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Message, Speech, and Influence

Message, Speech, and Influence
I’d like you to watch the first two minutes of the TED Talk by Hans Rosling, who is a Professor of International Health at Karolinska Institute. Just the first two minutes. As you watch that video, think whether you find Hans Roslng’s message influential. Why or why not? Take a look.
Do you find his message influential? I personally do and I’m guessing that the majority of 10 million viewers who watched his TED Talk online would probably agree with me. But let me articulate the basis for my argument. Heath Brothers who are scholars at Stanford and Duke, identified the characteristics of sticky messages, those messages that are particularly influential. I believe that Hans Rosling hits it out of the ballpark on every single dimension of sticky messages. His message is simple, which helps us remember. He describes developing world in terms of large families and short life expectancies. He describes developed countries in terms of small families and long life expectancies and he shows us how the two converged.
His message is unexpected at times, which helps him capture our attention. He compares students and professors of an elite Karolinska Institute to monkeys. His message is very concrete. Through survey data, he shows that exactly that some of our preconceived notions about the world can be erroneous. Hans Rosling comes across as very credible. In just a few short seconds, in the introduction, he tells you that he’d been teaching global development for nearly ten years. That he has about 20 years of experience working with African institutions on the problem of hunger. He also tells you about the credibility of the data. He has very reliable data on fertility rates and life expectancies worldwide since about 1962. His message is very emotional.
He makes you think about such things as child mortality. He’s very enthusiastic, very passionate about the subject which is contagious. Finally, he tells you stories. He shares with you that he was personally very anxious and insecure about teaching this course to Swedish undergraduates for the first time. Those personal stories make the argument more memorable.
It turns out that the pace of your speech, how fast you talk can make you more or less influential. On this slide, I have a graph where on the x-axis, we have your pace of speech in terms of words per minute and on the y-axis, we have your ability to persuade others. What do you think is the association? Draw your prediction, how fast do you need to talk to be most influential?
The relationship is actually curvilinear in nature. You’re most effective when you speak at about 190 to 195 words per minute. You’re perceived as more knowledgeable, more intelligent, and more objective than someone who speaks more slowly. Now the moment you hit an exceed about 220 words per minute, you audience begins to struggle with comprehension. People also have a hard time differentiating between weak and strong arguments.
You might wonder where Hans Rosling is on this graph and you can see that he hits the effective range pretty well. He averages between 156 and 218 words per minute.
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