careful with the perfect big word or the succinct but loaded phrase. It’s not like reading where people can slow down, stop reading or even go back – they can’t do that while listening.

Having said that, I’m all for well-chosen words. Heck, on a restaurant menu, when the word succulent was put in front of “Italian fish filet,” sales went up 28 %. The same with putting Cajun in front of “Red beans with rice.”

So choose your words and phrases wisely, but make them easy to understand.

 To your Speaking Success,



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