Creating contagious content
How do you make an idea sharable? Jonah Berger’s book “Contagious” has some shareable ideas that are relevant to professional speakers looking to make sure their ideas live on after they leave the stage.
Have you ever listened to a speaker, and then days (or in some cases, moments) later, you’ve forgotten nearly everything they said? While it’s natural that you won’t remember everything, if nothing sticks, what was the point of going to listen to them?
On the other hand, there are speakers out there who immediately elicit action from their audiences. What they say has impact. When they give you a call to action, you can’t wait to do it. You feel like their message has changed or challenged you in some way.
These are the speakers who get booked over and over. The ones with forgettable messages are… well, forgettable.
While charisma certainly has something to do with it, much of what it takes to be memorable to audiences can be learned and developed. There are steps you can take towards becoming a speaker who is memorable — whose message impacts audiences and the world.
Jonah Berger is an expert on how to shape a message that will grow organically. He looks at what it is exactly is it that makes some ideas spread, what makes people remember them, and want to share them. Berger shares ideas in his book Contagious — why things catch on
Contagious: Why things catch on
Our friends over at SpeakerLoft recently published an article that pulls out the top 6 principles from Contagious: Why things catch on. When we went through the ideas, we knew right away that we needed to share them with you.
If you would like to jump to the original article on SpeakerLoft, simply scroll down to the bottom of this article.
Without further ado, here are the top 6 principles that relate to professional speakers, and how to use them to make your message stick.
1: Social currency (help make the audience look good)
People are social beings, and if your product or idea can help people elevate their social status, then you’ve met this criterion.
When you speak about a topic, sprinkle your talk with interesting, easily transmitted facts.
Then when audience members share those facts with their friends, family, colleagues, or potential clients, they will be seen to be knowledgeable on the topic.
Make this easy for them. Keep your statistics clear, easy to remember, and shareable.
Be sure to keep up with the latest research, so audience members will feel that they can spread some new light on an issue when talking about it with others.
To use this: Sprinkle your talk with easy-to-remember, bite-sized facts, insights and statistics that they can share.
2: Trigger action by making your idea relatable
People need to know how to put your wisdom to use.
Descend from the realm of the abstract into gritty reality.
What we mean by this is: put it in layman’s terms and make it applicable.
If you talk about handling leadership issues, like managing employees with destructive behaviour, don’t talk about employees with destructive behaviour. Talk about Suzy who always bad-mouths people who are not present, or Carl who never lets anyone finish what they’re saying in a meeting.
What you talk about needs to be specific and relatable. The audience needs to imagine themselves using the information. If it is too theoretical, this makes it harder for them. Whereas if it is relatable, it will trigger them into taking action or thinking about how exactly they will use the information.
To use this: make a list of the practical information from your talk, then come up with ways to showcase exactly how it can be applied to real-life situations.
Bonus tip: Use actual stories from your clients. If they mention specific challenges, work these into your talk.
3: Don’t be afraid of emotions
Don’t be a robot. Passion sells, love sell, anger sells, enthusiasm sells.
You know what doesn’t sell? Boredom.
You need to work with rousing emotions from the whole spectrum — not just positive ones.
Emotions are a powerful way of relating to your audience members.
They are emotional too, and knowing that you tango on the same emotional dance floor makes you relatable.
It gives them the feeling that you are in this together.
To use this: Emotions are like colors in a painting. When telling a story, show how you felt, by using emotive words and clear imagery. Use contrasting emotion strategically to send your audience on a rollercoaster-ride. Don’t be afraid to take them low, then bring them back up again. Watch out for sticking to a solitary emotion. Switch it up: make them happy then sad, then awe them.
“The more public something is, the more likely people will imitate it”
Berger talks about an idea being public as a central component of it being shared.
This might not seem immediately obvious…but stick with us for a moment.
Being public means that you can see people using the product or idea. It has to be something they can imagine themselves using, doing, or saying. They have to be able to see how it fits into their public life. This is essential for getting shared.
Always aim to create a message that has some longevity that will continue to generate interest and remain popular as more people become aware of it.
Think of how your audience can use your idea in a public environment, both online and offline. Lean on things that are already in the public eye, and weave these clearly into your message.
5: Practical value
Practical value is an individual aspect in “Contagious”.
Your message needs to have actual value for the audience member if it is going to live on after you get off the stage.
To have practical value, it often needs to solve a specific problem. If you can’t clearly outline the problem and then show the audience exactly how to solve it, then your talk doesn’t have much practical value.
It is worthwhile thinking about the practical everyday use cases of what you tell people. Don’t be afraid to spell it out for them if you need to. Tell them “Here is the problem.” and “Here is the solution”. The clearer you are here, the better.
Telling you guys about storytelling is like preaching to the choir.
I’ll limit myself to saying that storytelling too has been identified as a chief component of contagious ideas.
Information is the blind passenger of a good story, according to Berger. I’d only add that all of the above points 1–5 are easily transmitted through a great story. Really this just seems like a good way to wrap up the book — it is, all in all, a good story.
Not sure about your storytelling skills? We’ve got a ton of resources that can help:
Closing the book
If you want to create a message that spreads, there are certain principles you can put into practice to make this happen.
Jonah Berger has outlined them clearly in his book Contagious — why things catch on. The most important thing to make your message shareable. You can do this by making sure you have transmittable insights, facts, and statistics, that you solve an issue many people have in a practical, applicable way.
If you’d like to see the original version of this article on SpeakerLoft, please visit this link.
If you’d like to purchase your own copy of Contagious — why things catch on, click on this affiliate link.
This was originally posted on SpeakerHub Skillcamp.