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Make Your Presentation Audience “Indistractable” with Nir Eyal


Creating “Indistractable” Presentation Audiences with Nir Eyal

It’s no secret that we live in an age of distraction. 

It’s easy for most of us to blame distraction for our inability to get stuff done. But today’s guest has a completely different mindset, and the science to back it up.

I am excited to introduce you to Nir Eyal, celebrated consumer behavioral psychology expert who has a zone of genius in customer engagement. 

As a matter of fact, MIT Technology Review dubbed him the “prophet of habit-forming technology.”

Author of two books, the bestseller “Hooked: How to Build Habit Forming Products” and the newly released “Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life

And in this episode, Nir Eyal, provides insight into habit-forming presentations, the psychology that makes some apps so successful, and how to use that information for making an impact to your audience. 

He shares his wisdom about the three parts of a habit, the external triggers that other people have studied and written about, and the internal triggers he has studied, especially around escaping discomfort. 

In This Episode, You’ll Learn…

  • How Nir’s fascination with the psychology behind why people do what they do began around middle school. 
  • His experience with writing the book “Hooked.”
  • The distinction between addiction and habit-forming and why it is important to distinguish between them. 
  • The basic psychology of internal and external triggersWhat motivates all of human desire. 
  • Why identifying a pain point is crucial for presentation success. 
  • Nir’s new book, “Indistractable,” what it is about and why it is important. 
  • His unique insight about how to create an indistractable presentation audience

People, Resources, & Links Mentioned:

How to Keep Up with Nir:

Thanks for Listening!

Thanks so much for joining me. Have some feedback you’d like to share, or a question for Nir? Leave a note in the comments below, and we’ll get back to you!

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If you liked what you heard, I would love if you could leave me a rating or review in iTunes. Ratings & reviews are extremely appreciated and very important in the rankings algorithm. The more ratings, the better chance of fellow practitioners getting to hear this helpful information!

And finally, don’t forget to subscribe to the show on iTunes to get automatic updates and never miss a show.

A very, very special thanks to Nir for joining me this week. And as always, viz responsibly, my friends.

Do you have a burning question for Nir about truly reaching your audience and making an impact, or either of his books? If so, ask away!

Lea Pica: Hello, hello. Lea Pica here. Today's guest is best known for getting customers and presentation audiences totally hooked. Stay tuned to find out who's creating a buzz on the Present Beyond Measure Show, episode 47.

Lea Pica: Hello. Hello. Welcome to the forty-seventh episode of the Present Beyond Measure Show. We are back to school at the only podcast at the intersection of presentation, data visualization, and analytics. This is the place to be if you're ready to make maximum impact and create credibility through thoughtfully presented insights and ideas. So summer's coming to a close and millions of parents are breathing a collective sigh of relief that school is back in session. Unless you homeschool. And that's totally cool too.

Lea Pica: Now, I've been trying to get today's guest on the show for years. I am so thrilled because from the very first keynote session I watched of his, I saw it was expertly designed to engage the audience and engagement is this guy's zone of genius. I can't wait to share the amazing tips that he had for us today. All right. Let's set it.

Lea Pica: Hello, Hello! So today's guests famously writes, consults and teaches about the intersection of psychology, technology, and business. The M.I.T. Technology Review dubbed him the prophet of habit-forming technology. He's an active investor in habit-forming technologies such as Eventbrite and And in addition to his blog at His writings have been featured in the Harvard Business Review, Tech Crunch and Psychology Today. And he is the author of the best selling book Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Nir Eyal. Welcome.

Nir Eyal: It's great to be here. Thanks so much for having me.

Lea Pica: Oh, it's really my pleasure. I had my sights set on you for about the last two years I would say because we both spoke at Conversion Excel Live in 2016. I think it was. But we didn't actually meet. But I will never forget the keynote that you gave because I was still kind of on the cusp of building my pro speaking career. And I just remember thinking how memorable certain parts of that were and how polished and powerful it came across. So we intersected again and this time in the Netherlands at Conversion Hotel. Right. And I got to see you again. But this time we finally got to me. And what was so interesting was that in your presentation, you actually talked about a psychological trigger that you incorporated into your talk, which we'll get to in just a second. But I thought it would be such a fascinating spin for this show.

Nir Eyal: Yeah, well, first of all, thank you so much for the kind words. It's very, very nice of you to say. And yeah, I love talking shop about this stuff. So this should be an interesting conversation.

