Susan Weinschenk has a Ph.D. in Psychology and over 30 years of experience as a behavioral psychologist. She applies research in psychology to predict, understand, and explain what motivates people and how they behave. Dr. Weinschenk is the author of several books, including 100 Things Every Presenter Needs To Know About People, 100 Things Every Designer Needs To Know About People, and Neuro Web Design: What makes them click? She is a consultant and keynote speaker for Fortune 1000 companies, start-ups, non-profit agencies, educational institutions, and conferences. Her clients include Walmart, Disney, The Mayo Clinic, Charles Schwab, and Best Buy. Her clients call her “The Brain Lady”, and she writes a popular blog, What Makes Them Click.
In this conversation, Susan discusses her new book, 100 Things Every Presenter Needs To Know About People.
Geetesh: Tell us about your new book, “100 Things Every Presenter Needs to Know About People” – and how is this book different than your hugely popular book for designers.
Susan: When I wrote the first book, 100 Things Every Designer Needs To Know About People I knew that the “Things” applied to more than design. Basically they were 100 Things to Know about People. I’ve been a teacher/presenter/coach my whole career. A friend asked to coach someone who was running for public office on presentation skills. I found myself talking to him about many of the “Things” in the design book, and so decided that I would write a different version of the 100 Things and aim the “Things” at presenters.
About half of the “Things” are the same as from the previous book, but applied to creating and delivering presentations. For example, I talk in both books about the idea that people don’t really multi-task, but they switch from task to task quickly. If you are designing software you need to take that into account, and if you are creating and delivering a presentation you also need to know that. But the particular do’s and don’ts are different based on whether you are designing a product or creating and delivering a presentation. People are the same whether they are using a website or listening to a presentation, so that’s why many of the principles hold for both situations. But what you as the designer or you as the presenter should do now that you know about what makes people tick is different. In both books I have “Take-aways” at the end of each “Thing”. The take-aways are really different even if the “Things” are the same.
Then about half of the “Things” in the new book are different. For example, I have a whole chapter on How People React To You that covers how people respond to tone of voice, hand gestures, body language, etc, that were not in the first book.
And, lastly, there is a chapter in the new book that isn’t “Things” at all, but is a method for structuring presentations for maximum impact and persuasion. Essentially in that chapter I give away all of my presentation secrets!
Geetesh: How do you research the fascinating ideas you put in your books, and then put these in words that are plain English?
Susan: I approach the content of my books from many angles.
- When I’m not writing books I spend a fair amount of my time reading other people’s books and research articles. So I am always collecting insights and ideas from books and scholarly papers. I keep info on these ideas. When I decide to write a book, I review all my books and articles that I’ve been collecting. So that’s one source.
- Next I usually pull down all my classic books on the topic from my bookshelf. These are the books that I’ve read a long time ago, and/or books that summarize the science in a field. I take notes on important ideas and concepts that I should include in the book.
- Next I sit down and start writing a list of important concepts and topics that I think are critical to the topic of the book I am working on. Some of these ideas are covered in 1 or 2 above, but others I have to go research and get data on. So that’s the research part.
At that point, I have a lot of research and a lot of ideas, but then I have to pull it altogether — the “plain English” you mention in your question. I usually will have a series of “a-ha” moments that inspire me and give me ideas about the type of approach I want to take — the overall structure and theme of the book. So I’ve got the overall structure (from insight and inspiration) and I’ve done the research. Then I have to sit down and actually write. In some ways figuring out how to write the book — exactly what to say — is the part that is the most fun, and also the part that is the hardest. It’s really hard work! I sit at my computer (my MacBook Pro laptop) for hours and hours and think and type. When I am writing I write for several hours every day. I have two favorite “writing chairs” in two different rooms in my house. I alternate from one chair to the other. It’s just a lot of thinking and typing! That’s the first draft… Then there is several months of editing, fact checking, and choosing or creating illustrations. It’s a lot of work, but it’s work I really enjoy.