How to Implement the Law of Effect in Innovative Presentations

By Ray Anthony, Barbara Boyd

Use the Law of Effect to activate or change people’s behavior in your innovative presentations. Politicians, sales and marketing professionals, and others who strive to influence and persuade people to act in certain ways use this law.

Edward Thorndike, the psychologist known for his work on animal behavior and learning, developed this law. Based upon a stimulus-response reaction, the Law of Effect states that responses that produce an enjoyable or satisfying effect in a particular situation become more likely to occur again in that situation, and responses that produce uneasiness, discomfort, or some other negative effect are less likely to occur again in that type of situation.

If you give an innovative presentation and your audience obviously got a lot out of it, then they will be more eager to attend and participate in your future presentations.

You can say that the Law of Effect relates to carrot-on-a-stick rewards and punishments. For example, if a person regularly gets speeding tickets while driving too fast, at some point, after spending lots of time in driving school and court appearances or paying fines and lawyer fees, she’s likely to slow down because of the unpleasant and undesirable consequences.

Competent skills trainers, motivational speakers, personal trainers, and business coaches use the Law of Effect to help people learn, develop new skills, build confidence, and be inspired to excel. When it comes to giving a presentation or speech, evoke the Law of Effect in the following ways:

  • From your laptop or tablet, show brief, compelling testimonials or success stories about how your products, services, programs, or innovations generate positive consequences for the users. Likewise, subtly communicate the negative consequences for people who don’t take advantage of your recommendations. Before-and-after examples often persuade people to act.

  • If you recommend change of some kind, focus on the (greater) probable positive gain versus the (lesser) possible risk, problems, or inconvenience associated with the proposed change.

  • Compliment and praise people in your audience when they provide constructive comments about your presentation points. This way of psychologically rewarding people’s supportive comments encourages more of those in the audience to speak up in ways that approve of and endorse your information.

People are fearful of taking unnecessary risks. Be very mindful about how you communicate things that may indirectly or subtly invoke fear, anxiety, concern, remorse, or guilt — unless your strategy is designed to solicit negative feelings to further your goals.