Lea Pica: Great. So everyone loves a good origin story. How did you end up in the field of understanding what makes people's habits and what makes addictive habits? And how do you get to start speaking about it?

Nir Eyal: Yeah. So I think my fascination began in my childhood if I'm completely honest. So I was clinically obese at one point in my life. But until I, you know, maybe shortly past puberty in high school is when I kind of started losing weight and taking care of my body. But until then, I remember being in this constant struggle with my weight and food. And it felt like these external factors were controlling me. I didn't feel in control of my own decisions in my own life. And so that's where I think I really became fascinated by how a product can so profoundly change your behaviors and change your decisions. And so that's what I always had a fascination around, you know, from a young kid. I remember watching shows that were, you know, all geared towards helping kids make better decisions or helping kids see through the manipulative nature of advertising. And I always thought that was really interesting about how products could change behavior. And so, you know, fast forward to let's say this was two thousand and eight. I started a tech company in the gaming and advertising space and I had this front-row seat. This was 2008 was the year, if you'll recall, that the Apple iPhone was launched. The App Store, the Apple App Store was launched. Facebook was still pretty much a nascent platform at that point. And we launched this company that promoted advertising within apps.

Nir Eyal: And back then, apps didn't mean iPhone apps. It meant Facebook apps. That was kind of the only apps around, which was before the Apple App Store. And so I had this front-row seat watching different apps kind of come and go. And I didn't really understand why some attracted millions of users and others kind of faded away. And I really want to dive into the psychology behind how some of the world's most habit-forming products are designed to be. So. So what makes Facebook and Instagram and WhatsApp and Slack and Snapchat, why are these products so habit forming? And so I read everything I could on the topic and I didn't really see a book that answered the question in a way that I was satisfied with. And so I decided to write that book. So I did a lot of research. I spent a lot of time in the Stanford Library talking to people who helped build these products, talking to researchers and psychologists. And that became a blog that I wrote on called Nir and Far is still right there, And then one day my one of my former professors from Stanford Business School reached out and said, hey, I really like your stuff.

Nir Eyal: It's very hand in glove with the stuff that I teach in my marketing class. What if we did a class together? And so he kind of gave me carte blanche to help make this class. And he was heavily involved. And in that class, I taught that class with him and then that class turned into another class that I taught with a different person at the Stanford Design School where I taught for many years. And so and then that also became my book, Hooked: How to build habit-forming products. That, you know, amalgamated everything I learned into what I hope is a very practical way for people who are designing the kind of products to help people, you know, to help them live better lives, to help them form healthy habits. Right. The idea is not to build frivolities. To Facebook and YouTube. You know these techniques and they have for quite some time. My idea was, how can we use the same psychology that makes Facebook and Instagram and WhatsApp and YouTube so sticky? How can we use that same psychology for good to make all sorts of products that can help people build healthy habits, make them, you know, design them to be better?

Lea Pica: Well, I really love the mission that you have to really take a look at the mechanics behind what makes these so addictive.

Nir Eyal: Habit-forming habits that addictive, addictive interaction is by definition something that harms the user.

Nir Eyal: Actually, my publisher wanted me to title the book, How to Build Addictive Products, and I absolutely refused because addiction is very different. And addiction is a pathology, whereas a habit is simply a behavior done with little or no conscious thought. And we have, of course, many good habits. There's no such thing as a good addiction. Addiction, by definition, harm people.

Lea Pica: Thank you for that distinction. I've actually been using them pretty interchangeably in my mind. And, you know, when people describe something they love, they use that word. And, you know, I'll definitely be more mindful of that going forward. But I also really appreciate the mission that you have in terms of how to create products or services that actually help people, but also leverage those mechanics as well. So as many people who need that product or service can get it right. Yeah. So I really appreciate that. And, you know, what are some of the triggers that you talk about in your book? And I what I saw in terms of your I think it was called the Hook Framework. I saw some commonalities to some points I read in a book called Atomic Habits by James Clear.

Nir Eyal: And he mentioned a few times in that book. Yes.

Lea Pica: I saw that. That was great to see. So it's I find the psychology behind what forms great habits and attraction to a product or service. So fascinating. So I'd love if you could speak to that a bit. Yeah, sure.

