In our blog post yesterday, we talked about a red wagon, a fire extinguisher, and what makes a presentation RAD. If you missed part 1, check it out now.

RAD is a concept that comes from neuroscientist, author, and educator Judy Willis. She says that in order to make a lesson or presentation memorable, we have to understand three neuroscientific concepts. They are: the reticular activating system, the amygdala, and dopamine. We addressed the reticular activating system yesterday. This brain filter pays special attention to unique information. That means novelty is crucial if we want to make our messages memorable. Today, we’ll look at the “A” of Willis’ RAD concept, the amygdala.

The Amygdala

ThoughtCo. writer Regina Bailey notes that these two small almond-shaped masses of cells actually have some really important functions. They are specifically tied to arousal, fear responses, emotional responses, hormonal secretions, and memory. These are all functions that concern us when we are designing, presenting, and communicating.

The Barrier to Learning

Neuroscientific research has proven that when we feel anxiety or fear, the amygdala senses threat and kicks into high gear. Willis says, “When the amygdala is in this state of stress-induced over-activation, new sensory information cannot pass through it to access the memory and association circuits.” So in other words, we stop processing information and learning because we feel afraid or helpless. Not RAD. Not RAD at all.

So when we are presenting information to an audience, it’s important that we recognize that stress and learning can’t coincide. If you are presenting information that you think might be stressful to an audience, take care to present that in ways that ultimately reassures them. We might not be able to avoid some difficult or disturbing content or situations. But neuroscientific research tells us that we can’t expect our audience to listen or learn while in a state of stress.

Identify the Worries

Think about what it is in your presentation that might worry people. It could be how much money you’ll be asking them to spend. Or your presentation could pose a threat to the status quo. If you are leading a meeting in which you’ll be covering differing perspectives, people may be worried about potential conflict. Your job is to knock down any barriers to communication and learning. That might mean you give them information up front that reassures their worries. In the example of a meeting that has the potential for conflict, you could take some time to lay out ground rules for discussion and debate.

Now that you know about the amygdala and how it can put up a block to learning, you can adapt your presentation accordingly. Just identify potential areas of stress or anxiety that you, or your message, or the context might cause. Then, you’ll need to work to ease the anxiety and stress of your audience so that your message can make it through.

That’s step two in Willis’ RAD neuroscientific learning concept. Join us tomorrow as we wrap up with part three. We’ll explore how dopamine increases attention and enjoyment.

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