How to move people with your words
By using the right words and the power of description you can move people – from just listening to wanting to take action.
First, a quick set-up for you
As a news reporter I saw lots of terrible things – disasters, decapitated bodies, victims of crime and misfortune. I remained stoically and professionally detached.
Oprah says when she was a reporter she would get too involved and go back after she’d filed a story to give blankets etc. to victims.
These days, after becoming a parent, I’m such a “gusher” and a “weeper”. Anything to do about suffering children makes me weep.
Sometimes when I’m coaching people, their powerful “presentations” (after they had some Bono-technique magic) make me weep so much I can’t talk to give them feedback. I think my tears are positive feedback enough. I borrow my talkforce boss’s great line: “I’m not crying. I’m sweating from the eyes! They are Man tears!”
When I get some of your photos I will use them to add visual variety and break up the text.
Until then here’s a shot to show even although now I’m a big softie weeper – back in my Defence Correspondent days I was stoic. I didn’t even cry when tear gassed for NBC (Nuclear Biological Chemical) training. (that’s a joke – of course the tears flowed!)
How YOU can move people
Here’s an example of how we turn detached presentations to moving ones that get “inside” people, connect with them and move them.
Have you watched Bono’s NAACP Acceptance speech? (in an earlier post) I’ve seen it move viewers to tears. Here’s the link again:
Now, part of the power of Bono’s speech is the rousing delivery (we’ll discuss in a later post), but it’s also his use of sensory language. Sensory language evokes the senses: sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch (or what it feels like).
In his description:
You can see the poor playing house in cardboard boxes.
You can hear the cries
You can see and feel the weight of the rubble
I helped a person from an organisation that helped people be better parents. Her first presentation was factual and full of important information – about assisting “dysfunctional” families. But, it was mainly that – information.
We (She and I) sprinkled some Bono magic by adding some sensory language.
We got her to describe a dysfunctional home. What did it look like, smell like, sound like?
I’m paraphrasing, but in essence she described the scene:
- The stench of food scraps and dirty clothes
- The noisy children running wild and the mother screaming in frustration – not knowing what to do
- In a cot a baby lies silently. Her nappy is soiled, but she doesn’t cry -because she’s learned crying doesn’t help
That’s it – I’m gone. The floodgates open – the whole room of NFP (not for profit) partcipants (and I) turn into blubbering messes all because her sensory description put us in that scene. The power of description rather than just saying “a dysfunctional house”.
I’m probably blubbering the loudest – you know the type of blubbering where you can’t breathe properly and when you try to speak it comes out in this high-pitched girly voice. I’m not embarrassed about crying my manly tears. I’m so proud of her presentation. She beams with pride. The other participants applaud. We need a box of tissues.
In a later post I’ll describe another Bono technique – crafting a short, memorable key message statement you repeat throughout your presentation. The presenter, just mentioned did this so well too!
Another powerful example was a person who used the powerful sense of smell to describe what he called “the sickening stench of waste” – the stench of having to burn products that were no longer useful because of an organisational delay in action – the sickening smell and ugly black smoke of burning plastic.
Good lyrics that use sensory language:
Freedom – what does it look like or smell like?
“Freedom has the scent of the top of a new born baby’s head” (Who wrote that?)
This is a Bono lyric!
As a dad, I know that smell of a new born baby’s head and I love that smell! Of course, you don’t have to be a parent to know and love that smell. For me the lyric evoked all these powerful extra connotations – “freedom is precious and delicate and we must nurture it. Freedom will grow strong and will be able to look after itself.”
One of my favourite lyrics is by Billy Bragg who describes losing a girlfriend and seeing her with another guy. Off the top of my head, it’s something like – “I thought about them being together – till the bathwater went cold around me”
It works because you can feel the chill – the chill of cold water and the chill of the loss of love. And it’s so true, when you are so distracted thinking about something else – you find the bathwater has gone cold around you.
The audience thinks: This person knows what the experience is like.
Do you have any favourite U2 lyrics that love you? Or other artists’ lyrics?
Please share. Also please pass on this post to other people who could benefit from improving their communication. You don’t have to be a U2/Bono fan – but it helps.
So who is writing this and why is he helping people from good causes learn Bono’s techniques pro bono?
In a nutshell: A dedicated Bono/U2 fan who loves to help organisations with pro bono (for good/for free) communication coaching combines professional skills with passions
Communication Coaching + Pro bono helping good causes + Bono’s inspiration and example = Pro Bono Bono
You’ll learn how to improve the way you Present and Persuade by using communication techniques effectively used by Bono.