Nir Eyal: So the basic psychology of a habit is that there are these three parts of a what I call a trigger, an action or reward. Now, you know, there's been a lot of books and a lot of research for years and years, decades and decades, well before me or James Clear or Charles Duhigg or whoever the author du jour about habits writes about. But, you know, the definition of a habit is a behavior done with little or no conscious thought about half of what you do every single day. And what we see is common among all habits is that they are contextually cute. So there's some kind of trigger to prompt us to action. Now, the differentiate. I think what I add to the conversation is that I differentiate between what's called an external trigger and an internal trigger. That an external trigger is something in our environment of paying a ding, a ring, something that from you to action with some kind of information. So it can be, you know, a notification on your phone. It could be a vending machine. It could be a television.

Nir Eyal: It could be anything that prompts you to action in your environment. And that's kind of how people generally think of habits. But there are also I think what's even more important is what's called an internal trigger. And an internal trigger comes from something inside us. Right. Because all human behavior, all human behavior is motivated out of the desire to escape discomfort.

Nir Eyal: Yes. That is something most people don't realize.

Nir Eyal: You know, most people subscribe to this Freudian notion, what he called the pleasure principle, which says that we pursue pleasure and avoid pain. And that's not exactly right. But in fact, everything we do is about the escape of discomfort. Use me all motivation. It's pain all the way down. It's called a homo static response. Sorry. So what do you think about when you are cold? That discomfort of being cold makes you put on a coat. When you're hungry, you feel hunger pangs and you eat. And so those are physiological responses. We see the exact same phenomenon occur for psychological discomfort when we're feeling lonely. We check Facebook when we're uncertain. We Google when we're bored. We might turn on the television or read the paper or check sports scores or check Reddit. Whatever the case may be. So everything we do is spurred by the desire to escape discomfort. So when we build a habit-forming product or create any kind of behavioral design, whatever it is, we want our consumer, our listener, our audience, whatever to do something, we always have to couch it in the language of alleviating their discomfort. We have to understand what their internal triggers are.

Lea Pica: And, you know, as this show centers around the presentation and creating influence and inspiring action, my wheels are turning right now in terms of what if we also look. At presentations, whether it's a conference room, board meeting or an industry conference, how those could serve or be considered a product or service that you want to create some of these same triggers around, and I can see pain avoidance or discomfort of lions being a big part of that, right. Part of what we're doing when we're presenting information is we're articulating a problem that our audience might have and we're expressing that we might have a solution around it.

Nir Eyal: Absolutely. It's called the WIIFY. Right. What's in it for you?

Lea Pica: I like that.

Nir Eyal: Yeah, that was Joey. I can't remember his last name. He wrote a book about this. And I don't remember the last name. The first name is Joey.

Lea Pica: We'll find it.

Nir Eyal: Yeah, you'll find it. But he talked about this WIIFY of what's in it for you. And this is a very common mistake. We see when speakers get on stage and they talk about here's my pedigree and here's my background and here's what I've done and here's this and here's what they need me. Nobody gives a shit.

Nir Eyal: What they care about is what problem are you solving for me? I see this so much with academics. God bless these academics who are terrible public speakers because if it weren't for them, I wouldn't have a career. Right. They do so much fascinating research and they can't get it outside the ivory tower because they can't communicate why this matters for their audience. It's all about why it was so interesting for them.

Nir Eyal: But if it doesn't resonate with the audience in terms of solving a pain point if you can't identify their internal trigger, they're not going to care.

Lea Pica: So in the conversion hotel talk that I saw, I saw one really effective trigger that was fun for everyone. But in the context of what you're talking about now, how is it that you are able to speak when you're speaking to audiences? What's the pain point that you're helping people alleviate the discomfort around?

Nir Eyal: Well, where I now have these two primary talks and one is based on my first book and the second is based on my next book. So the first book, What's Been Keeping Me Busy and what I've talked about when we met is about how to build habit-forming products.

