Beyond the Conscious Filters

Modeling Excellent Presenters

Many speakers are so fixated on organizing content of their presentation, that they are more focused on the conversation in their head and fail to relax and connect at the unconscious level where the real communication occurs between people.  In Doctor Albert Merhabian’s famous study of face-to-face, one-on-one communication in the context of ‘liking’ between people it was shown that only 7% of the communication a listener pays attention to is Verbal in nature. That included focus on words and meaning.  Of the remaining 93%, 38% was Vocal including how something is said as in voice characteristics like pitch and tone.  That left 55% of the impact of communication between people at the Nonverbal level including body posture, movement, touch and other tactile sensation.

To be in full communication and rapport with an audience, the vocal qualities and body movements should be in alignment with the all aspects of the message including the emotional content.  Considering that 7% at the communication is taken in at the Verbal level and is processed primarily by the conscious mind, and as Psychologist, Birdwhistell later pointed out about Mehrabian’s seminal study, 93% of communication is received at the unconscious level of communication as Vocal and Nonverbal, the emotional aspect of the message is not likely to be communicated by a presenter whose focus is only on the ‘verbal’ or consciously directed part of the communication.

Presenting At Both Levels

High Performance Presenters speak to both parts of the minds of their audiences. The Conscious Mind collects and evaluates information by analyzing and critiquing.  Conscious processes demand structure and organization and it has limited information storage.  But the conscious mind (7%) is the tip of iceberg.  In brain research, the functions of the left-brain relate directly to how we describe Conscious Mind.  It operates from mathematical, logical, linear thinking, has limited storage capacity, and tends more toward procedures, and a more specific or detail-oriented mindset.  Left brain function is also less emotional.

The unconscious mind, or right brain, is involved in subjective experience.  The Right Brain can collect vast amounts of information and store it in various ways of encoding and tends toward options and functional scope is more general or big picture-oriented.  The right brain is less structured and can hold memories from an entire lifetime and has large storage capacity.  Memories tend to be accessed with emotional feelings attached to them.  Right brain function is in general more emotional.

Inviting Evaluation vs. Creating An Experience

A presentation directed to the conscious mind invites evaluation and analysis and utilizes more left brained characteristics.  Audience members may comment that “The talk was good, but I disagree with a few points.”  A presentation focused more on right-brain communication might elicit a comment that, “The talk was great!  I feel really positive and inspired to do more.” An experience was created.

A strong positive belief of High Performance Presenters is that they trust that their message got embedded and new thinking is likely to result regardless of whether people can specifically repeat back exactly what was said in a particular order.  Belief systems are often expanded among members of the audience and new ways of looking at things are created.  The message and the learning are likely to impact the individual over time in a number of different ways.  The most persuasive messages are not recorded in the conscious mind, but are embedded in the unconscious mind.  Right brained communication techniques naturally tend to take advantage of this phenomena.

Getting Your Audience Out of Their Heads

To create a powerful experience with your presentation, you must actually interrupt the conscious evaluation patterns of your audience.  You’ve heard the phrase, “get out of your head.”  To interrupt the pattern of evaluation and judgment is a process of switching people to a more right-brain processing mode.  Many speakers are afraid of evaluation and take it as judgment.  They tend to miss chances to bypass left-brain, conscious processing in order to speak directly to the unconscious mind.  Unconscious communication goes to the ‘heart’ of the audience.  One good way to reach the unconscious mind of your audience is by using high impact techniques.

High Impact Techniques

High Impact Techniques include the use of metaphor, or the telling of stories.  Others are jokes to elicit laughter, demonstrations with audience members or objects.  Even high value statistical input can be impactful and creates a sense of credibility in the message and the person delivering the message.  HIT’s allow a presenter to bypass the conscious mind and put the audience in a light trance state and these states occur whenever a good speaker presents to an audience.

Stimulus Variability

Normal adult listening time is 18 minutes or less. You can count on the attention of your audience to begin to roam in search of other things to focus on.  HIT’s give you a major tool in order to supply the mind with things to roam toward or refocus upon.  A good rule of thumb is to supply a HIT about every ten (10) minutes.  This will continually keep your audience engaged in what you are doing and saying.  Use multiple techniques and approaches and maintain a variety of Stimulus Variability events throughout your presentation.  Changing an overhead every 10 minutes is likely not to be enough.  Effective stimulus variability or HIT’s are generally delivered in an unpredictable manner.  The audience should not know what is coming next. They intention is to keep your audience anticipating and keep them engaged in the process.

Stimulus Variability is directed at the unconscious mind.  Here are some examples:

  • Have people stand up, sit down, etc.
  • Ask your audience to look right and/or left, then make some point
  • Move across the stage
  • Tell a compelling story to demonstrate your point (metaphor)
  • Ask a directed question to an individual
  • Deliver a hand-out
  • Have people talk to each other
  • Ask people to write something down on paper
  • Do a demonstration
  • Use music
  • Call on someone to share
  • Cite credible sources
  • Use frozen hand gestures
  • Drop something that will make a loud sound
  • Mark out a position on stage and walk to that position to deliver a particular type of information

These techniques and many more are the subject matter in the upcoming NLP Presesnters Training and NLP Trainer’s Certification.  Contact Bill Thomason 602 321-7192 in Phoenix, Arizona USA to learn more or navigate to:

OR to register now:

OR if you have prerequisite NLP Practitioner and NLP Master Practitioner Certifications:


By Bill Thomason