The Words That Took A Man To The Moon (And What He Said When He Got There)

Monday, July 21st, 2014 by Simon Morton

Today is the 45th anniversary of the Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon.

Whether you believe it was one of the greatest examples of just what the human race can achieve or prefer to think that it was flung together in a back lot in Hollywood, there is still much for the modern presenter to think about.

While the motivation behind landing on the moon was largely scientific it became something much more, getting to the moon was about showing off – which nation would have the ingenuity, resource, finance and let’s be honest, sheer kahoonies to get there first?

The stage was set seven years earlier when US president John F Kennedy gave his address at Rice University on the Nation’s Space Effort. You may not be familiar with the speech in its entirety but I’m pretty sure there’s a phrase you will probably have heard “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard”.

This one sentence played a large part in swaying the American public into believing that the moon was an important goal, a justifiable use of limited resources and a profoundly patriotic endeavour – one sentence allowed a nation to dream and mobilised vast resources to achieve a goal with little or no quantifiable ROI.

If every sentence was that powerful, I’m sure that presenters everywhere would need to be more thoughtful about what they said.

But the linguistic inspiration doesn’t stop there.

At 02.56 GMT on July 21st 1969 Neil Armstrong used just 12 words to convey an event and a feeling that no-one listening could begin to comprehend (and one of those was lost in transmission). “That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind” is an oft quoted phrase because it achieved what all great communication aims for – complexity through simplicity.

Only 12 people have actually walked on the moon, yet many of us feel some connection with, and understanding of, the experience because those words encapsulated the whole thing so graphically.

If every sentence had that power to create that depth of empathy and emotion, presenters everywhere would need to be more careful about what they said.

Words themselves have no power at all, but the phrases that marked the beginning and the end of the race to the moon share something that every presenter can use to their advantage.

Both phrases were delivered with an integrity and an intensity that connected with their audiences emotionally.

Emotional connections are often dismissed as being a bit ‘touchy feely’ – they’re borderline new age gobbledegook and not at all business like. But in the race for customer engagement addressing your audience on an emotional level can make a huge difference to how they relate to you and your product or service.

Here at Eyeful we’re at the forefront of understanding the why and how of emotionally connecting with your audience. The Presentation Lab book has a whole chapter dedicated to achieving this (page 210) and we’ve developed a methodology we call Audience Heatmaps to help you find the right balance.

Not every presentation will have the power to loosen the purse strings at Congress or inspire a million children to dream about rockets, but you can make a difference to your audience, simply by understanding them better.

Simply pick up the phone or drop us a line to find out more…

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