What a 20 Year Navy Leader has to Say about Human Behavior, Influence, and Persuasion in Public Speaking
Say hi to Chase Huges — a leading behavior expert and a U.S. navy leader. #1 bestselling author of two books on tactical behavior skills. He is the author of the worldwide #1 bestselling book on advanced persuasion, influence and behavior profiling.
Behavior profiling is the process of assessing how a person or a group of people is reacting by analyzing their body language. With 20 years as a leader in the U.S. navy, Chase has been obsessed with human behavior, body language, psychology, and how to influence people by using non-verbal communication.
In this episode, he shares some of his favorite tactics and the subconscious behavior indicators you should look for when communicating with people.
You would be shocked by how many signs there are for someone to give away how they feel about what you’re talking about without them even knowing. The episode is a gold mine for speakers so listen now and write down everything you can because this will transform the way you interact with people in any conversation.
When I started I had no experience in public speaking at all. I probably spent 50 hours watching YouTube and I would watch really good presenters — people like Mark Bowden who does a fantastic job of talking. He just captures people’s focus in a way that I’ve never seen.
How do you prepare for a presentation?
A lot of my actual preparation is I look up some of the people on LinkedIn. As many people from the audience as I possibly can. I look for how they describe themselves, their image, what kind of a person they are, but that’s not the place to look.
The place you wanna look to develop a profile of your audience is going straight to the section where they have given reviews and recommendations to other people. This is where people give praise that they would like to receive themselves.
What are the words and language they use to compliment other people? Those are the words they need to hear themselves.
Next, I’m going to figure out what’s the most high-impact information I can possibly give. Right at the beginning of any speech, I’ll start with the most shocking thing that I can probably tell this audience cause if I don’t get the focus in the first 30 seconds — I’m done. Also, if I don’t close really well, they’re not gonna call me back.
They’re gonna remember the beginning and the end more than the middle. So those are the things I need to make sure I got dead on. But I wanna make sure that I’ve structured it for that audience.
The reasons your audience makes decisions
The reason your audience is going to make a decision to do something is based on the mammalian brain. There’s a difference between telling people vs showing people. Simply telling something is not triggering the animal part of our brain.
It’s not a part capable of language. To talk to the animal brain we have to show it images, we need to make the human part of our brain to communicate a vivid image down below.
If somebody says “I was stressed” that doesn’t give us an image.
But if they say “my fists were so clenched up, I was fidgeting…” — they describe it so you can paint a picture in your brain.
Words that paint a vivid picture
We’re not just painting a picture to make our story vivid, we’re painting a picture so the mammal brain understands it.
The last time you went to buy a laptop or a new TV, you think in your rational brain “I did the research, I checked the pricing”, but in reality, our mammal brain makes those big decisions.
The mammal brain is the one that drives focus, and if we have focus — we’re talking to that brain and we’re able to communicate in that imagery.
We make decisions based on emotions, but we support them with data.
How long does it take to research your audience?
At least a couple of hours. It’s absolutely 100% critical — audience research is everything.
Use the audience’s questions to connect deeper
If you’re a speaker — never answer a question from the audience without getting that person’s name. So that way we’re not only developing rapport with that person, but we’re also showing that we care who we’re speaking to.
Notes and info processing
If I see a bunch of people taking notes I will just stop and I will let them take notes.
From a psychological perspective — nobody in the audience fully processes what you’re saying until you stop talking.
Subconscious human behavior indicators
I realized I can use my behavioral profile skills as a speaker. One of the cool ones is something called “blink rate” — how often a person blinks, measured by blinks per minute.
The average blink rate of most people in a conversation is like 15 to 20 times per minute. the more stressed or disinterested a person becomes — the higher the blink rate is. During a movie that has captured your full attention, you might blink around 3–4 times a minute!
No one is ever really aware of their own blink rate. Since we’re not aware, it’s an unconscious indication that’s almost 100% reliable.
As a speaker myself, I’m looking around the room making eye-contact with people for a few seconds at a time. If I’m watching how fast they’re blinking, I can get an idea of what’s the average blink rate of the room.
I know that if I’m doing my job correctly as a speaker, and I want to get the actual number ill just look around for 15 seconds, count the number of blinks, multiply that by 4, and that gives us 60. Which gives us the average blink rate of the entire room.
Watch for the crossing legs in the crowd
A sign of discomfort that speakers need to look for is people uncrossing their legs. If you see more than one person uncrossing their legs at the same time — something has caused discomfort in the audience.
Or if you see the audience squeezing their lips together, that’s unconscious disagreement.
So, blink rate, uncrossing legs, and squeezing lips — these are some of the things we should be looking for as a speaker to adapt and fine-tune your speech and behavior.
The “My friend John” technique
If we’re trying to communicate something that might be sensitive or emotional and we communicate to other people that it happened to someone else — it’s removed from the situation.
So if I’m describing me in first-person experiencing a car crash then you have to imagine that more vividly.
And if I’m explaining somebody else getting into a car crash — it’s easier to distance yourself from it.
So what I’m doing by saying that “my friend did this” is it takes it out of the context of you and me. This makes it easier for your mind to automatically accept it. So it’s easier for the brain to accept when we’re talking about another person and you’re emotionally detached from the situation.
It’s less likely to scrutinize it and check it to make sure that everything is okay.
How to analyze a big audience on the spot
Let’s say you’re booked to speak at an event and there are 800 people there and you’re not gonna go through 800 LinkedIn profiles and you’ve no idea who you’re talking to.
So you get on stage, lights are super bright, and it’s hard to see anybody.
So what you’re gonna do is you’re gonna use those behavioral profiling skills from the very first few seconds. Right at the beginning, you’re looking for people crossing their legs, nodding their heads, being relaxed and you’re looking for that low blink rate.
Within the first 3 to 5 minutes, you will have a psychological profile of your audience. You don’t know exactly what it is, but you know what they respond to.
Be mindful what you communicate subconsciously
I would say that if you need slides or notes — that’s a big problem. We really need to master our craft and the moment that we communicate uncertainty or doubt to our audience — we’ve lost them. Not just their attention, but our own credibility.
The moment we see something that causes any type of discomfort or disagreement, we need to change the topic or maybe backpedal a little bit.
One last tip for presenters
Never stand behind a podium. It’s a fatal mistake if a person cannot see the full body of another person — we lose trust very quickly.
We can’t determine the intent of another primate unless we can see their body. If you’re on stage and people cant see your whole body and you’re stuck behind a podium — then we lose trust, we’re manufacturing mistrust, doubt, and uncertainty.
A person’s brain will continue to look for evidence of the initial belief. Even if evidence to the contrary is present, they’re only looking for evidence to support their initial gut feeling about you.
You can listen to the full podcast interview here.