Nir Eyal: So the the the problem what's in it for you isn't it remarkable that we spend so much money acquiring customers and then we just lose them? Right. Ray them engage. We all know that it's way cheaper to keep a customer than to find a new one. So wouldn't it be great if instead of spending all that money on marketing and sending people spammy messages that they hate? What if you could get people back to your product or service on their own because they wanted to, not because they felt like they had to use your product, but because they genuinely wanted to use your product. So what if we could learn from the same psychology that makes gaming so sticky and Facebook and Instagram and WhatsApp? Why don't we use the same psychology to build healthy habits using the same techniques? That's the what's in it for you for Hooked now with my next book. My next book that's coming out September 20 19 is called Indestructible. Indestructible, as is the subtitle is How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life. And the idea here is that you know, many of us feel like we are constantly pulled from one thing to another. We're concealing distracted and we can't do what we say we're going to do. And it answers this question that I struggled with. Look, I know what to do, right? I've read plenty of self-help books. I know that chocolate cake is not as healthy as eating a healthy salad. I know I should exercise. I know when I sit down on my desk, I should work on that hard project instead of, you know, checking the news or sports scores or e-mails or slack channels. I should just get to work on what's really important.

Nir Eyal: Why don't I do it?

Nir Eyal: The reason is because we live in this age of distraction that there is so much coming at us. Now, what I learned from all that and what to give away too much, but what I tell that is that I went on this journey that doing what all the self-help books told me to do, which is get rid of the technology. Right. The is the problem, the distraction, and a problem. And it turns out the distraction is never the problem. The real problem is what's going on inside us. Back to those internal triggers. What I discovered was, you know, I did all these techniques. I did a digital detox, I did that, but I did digital minimalism and it didn't work. And the reason it didn't work was back to my experience of being obese. I would go on these fad diets of, OK, 30 days, no carbs, 30 days, no fat, 30 days, no junk food. Right. Well, guess what happened on day 31, right? Everything all right? Because I bounced back. And the reason I bounced back is that I hadn't dealt with what was really going on inside of me. So let me tell you if the reason that you're using your cell phone when you're around your kids, as I did. That's kind of how I open the book. Is it this experience that I had when I realized one day, oh, my God, you know, I wrote the book Hooked and now I'm hooked and I'm with my daughter. And yet now I'm on my phone as opposed to being fully present with someone I love. I got news for you and for me, it wasn't the phone. It was that I was looking for an escape. Right. And all distraction is this desire to escape discomfort. Back to those internal triggers. So if you don't understand what those internal triggers are yourself, then it's going to be very hard to manage distraction. However, if you understand and you can master you. Internal triggers, nothing can distract you. It doesn't matter how powerful their algorithms are. You will be indestructible.

Lea Pica: That's so incredible. And first of all, does it make you crazy when you see people get on their phones while you're speaking?

Nir Eyal: Actually, no know. Funny enough, I love it. I just don't believe they're tweeting you. That's a good point. But that's actually not why.

Nir Eyal: The reason is, is because as a speaker, you know, when you've done this for a while, your talk becomes a little bit of a script and you're kind of an actor on a stage and you're just, you know, reciting your lines and you don't know how you did until afterward. And even then, it's kind of shaky. The thing that cell phones provide is instantaneous feedback. So I can tell. The energy of the room by looking around and seeing how many glowing faces I see.

Nir Eyal: If I see a lot of glowing faces, it means I'm boring. I need to step up the energy. I need to engage people more. I need to make more eye contact. I need to get down into the crowd to engage people because that means I'm boring. And frankly, look, if I'm listening to somebody else's talk and it's boring, I'm going to use my cell phone because they haven't done a good job of keeping me engaged near.

Lea Pica: That's one of the most effective like in-flight tools that I've gotten from any guest on this show that I've never thought about. Value-added. Look to the glowing faces to gauge how you're doing. And you know, for me, I had always I had looked at that as a reflection of like, oh, gosh, what am I doing wrong? But I never thought to be conscious, like, OK, where am I? In the talk right now? And what can I evaluate about that?

Nir Eyal: Absolutely. It's hard. It's hard to make changes on the fly and is only so much you know, of course, you can add energy, you can get into the crowd. There are some things you can do. But, you know, if you consistently see a lot of people looking at their phones, that's not a good sign. Something's not going right.

Lea Pica: That's incredible advice. And the other thing that really jumped out at me when you were talking about two books. What's funny is that you talked about the way not to go about it is to walk up on stage and go, I'm a customer retention expert. This is what I do. But instead, you started with a hard-hitting question. That was like, isn't it remarkable that we spent so much money and effort acquiring customers and not retaining them? And for me, that jumped out as one of my favorite tools right now that I use from Ted, which is called the through-line. And it's basically one sentence that summarizes your entire talk and it's the connective theme that all ideas eventually tie back to. And what I think is so powerful is that you made that a question around a pain point people try to avoid. Oftentimes I've done statements about like overarching themes, but I thought that was really powerful.

