What can a marshmallow tell you about your audience?


Whether you like marshmallows or not, a four-year-old child certainly does. What’s not to like? Chewy, sweet, synthetic colorful lumps of candy.  But how long can a child go between a marshmallow?  This was tested in the 1960s and brainy psychologists worked out that the longer a child could hold out – the higher their IQ and generally well-roundedness later in life.

Daniel Goleman has suggested that an important component of emotional intelligence is a concept called “delayed gratification”. People who lack this trait are said to need instant gratification and may suffer from poor impulse control.

The need for instant gratification is a feature of digital natives regardless of whether they like marshmallows or not.  But what has this got to do with presenting?  You don’t need to be a insightful commentator to realise that the developed world is trending towards instant gratification.  We are continually informed with our mobile phones, blogs and now Facebook and Twitter (instant gratification of connectedness). Online shopping means we can continue when the shopping mall closes (some never do!)(instant gratification of consumption). Reality shows, Pop Idol imitations all contribute to this trend (instant gratification of popularity).

Back to presenting, what this means for you is that your audience is increasingly likely to expect a reward during your presentation. A reward? You mean just listening to my presentation is not enough to keep the audience happy?  Don’t they know how smart, witty and insightful I am?

So what rewards can you use with your demanding audience?  It doesn’t need to cost you anything. Let the audience be a part of the ‘journey’, let them take part and participate along with you as the guide. A presentation shouldn’t be a dump of information, it should be a joint discovery. If you ever feel that your presentations are becoming too predictable and canned, it’s time to change it up. Enjoy the journey!

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