Did your team start drifting off during your last powerpoint presentation? Is your latest blog post still looking for its first reader? And - gasp - are your tweets not being retweeted?
In episode 8 of TGIM, we sat down with Carmen Simon, a cognitive psychologist, to find out how the study of neuroscience can help you create content that sticks.
In this TGIM short, you'll...
- Find out the three components to creating a memorable story
- Discover how much of your content people typically remember, and how to capitalize on it
- Learn whether familiarity or surprise work better to entice readers
Check out the full short below:
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Speaker 1: "Okay, we're going to try a little experiment here. Close your eyes and imagine. A lone writer hunched over his typewriter, maybe in his apartment, say Paris 1920s. It's nighttime. The room is dim, light trickles in from a lamp on the street. A single bulb hanging from the ceiling illuminates the room in a warm glow. Beside his typewriter is a glass of Scotch, two ice cubes. The taste, warm and smoky. After laboring away for many hours, the triumphant writer completes his masterpiece."
"This is how we often think making memorable content happens; the artist at work. The reality might be a lot different."
"What if I told you that creating memorable content isn't just an art, that there's actually a lot of science behind it, and that you can apply that science to make more memorable content? Interested? I've got someone I think you should meet."
Carmen: "I'm Carmen Simon. I'm a cognitive psychologist, and I specialize in neuroscience. I use brain science to create memorable content."
Speaker 1: "That's right, Carmen Simon is using brain science to help you make your content more memorable."
Carmen: "Communication comes in various formats. The question is, do we really want to place our memories in people's minds? For how long? What kind?"
Speaker 1: "According to Carmen, the first thing you need to understand is the tension between two forces."
Carmen: "This element of familiarity versus surprise. A lot of people when I ask them, "What stimulus do you prefer? Do you prefer something that you have seen before or do you prefer something you haven't seen before?""
Speaker 1: "Which do you prefer? Familiarity? Surprise? Scientific studies have been done with people in MRI machines. They flash them pictures so fast that the conscious part of the brain can't process them. Then when the people are out of the scanner, they show them the pictures that they saw in the scanner, although remember, they don't know it, along with new pictures and guess which ones they pick?"
Carmen: "They pick the ones that have already been seen. This is because familiarity makes us feel comfortable and safe, whereas novelty takes us out of the comfort zone. Surprise, biologically speaking, is always bad. This is because surprise is a predictive failure. The brain is constantly looking to predict what happens next, and when it can't, we figure out, "This is a learning opportunity, I have to cover that gap.""
Speaker 1: "You want all familiar, right? Not exactly."
Carmen: "However, when you are surprised, the brain releases these opiates that actually feel good, so even though you have that small second where you're thinking, "Prediction error, but I'm enjoying the release that happens after that." That's why for content creation it's often advisable to have a combination of something that feels familiar and then an element of surprise. Neither extreme is going to do as good, because familiarity after a while becomes boring, and surprise after a while is just too overwhelming."
Speaker 1: "Neuroscience lesson? Mix the familiar with the surprising. It's a bit like making a music playlist. You want to have a mix of familiar favorites along with new tracks to discover. What makes a story memorable?"
Carmen: "There have to be some components in just the right proportions in order for a story to work, because not all stories are memorable stories. You still have heard stories that you have forgotten."
Speaker 1: "Carmen says there are three key components to memorable stories. The first:"
Carmen: "Perception. When it comes to perception, if you show people images or you appeal to their senses, whether it's the sense of touch or sound or taste, the more senses you activate, the more perceptive based that content is, the more memory traces you create."
Speaker 1: "Think back to how I started this story. I was actually doing a little experiment. What do you remember? The music? The typewriter? Maybe the taste of the Scotch? See, I was trying to engage your senses, but that's not enough. There's also the second key component of memorable content."
Carmen: "For cognitive we have facts, we have abstract, and we have meaning, and that's where people start from where they think they're sharing stories. They start with the cognitive, and they start with the factual, the abstract, and the meaning of it, because they feel like that's how they bring in value."
Speaker 1: "I put in the facts and details. The writer was in an apartment in Paris, it was the 1920s, but again, facts alone are not enough. Memorable content needs one more thing to be effective."
Carmen: "The effective piece is simply related to creating emotions. When you have a combination of this, that's when you have a strong story. Facts are just zoomed in stories. You're only building into one piece, but that's not the only piece."
Speaker 1: "Appeal to the senses, create pictures, drop in relevant facts, and create emotions. Then repeat."
Carmen: "Often people say, "How do we get more creative in what we do? We want to have more creative content." Creativity is a function of time and a function of volume and a function of expertise. You can't possibly be creative in your content if you create a content once a quarter. You have to create an abundance of content to be able to say, "That was my most creative piece.""
Speaker 1: "Then finally, and this is the most important thing to think about, you have to decide. What are the memories that you want to put in people's minds?"
Carmen: "People will forget most of the things that you tell them, up to 90%, sometimes even more. We're not so worried about that, we're worried about the 10%. Are you in charge of that? Because when we're not in charge of that, people take away from an interaction random things."
Speaker 1: "Not sure about the value of taking charge of the 10%? Here's a little experiment that you can try."
Carmen: "Have you ever been in a meeting and afterwards you're talking to some people and you're saying, "What did you get out of that?" Then they tell you and you're thinking, "Dude, I talked for an hour. That's what you took out of that meeting?" The brain is constantly looking for patterns. This is why we see smiley faces in those sockets, this is why we see Virgin Mary on toast, this is why we see Jesus on tortillas. The brain is constantly looking for patterns. The question is, are you in charge of the pattern that people are going to extract from that content, or are they?"
Speaker 1: "You might be wondering why I chose to end this story with the 10% concept, why I'm repeating it, why Carmen painted a picture in your mind about your last meeting, and why I told you straight out, "This is the most important thing to think about." The answer is because thinking about the 10% that you want people to remember is the 10% that I want you to remember from this piece on, fingers crossed, memorable content."
About TGIM: TGIM is a podcast for people who can’t wait for the week to start. In each episode we’ll be bringing you inspirational stories about entrepreneurs who have overcome obstacles, built incredible businesses, and are now living the life they want.