Nir Eyal: Thank you. Yeah, no, I found that before when I first started talking, I would try and pack in so much into a car.

Nir Eyal: That's that's a novice mistake. Right. To try and, you know, barf out as much information as you can. And I still am guilty of this to some extent, especially if I fight, if I don't have much time on stage. I tend to talk very fast, as you can probably tell by now. And that's always a mistake. I mean, if there's one piece of feedback that I consistently struggle with is that I need to slow down, which means I also need to edit away a lot of the things I want to say. Yeah. For the sake of giving people just one through-line, one hard-hitting, I need a takeaway.

Lea Pica: Exactly. I love that. So, OK. During your conversion hotel talk, you did such a fun thing. You baited the audience by asking them about a powerful psychological trigger and you actually made them wait for it. You like leaned forward and you were like, can you guess what it is? And everyone leaned forward. So can you describe it?

Nir Eyal: Sure. So so the idea I was trying to impart was this idea around variable rewards and variable rewards are this very old concept that comes from operant conditioning. The psychology spending would be a skinner back in the 1940s and 50s. He took pigeons and he put them in a little box and he gave the pigeons this little disc to pick up.

Nir Eyal: And every time they picked up the disc, they would get a little reward, a little food pellet. And at first, he could train these pigeons to peck at the disc as long as the pigeons were hungry. But then he ran out of these food pellets. He literally didn't have enough of them. And so he started to give them to the pigeons just, you know, intermittently. So one time the pigeon, we could get the disc. I'm sorry. One time the pigeon would get the food pellet. The next time they wouldn't. And so what he found was that when he gave them on a variable schedule of reinforcement, is that the rate of response a number of times that these pigeons pecked at the disc increased when there was a variable reward as opposed to a fixed schedule of reinforcement. And so I wanted to demonstrate to folks how to create desire, how to create this I this this this itch that. People often feel when they are given a variable reward, and the way I did this was to ask this question, would you like to know how to manufacture desire? I was curious about how to manufacture desire.

Nir Eyal: And then I went silent and it felt in the room. It always does. It feels like I'm silent for like five minutes. It's ten seconds, literally counting to ten, but everybody sitting there staring at you. What you're gonna say next? What's going to happen? Why isn't he talking? Did you forget his lines? What's the goddamn answer?

Nir Eyal: And it turns out that that is the answer that I'm doing into the crowd. The crowd is now being real, has received a variable reward. There's uncertainty, there's mystery and that long pause. When I change my cadence, when I took a break, when I asked a question, baited them to then, you know, sit on the edge of their seats and ask themselves, what's next, what's the answer, what's going to happen?

Lea Pica: I thought that was so clever because the trigger was the exact thing that you were doing. And I think that that's a really powerful storytelling technique when you're trying to maintain people's attention rather than just talking ad nauseum for 40 minutes. You know, after I saw that talk, I was inspired to look at mine and say, where can I create a little bit more anticipation in here? And, you know, I got creative and I was like, what is the most important visualization tool I could possibly give you right now? You really want to know? And they're like, yeah, I know you do it.

Nir Eyal: I was pretty explicit with it. I said, okay, this is how to do it. See, I just did it to you. But you don't have to be that explicit. You can absolutely do it in a way that people don't know what you did to them just as you did. I'm just taking a long pause and people think you're being very dramatic.

Nir Eyal: Yes, they are holding on to every word you're saying.

Lea Pica: Right. If if you can practice and you really nail it, it can be so effective. Clearly, it worked so well. So what are some of the more powerful elements? You know, I'm sure you see a lot of talks in your line of work. What are some of the ones that really stand out to you where you're like, oh, they're good? They're on to people's brains.

Nir Eyal: You know, the ones I like the most are the ones that overturn apple carts. I love the speakers for that. Say, you know, I know you think the world is this way, but actually, it's completely different. That to me, adds a lot of value. That's the kind of talk I like. Now, not everyone likes that kind of talk. A lot of speakers, you know, like to reinforce.

Nir Eyal: They like to rabble rouse. They like to say, OK, we all agree around this. Right. Right. You know, and that's a strategy. That's a tactic. Right. You can. You can play off of fear. You can play off of tribalism. You can. And when we see this a lot in our political discourse of, you know, echo chambers, that people like to go to a political rally to hear stuff they already know. They're not there to learn. They're there to bond and reinforce their insecurities that they're OK. Because, look, everybody else around me believes what I believe.

