Tell them what you are going to tell them

Then tell them

Tell them what you told them

Businesswoman giving presentation to three business executives

Have you ever been given this advice about speaking?

I began my training and public speaking career over 20 years ago and as a novice speaker I was often given the above advice. It’s a simple technique and there’s a good chance that if you deliver talks, to any size group, you’ve come across this in some form or the other. However, it was not until I studied neuroleadership and began looking at how the brain works that it really clicked for me why this simple technique works.

The brain likes to predict

The brain is a predication machine, it constantly tries to predict what is going to happen next in order to prepare for it. It is also on a constant lookout for threat and anything that is unknown and can’t be predicted is basically a threat to the brain.

Threats to the brain, whether physical or social have the same impact of arousing the limbic system or emotional part of the brain, and reducing the capacity of the pre frontal cortex or information processing part of the brain.

With a threat leading to a reduced capacity for processing information, we are unable to take in what is being said.

Preparing the brain

As a presenter you can reduce the threat of the unknown and increase the effectiveness of your audience’s listening by telling them what you are going to tell them first. Give them an outline of what you’re going to cover. This prepares their brains for taking in the information. You can reduce the threat of the unknown even further by letting your audience know what you expect of them. Let them know if they can ask questions, let them know if you’ll be calling on people? This all provides a level of comfort for the brain. It lets your audience know what’s expected of them allowing their brains to function and take in the information.

As a presenter you can reduce the threat of the unknown and increase the effectiveness of your audience’s listening by telling them what you are going to tell them first.

Tell them

Once you’ve clearly told your audience what you are going to tell them, well then the next step is to ‘tell them’.

This is the main body of your presentation. Make sure you continue to keep your audience’s brains out of threat by actually covering what you said you would, and following any expectations you set. If you said you had 3 main points, present 3 main points, if you said there would be a 10 minute break after an hour, give that break. Remember our brains like to predict as much as possible. While the information you deliver can and should be new and any promises you made upfront about format, timing or participation need to be kept.

Strengthening connections – tell them what you told them

Once you’ve given your presentation you need to help your audience re-enforce and strengthen new connections they’ve made in their brains around the material you’ve just delivered.

Numerous factors impact the amount of information a listener is able to take in and remember, but re-capping for the audience what you’ve just covered will help to strengthen connections made. Providing an opportunity for questions, or an opportunity for the audience to reflect on what they have learned will increase this even further.

Tell them what you are going to tell them; Tell them: Then tell them what you told them. Neuroscience now proves why this time-honoured advice actually works.

Have you used this approach? What impact did it have?

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