Get Real, Get Emotional, Get Excited!


In Erik Wahl’s closing session at ATD 2015, he got the crowd whipped into a frenzy of excitement, eager to get back to work and make disruptive changes to their corporation. I’m not being hyperbolic when I say I saw 50-year old men whooping and hollering. We jumped until the floor shook. We cried. We left the room feeling galvanized and inspired and unstoppable. So how did he do it, and how can we evoke the same response from our employees?

#1: Great Content

Erik didn’t share much in the way of facts and figures, but what he did say immediately resonated with his audience because he connected it to ideas we already believe to be true. For example: Try using crayons to take notes in a meeting. This will help you channel the creativity that flowed so freely when you were a child. In fact, studies have shown that just the smell of a Crayola crayon can reduce an adult’s stress levels by 10%.

You don’t find that hard to believe, do you? You know the olfactory sense is the strongest sense connected to memory, and you remember the fun you had playing with crayons as a child. But it probably never occurred to you to harness these memories to promote creativity in the workplace. This combination of new ideas with old information is what got people so excited.

#2: Great Passionerik wahl

From the minute Erik took the stage, his audience could tell he was passionately invested in his work. As music played, he whipped out a canvass and began to paint with his hands, singing along all the while. He didn’t speak, or give any explanation, he simply created art right in front of our eyes, and this art elicited a very emotional response in his audience (which was surprising to me, but probably shouldn’t have been). Combining visual arts and music, he was able to connect with everyone in the audience.

Later in his session, he allowed himself to get emotional in discussing the financial ruin thereon that caused him to turn to art. Taking a deep breath to steady himself before sharing the details of his personal tragedy, he held the audience enrapt with his emotional appeals. Whether this moment of weakness was intentional or not, the emotion was real.

By communicating new ideas based on familiar concepts that resonated with his audience on an emotional level, Erik brought down the house and left a lasting impression. I’m proud to call myself not only a fan, but a student of his work and an avid supporter of disruptive innovation. Check him out!'

Author: Kate Salmon

Communications specialist and general word nerd from Toronto, Ontario. Upon learning that I could still get a degree in rhetoric in the 21st century, I went to the University of Waterloo to do precisely that. Now I’m continuing my learning journey at Learnography, a non-profit education consulting organization that really practices its principles of continuous development. With a great team of former educators who are dedicated to creating transformative learning experiences, we are changing the face of corporate training.

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