Thursday, August 8, 2013

Captivating and Mesmerizing

The process of communication and persuasion begins with captivating your audience. (Remember: an audience can be one person or more.) This includes more than captivating their eyes: you want their ears, minds, and hearts.

In the late 1700’s, Franz Mesmer would bring people to his palatial home in Paris where he claimed he was able to heal them through the use of magnetism. As you walked through the doors you would smell the fragrance of orange blossoms and incense wafting through the air, and hear the singing of an unseen soprano being accompanied by a harpist. The young male attendants, all incredibly handsome, were dressed in vivid colors. The entire scenario was crafted so as to captivate and to produce an atmosphere conducive to Mesmer’s ends. This is where we get our word, mesmerize.

Consider how an elegant restaurant utilizes smells, music, d├ęcor, how the wait staff is dressed, and at the setting of the tables, all to captivate your senses. The intent is to give you a memorable experience: one where you will wish to return again and again. If they do their job, you will be captivated — mesmerized — and become a committed patron.

Consider a cathedral with its architecture, its paintings and sculptures, music and incense: all are crafted to captivate you and lead you—your thoughts and your senses—into a particular experience.

How you craft your presentation so as to captivate your audience is critical to the goals of your communication. Your dress, how you utilize your voice, how you stand, sit or move as you speak, as well as the ambiance you create in the room must all be carefully planned and processed, if you are to truly keep your audience mesmerized.

Of course, if people feel that you are merely seeking to distract them with smoke and mirrors so as to take them somewhere they do not wish to go then you will not realize your outcome. If they believe that your actions are a game to hide your lack of substance, that you are “all sizzle and no steak,” "all hat and no cowboy," "all shot and no powder," "all bark and no bite" ... Phew, sorry ... got a bit carried away there ... not only will you fail to attain your outcome you will probably never have another opportunity to communicate with these people again.

Captivating people is not about manipulating them—as that word is typically understood, anyway. Captivating or Mesmerizing is about holding people’s full attention in a way that supports the intentions of your communication. Anything short of inspiring trust will definitely not be supportive of your outcome.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2009

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