When you tell a good story, you change the chemistry in your audience’s brain. For instance, when you create conflict in your story, the steroid hormone cortisol is released to focus our attention. Bring us through hell and show us success, and the neurotransmitter dopamine wells-up to trigger optimism.
While cortisol and dopamine can take us on an emotional roller coaster within story, the chemical all persuasive leaders want to excite in our minds is oxytocin. In this TEDTalk, neuroeconomist Paul Zak describes his experiments that test how oxytocin helps people connect and build trustworthiness. He calls oxytocin the Moral Molecule.
Zak does an excellent job of presenting his premise, especially given that the science can be over most of our heads. Watch his TEDTalk and answer the following 10 questions about his delivery. This will help you become a better presenter, especially if you are tasked with creating meaning around an esoteric topic like how oxytocin may be the most critical hormone to keep our society sane.
- How does Zak use his backstory to connect with his audience in a surprising way?
- How does he use theater to excite oxytocin in his audience?
- What metaphor does he use to describe the character of oxytocin for us lay-people?
- What is the primary emotion that Zak says connects us to other people?
- What story does he interject to underscore his premise on oxytocin as the moral molecule and how does he suck you into the narrative?
- What name does he call the five percent of the population who cannot produce oxytocin and why is this strategically important at this part of his TEDTalk?
- How does he use imagery, story and audience interaction to increase the momentum of his presentation?
- On average, how much oxytocin does Zak say is released when we use social media?
- What simple act is the most powerful way to get people to feel the benefits of oxytocin?
- What is Zak’s call to action?
- Bonus question: How did he foreshadow his final theatrical conclusion to bring the audience full circle and underscore the promise of his premise?
Now ask yourself how you can use these storytelling techniques to make your presentations more moving and you more trustworthy in the minds of your audiences.
For a great example of how smart communicators use storytelling to connect, build empathy and trustworthiness, and move people to action, see this powerful video by UPS. See if you feel the surge of oxytocin in your system?
Bonus Feature: Here is the four-minute video Zak used in his studies to create oxytocin in his test subjects.
How are you using story to create the irresistible cocktail of cortisol, dopamine and oxytocin in your audiences?