The power of presentation

In the last month, I’ve read several articles that explored nonverbal communication and some of the psychology behind the way people engage with messaging, specifically advertisements, and it got me thinking about the question of presentation versus message. We often see mediocre ideas and messages triumphing over higher quality content simply because the presentation wasn’t as effective. Our world is undoubtedly becoming more and more visual and the sound bites we use to communicate are shrinking. While this poses a challenge for people in the industry of communication and storytelling, it also serves as an opportunity to explore ways to captivate audience members through simple adjustments in overall presentation.

People tend to be moved by emotion, so it seems logical to start there when dissecting the tactics that convey messages successfully. An article I read on Street Directory discussed color and how different hues speak to specific emotions and associations of our subconscious. With the rapid growth and popularity of Pinterest and Instagram it’s clear that people respond strongly to visuals. But what makes one image superior to another? It could very well be the content of the photo, but often it is the quality and colors that move people to action (whether that be sharing, pinning, liking, etc.). I didn’t realize that I personally have started associating certain colors with brands or even industries. Take my phone, for example. I have all of my apps in folders and it’s actually interesting to notice how many of the logos are the same color based on category. Because we interact with logos and brand images all day long we subconsciously begin to link color palettes to specific functions. It’s funny to see and hear the reaction when these are changed. For example, when GAP revamped their logo and introduced a new black and white color scheme a couple of years ago, the public went crazy criticizing the changes. The company ended up reverting back to the blue version.

2010 GAP Logo Change


Similar to the silent language of color is the world of nonverbal communication. Facial expressions, gestures, posture, eye movement, proxemics (essentially personal space), paralinguistics (tone, volume, inflection, etc.) and appearance are all unspoken behaviors that communicate far beyond the reach of the actual content or words used. All of these components influence audience perception and decision-making, especially when the message includes a call to action. It really is amazing how influential even the most minor of adjustments to these devices can be to the overall presentation and penetration of an idea or message. 

I think of body language as like a person’s energy, and it’s totally contagious! I remember two distinct examples from past internships where one client meeting was led by someone who never made eye contact, was fidgety and very cold in terms of their behavior toward the rest of the group. The other meeting was led by a woman who looked everyone in the eye, shook hands, made gestures during conversation and was smiling the whole time. I remember being immediately captivated and excited to work with the woman from the second meeting based on her mannerisms and the way her actions made me feel both comfortable and important. I think in both cases the nonverbal communication set the tone for the meetings and directly impacted the level of engagement everyone in the room reciprocated.

Thanks to technology, these may not be top of mind or even applicable when the message is being disseminated through mediated lines of communication. But people still thrive on human contact, and that’s such a huge part of the work we do at Curator and in any field.

Reaching Your Invisible Audience

As Mobile World Congress 2012 wrapped up in Barcelona last week, company announcements contributed further evidence to the growing innovation of mobile and communication technologies across the board. Described last week by InformationWeek as a “mobile melting pot,” the annual event represents companies from across the globe, with varying cultures, languages, business focuses and product offerings culminating in one location for one week. With this level of pioneering ideas spawning from continents from all hemispheres, it would be easy to assume that the needs and wants of nearly every consumer worldwide would be addressed by one of the products and/or services that were spotlighted at this year’s event. Especially in the realm of mobile communications, the idea is to appeal to the masses. Many have viewed smartphones as a gateway to placing innovation in the hands of everyday users.

But what these devices fail to recognize is the full scope of their potential audience. The Economist brought this challenge to the forefront last month when it acknowledged that users must be able to both read and write in order to gain the communication benefits of simply text messaging. Even with today’s function of text to speech transfer, this still excludes the population that is deaf or hard of hearing.

This got me thinking about a broader question: As communicators, are we capturing the attention and appealing to all of our audiences? How many people are we failing to effectively reach? All of a sudden the hundreds of communication platforms spanning from mobile, print, social media and beyond that we often complain about being overwhelmed by now serve a much greater purpose – to connect in a more meaningful way with a broader audience. Multimedia messages are beginning to help address the issue of communicating with an illiterate and/or hard of hearing population on a mobile platform, as The Economist points out. But what about the rest? Are we addressing the needs of all stakeholders when we cultivate a message?

This should make us all think twice when we’re trying to communicate a message, whether it is in our everyday lives or for business. Who are all of our audiences? Are we speaking to them directly? And, even more importantly, are we connecting with them as effectively as possible? Thanks to the many innovations that continue to be introduced to new markets across the globe, we all have a better shot of accomplishing these goals. But we also still have a long way to go.