Give Your Audience a Right-Brain Break

By Heather Baldwin

Presentations are so full of data – processing speeds, years in service, numbers of satisfied customers, potential revenue increases. Whew! It’s enough to make the left side of any brain need a vacation. This is why you need to fill your presentations with what Dorothy Leeds calls right-brain breaks. Leeds, a speaking coach, author and presentations consultant to top sales organizations (, says right-brain breaks use stories, metaphors, analogies and other tools to engage listeners’ right brains and get them to picture and feel things. “People say yes for emotional reasons,” explains Leeds. “The more you can get people to picture things, the more successful you’ll be.”

Leeds uses a technique she calls the PEP formula to help her clients engage their audiences’ right brains. PEP stands for point-example-point, with the last point being a paraphrase of the first one. For example, say you want to show a prospect your product’s high rating. Using the PEP formula, you might say something like this.

Point. Our Web conferencing service is the most highly rated in the country.

Example. I know you read the Wall Street Journal, John. You may have seen a survey they did last month comparing the five most popular Web conferencing services in the United States. We came out ahead in every category, and one of our customers was quoted as saying we had enabled their company to double revenues while cutting costs in just six months.

Paraphrased Point. So you can be confident that with a publication such as the Wall Street Journal saying our functionality, reliability and ease of use is the best there is, our product will deliver as promised.

Prefacing the example part of PEP with phrases, such as it’s like and for example, signals listeners that their left brains are going to get a rest, which will cause them to pay attention. Say you’ve got a prospect who plays a lot of golf. If you’re selling him on a product that will motivate his employees when they most need it you might say: Using our product is like hitting a hole-in-one in the middle of an off day on the links. You get an enormous boost in confidence and motivation that increases your performance for the rest of the day and beyond. If the prospect remembers nothing else about your presentation, he’ll remember the feeling of hitting a hole-in-one on a tough golf day.

PEP makes numbers real, too. If you can liken a number in your presentation to something tangible, people will remember it. Leeds once cut out an article about a Jupiter probe in the New York Times. The piece said the probe’s speed “is like going from New York to California in a minute and a half.” Like most readers she couldn’t remember the actual numbers, but the analogy stuck.

Look through your presentation, says Leeds, and find ways to give your listeners right-brain breaks. “You might use a story. You could use a quote or a visual aid. There are many ways to make an example,” says Leeds. “Just don’t give the audience a laundry list of facts.” If you do, she cautions, both sides of their brains will take a break.