Monkey See, Monkey Feel: Why Your Energy As a Presenter = Your Results
Guest Blogger, Lizabeth Phelps
I tell my students all the time: “Your audiences mirror you. If you’re flat, they’ll be flat. If you’re highly analytical, they’ll go straight into their head, too. Make sure you’re emitting the kind of energy you want them feeling.” And I end with, “Your energy equals your results.”
Some students get it, eventually; others never do. You can imagine, then, how overjoyed I was to discover that neuroscientists would heartily agree with my proclamations. It turns out that we have a very special brain cell that is responsible for mirroring the actions and emotions of others.
The New York Times wrote an article on this on January 10, 2006: "On a hot summer day 15 years ago in Parma, Italy, a monkey sat in a special lab chair waiting for researchers to return from lunch. Thin wires had been implanted in the region of its brain involved in planning and carrying out movements. Every time the monkey grasped and moved an object, some cells in that brain region would fire, and a monitor would register a sound:brrrrrip, brrrrrip, brrrrrip."
They discovered that the monkey brain contains a special class of cells, called mirror neurons, that fire when the animal sees or hears an action, and when the animal carries out the same action on its own.
A graduate student entered the lab with an ice cream cone in his hand. The monkey stared at him. Then, something amazing happened: when the student raised the cone to his lips, the monitor sounded- brrrrrip, brrrrrip, brrrrrip – even though the monkey had not moved but had simply observed the student grasping the cone and moving it to his mouth.
It turns out that humans have mirror neurons, as well—that are far smarter, more flexible and more highly evolved than any of those found in monkeys.
So, imagine that during one of your presentations, your brain and the brains of your audience members are being studied for electrical activity. When you feel anything, your brain will register activity in certain areas. Those same areas will be activated in the brains of your audience. The same neural pathways that light up in your brain will be lit up in theirs–instantaneously and unconsciously.
Dr. Marco Iacoboni, a neuroscientist at the University of California who studies mirror neurons, explains, "When you see me pull my arm back, as if to throw the ball, you also have in your brain a copy of what I am doing and it helps you understand my goal…And if you see me choke up, in emotional distress from striking out at home plate, mirror neurons in your brain simulate my distress. You know how I feel because you literally feel what I am feeling."
Daniel Goleman in his book, Social Intelligence, claims that because of mirror neurons, emotions are literally “contagious.” When someone “dumps their toxic feelings on us, they activate in us circuitry for those very same distressing emotions. We “catch” strong emotions much as we do a virus—and can come down with the emotional equivalent of a cold.”
He writes also about “group contagion…which occurs in even the most minimal of groups. When just three people sit face to face with each other in silence for a few minutes, with no power hierarchy, the person with the most expressive face will set the shared tone.” He details a classic study done at Yale University where an actor was hired to be particularly confrontational with a group. “In whichever direction his emotions went, his lead was followed…but none knew why their mood had changed…they had looped into a mood shift. The feelings,” Goleman goes on, “that pass through a group can bias how all the group members process information and hence the decisions they make.”
How and what you emote in your presentations and speeches dictate the results you will get.
“Mirror neurons are leadership tools,” Goleman writes. “Emotions flow with special strength from the more socially dominant person to the less.” From the front of the room—the board room, the living room, a presentation room–you are not merely leading people to act; you are leading them to feel…a far greater influencer. But your power doesn’t end there. If you, the emotional leader, have consistent contact with another, your emotional contagion will literally change the physical structure of their brain.”
This adds a whole new dimension to the concepts of influence and leadership. You have a great deal of power when you’re in front of the room. You can use that power to your own detriment, with flat, boring, serious presentations that activate flat, boring, serious emotions in them. Or you can use it to get what you want for them and for you. It turns out that smiles have an edge over all other emotional expressions; the human brain recognizes happy faces more readily than negative expressions. With a happy face and upbeat, fun energy, you will create a mirror-effect in your audiences: happy faces that walk out wanting more of you.
Like I’ve been saying: your energy equals your results. Give ‘em the best you’ve got!
I am so pleased to be writing this series for Lisa. Next time, we’re going to get off the stage and discuss the strategic business planning that must be in place in order to have on-stage success. Hint: It all begins with target market.
Lizabeth Phelps is founder of Inspired Leaders’ Academy, the definitive business school for visionary entrepreneurs changing the world. Be sure to listen to her special telecall presentation A Time to Lead: Do You Dare? Thursday, February 23 by clicking here.
Comment from Lisa:
I'm honored to have such an accomplished presenter, trainer, and leader writing this series for me on what it takes to become an effective leader for others. This first post piggybacks on my recent post about the importance and value of having Speaking as a part of your marketing mix. Each of the next 3 Wednesdays we'll have another post from Lizabeth about what it takes to become effective in leading others. If your goal is to become a leader in your industry, this is a not-to-be-missed series!
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Marketing, Mindset & Manifesting Coach