“Remove top and push up bottom”…

…not such great instructions for a deodorant stick, even if in theory that is how to use it. This was how David Parrish opened with his Keynote speech at the EVCOMference 2015. The topic was The Art and Science of Communication and David’s talk was about how communication can go horribly wrong, but also how getting it right can be so valuable.

Rather than a précis of his talk, I’ll share some (slightly paraphrased) quotes that perfectly sum up his point:

“The average man speaks 3,000 words a day, the average woman 7,000 – we communicate differently, so we need to be communicated to in relevant ways”

“Harley Davidsons are ‘The solution for a middle-aged accountant, dressed in leather, riding through small towns so people are scared of them’ – according to the CEO of… Harley Davidson. Know your audience”

“Waiters who repeat back customers orders verbatim receive on average 40% higher tips than their colleagues who don’t. Customers like to feel reassured that they’ve been heard.”

Next we heard from Vicky Bullen of CPB. She spoke on the system 1 and system 2 parts of the brain (intuitive and rational). She described how you should seduce the subconscious in order to convince the conscious. Essentially, human stories evoke the strongest responses and in order to communicate successfully, we need evocative stories backed by trustworthy values to get our message across.

The last talk of the morning was by Dan Bennett at Ogilvy Change. This was a mind-opening talk about how Nudge Theory really can persuade people to change their behaviour. Simple actions can have dramatic consequences – e.g. smiling more makes you happier, standing tall makes you more confident and a light touch makes someone more agreeable to you (though too much touching definitely has an opposite and undesired effect!).

We rounded off the day with Will Store reflecting on The Science of Storytelling and how we’re all heroes of our own internal narrative. Communication can take advantage of this by telling stories that allow us to superimpose ourselves within them. Will explained how storytelling in Asian cultures is different, often closing with no resolution and leaving the audience to interpret their own meaning from a series of seemingly disconnected events. Once again, know your audience and remember that we’re all narcissists, really!