Nir Eyal: That doesn't do it for me. That's not what I admire. To me, that's a very shallow, shallow kind of public discourse. Well, I really enjoy is, you know, I'm here among a bunch of liberals, and I'm gonna tell you why. You actually don't see the world the way it is. And I'm going to show you why actually this small idea is actually correct or I'm a bit in front, a bunch of conservatives. And here's the liberal idea that you may not expect that you actually probably agree with. If you know blah, blah, blah or whatever. But to do that is really hard to change. Minds to help people see the world differently is really, really tough. Very hard. Right. Talk about habits. You know, our most prevalent habits are the ones in our heads, not the behaviors, not the brushing our teeth or flossing our teeth every night. It's the habits of belief. I am what I am. And you can't change me. I believe what I believe and you can't change me. That talk about habits, right. We don't look for scientific evidence every day to see if we're right. We just you know, we do it with little or no conscious thought. We think we like what we like and believe what we believe because that's the truth. And that's who we are. And of course, scientifically, that's not at all true with the heart. Our beliefs are very much shaped by others in our environment. We believe what others believe. And so anytime that, you know, speaker for me can make me see the world differently, that's what I love. And that's why I do what I do. That's where I inspire me. And if I can give that to an audience, then I find that to be very satisfying.

Lea Pica: I love that so much. And you're right, it is really challenging if you know, you're going into the lion's den with a controversial message. For me, I've always liked to at least try to inspire the minds that are listening or change the minds that are open. And this reminds me of the value systems that Mark Manson talks about in his book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Beep, where he talks about what you said, it's the habits are more the belief systems where we're measuring the success of something in our lives. Based on an unconscious program that we have no idea is even running. Like, for example, in presentations, bullet points are kind of like an unconscious program. It's all we know how to learn when we're putting information on a slide and we read from them verbatim. It's there's no other habit that said, no, this is a better way. So teaching people that there is an alternative strategy is challenging because at first, they're like, oh, I get it. I know why now. Other presentations are so bad. But then I'm like, oh, now I have to change my own habits.

Nir Eyal: It's. Yeah. And, you know, a lot of it is we don't realize how influenced we are by the human desire to escape discomfort by our you know, humans are like water. We take the path of least resistance. Yeah. You know, one of the very common errors that I see all the time is people, you know, novice speakers reading from slides where they have this wall of words and they say they do it because they want to inform their audience. But the real reason is because they don't want to memorize their speech and they want to read the text off their slides. That's a lack of preparation, right? Like, I know it's hard. The worst part about my job is how I have to run through a new presentation again and again and again, the part I like least of all.

Nir Eyal: But that's what it takes.

Nir Eyal: I think it takes memorizing your speech so that at an if your slides go dark and they can't figure out how to get them back up, which has happened to me on more than one occasion. I can still deliver that talk as it all appears. Right. Everything you see on the slides is just, you know, reinforcing with an emotional picture. But, you know, there's very, very little text on my slides. But then, you know, most people that's not at all what they do because they feel like, well, if I don't have this, the text on my slides, what am I gonna say? Right. Exactly. That's for your benefit, not for your audiences.

Lea Pica: Yeah. No, absolutely. And I think once you integrate it into your system to a degree where it just flows with you and it flows out of you, that's where you want to get with your material. You don't want to leverage that as a script that everyone is reading.

Nir Eyal: Well, that's that's where I think it's the most fun. Is that when it is so, you know, level one is the person who reads off the slides. Level 2 is the person who's memorized the slides.

Nir Eyal: But you can tell that they've memorized. Right. Level 3 is the person who's memorized what they're going to say and can have this meta-awareness where the words will come out and they can focus on how they come out. Right. They can focus on landing the punch line. They can focus on the guy in the first row who's on his phone that you're going to make look up from their device because now you're gonna be super entertaining too. But you can only do that after you're confident in what you're going to say.

Lea Pica: I agree with you. It's like you achieve a place of living inside of it. And that allows you to actually play with it and move beyond it if you need to. I think it's so great.

Nir Eyal: But it takes a lot of memorization. I wish I wish someone could teach me the secret of how to memorize lines faster because I don't know if I wish there was a secret technique.

Lea Pica: The TED method, which I did for a 15-minute poem that I had no slides for. It would only be up here. I did their method where I repeated it, sections of it again and again until I wasn't even until I could multitask while saying it. And then I stitched it together.

Nir Eyal: How many hours it would take you to memorize a 15-minute talk.

Lea Pica: Well, that day was the most memorization. It probably took about five hours, but before that, maybe three hours. But I have a pretty good I have a pretty good memory for these kinds of things, like as a singer.

Nir Eyal: So that I mean, it's not fun.

Lea Pica: No, no. I was in panic mode for most of it.

Nir Eyal: It's not fun to memorize it. Right, for 15 minutes. You've spent hours and hours. Do I hear you? It is not a fast process.

Lea Pica: And you're in panic mode for most of that, because the minute you hit a flub, you're like, oh, that's gonna take me down. And then, yeah, but at some point it all gels. And for me, it gelled actually at the live reading.

Nir Eyal: Awesome. Yeah. Yeah. I dunno, sometimes you see speakers who just go on stage and can just I know talk. And the thing is I used to be in all of those folks and I think that there are people who can actually get on stage and truly be interesting just, you know, off the cuff. Yeah, but there's a lot more people who think that they're interesting who are on stage because they haven't prepared.

Nir Eyal: And I have no sympathy for that. I mean, what a waste of an audience at a time when you haven't bothered to memorize what you're going to say.

Lea Pica: I agree with you. And for me, the preparation. I like to get to a point where I know I am having the main ideas I want to get across are solidified in my mind because I don't want to walk off that stage going, Oh, I forgot this and I forgot that. Yes, that's the word I used to do that. And I mean, you can accept that because you're like, no one knows what you forgot. But at the same time, you know what, you. The main things you wanted to get across. So I know a certain degree of preparation gets me to a place where I feel like I'm absolutely bringing my best self.

Nir Eyal: And for a Q and A. It's fine, right? Expect off the cuff, you know. They don't want to rehearse the script. But yeah, when it is OK. Give a presentation and, you know, talk about your book. Talk about your discovery. Talk about your research. Talk about, you know, the WiFi. Right. And you have it memorized. I hate that.

Lea Pica: I know. Well, near I know you didn't have a lot of time today. So I'll jump down to our final question. Imagine this very plausible scenario. You are running the JP Morgan 5K completely barefoot. When you suddenly trip and fall into a vortex that pulls you back to the moment you're about to deliver your first presentation. What were you speaking about and what would present-day you say to yesterday?

Nir Eyal: Whoa, you're springing on a good question. There's a lot. You asked me beforehand, what's my hobby and hobby that many people don't know about is that I like to run barefoot. That's why you said you were running barefoot and I run barefoot. New York City. Believe it or not, been doing that for a few years. Yeah. I read this book called Born to Run, which kind of influenced me to which I recommend. It's a great book. OK, so let me see. So take me back. So I fall into a vortex. I'm taken back my very first talk.

Lea Pica: Mm-hmm.

Nir Eyal: What do I wish I would have known back then?

Lea Pica: And what were you talking about?

Nir Eyal: What was I talking about?

Lea Pica: If you remember.

Nir Eyal: I do, actually. My very first public talk as I was running this was back when I was a very chubby kid. I was running for vice president of the student council and my seventh grade in front of my entire school, my and my entire middle school. And I don't know about you. My middle school experience was horrible. I had heard of a middle school.

Lea Pica: Let us never speak of that time period.

Nir Eyal: I was a very chubby kid growing up in Orlando there. Note with his weird name near nobody. I was very. Yeah, and oh, actually my blog near and far was because that's what kids use to make fun of me on your father's though. And I was running against the most popular prettiest cheerleader in school and I won actually that I think had I. You know, it's funny. OK. I don't know if we have time for this, but I'll say it

Nir Eyal: So I had prepared a speech in the form of a rap.

Lea Pica: Yes. Tell me there's footage of this somewhere.

Nir Eyal: No, thank God this was before social media. Nobody did so. Okay. So my brother, who's 7 years older than me and I have two brothers, my middle brother said, hey, you know, I hear the the the school speeches to MA that you're running for vice president. You know, born you practice your speech. And I said, really, you know, you want me? Okay, here it goes. And I did this speech. This rap.

Nir Eyal: And he was like, no, you are not doing that. And that is horrible. So he said, get in the car. We are going in right now to the middle school. And he took me to the stage. They had set it up because it was the day before the elections or his talks or whatever. And he told me, get on stage and we're gonna redo this right now. And he/we wrote the talk right then and there, he started with basically the same principles that we've been talking about. What's in it for you? Right. Like so you're what? You're the audience is the student county is the student body. What's in it for you if you vote for me? And it was very much about that. And I won the election in some ways. And it was a real life-changer for me because I was very insecure. I was very I didn't have many friends, you know, felt very kind of secluded. And I beat the cheerleader.

Nir Eyal: I couldn't believe it.

Lea Pica: Oh! Congrats Nir!

Nir Eyal: Really, I think changed my life seeing the power of talking from the heart. Here's why I want to be vice president of the student council. Here's what I want to do. And not a gimmick, not a stupid rap.

Lea Pica: Oh, my gosh. And I think what you're proving, which is so true through today, is I think authenticity will trump popularity. You know, as soon as you're relatable to an audience or group, you will tap into exactly how you can serve them. And I think that will always overcome an image of what people would aspire to be.

Nir Eyal: You couldn't have said it better, authenticity. That's that's it.

Lea Pica: I love it. Well.

Nir Eyal: That's the first time I've told that publicly. By the way.

Lea Pica: Breaking news here.

Nir Eyal: I've got to get some e-mails or somebody who hears this and writes back. I remember that speech in your seventh-grade class.

Lea Pica: I remember I revealed that I was on where in the world is Carmen San Diego? They were. Oh, yes. The geography of a lot in common in terms of seventh-grade experience. People, what. Were you also on it?

Nir Eyal: No, I wasn't I but I watched it every day.

Lea Pica: I was a contestant on it. And I discussed that during a talk because it's a fun fact. And someone found a video recording of it, from like 30 years ago.

Nir Eyal: My God, the Internet never forgets. That's amazing. No, I can't wait. I'll be looking for after this. I need to put on the show now. I want to see that. Did you how did you do, did you win?

Lea Pica: No, I don't. That's okay. I tried my best, though. Did you find Carmen San Diego? Where was she?

Nir Eyal: She was hidden. And I think Bolivia in South America. I didn't, I bet too low in that lightning round of where you wager because I'm not much of a gambler and someone just, like, blew past me. They bet it all, taught me about risk-taking.

Nir Eyal: Great story. I love it.

Lea Pica: I'll send it to you.

Nir Eyal: Where in the world? I remember it. Yeah.

Lea Pica: Well, unfortunately, our time has run out. I could talk so much longer. But please tell the listeners where they can keep up with you.

Nir Eyal: Absolutely. Yes. My blog is and near a spent like my first name and I are so. And my first book is called Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products. And in the fall of 2019, I will be publishing Indistractible: How to control your attention and choose your life.

Lea Pica: Well, I am putting that second book my preorder lists like ASAP because it is really fascinating. We blame our sort of environment and our ADHD for being so distracted and we use it as a reason why that's OK. But really looking internally at what's going on I think is so valuable. So if all of those links and his blog are going to be on the show notes page for this episode. Thank you so much for joining and near. Thank you so much for taking time out of your very busy schedule. I think that this offered some really interesting tools for people to use with their parents.

Nir Eyal: So glad. My pleasure. This was really fun. Thank you.

Lea Pica: I feel like this show keeps getting better and better with the amazing wisdom that these guests are dropping. That was just. Yeah. So it's a catch-all of the links and the resources and gets access to the nearest book mentioned in this episode. Visit the show notes page at I would love if you could leave me a comment or suggestion because I want to hear about the challenges you face when presenting information and really making an impact.

Lea Pica: And today's presentation, Inspiration is anonymous, but it is perfect to close out today's theme “Starve your distractions, feed your focus.” What's my take? Well, as presenters of data and ideas, we are competing for the attention of our audience with more distractions than ever before.

Lea Pica: I think that Nir's book could be so valuable not only to help us understand what makes an audience minds tick but to help you take the focus that you need so that you are getting the best possible job done. A lot of times you'll hear people complain that I don't have the time to do a presentation like this, but I would argue that our time is being taken up more and more by these distractions.

Lea Pica: And you can learn about how you present information in a way that is so compelling that the audience's distractions will fall by the wayside and their focus is completely on you and your story. That's it for today.

I'm wishing you an amazing close to the summer and a brilliant start to fall. Namaste and Namago.

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