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Let's Cut to the Truth

Updated: Dec 7, 2021

You’re bombarded every day with messages in every medium – social, broadcast radio and television, cable news, newspapers, and books. How do you know what’s true?

Steve Brett speaking at a TED session
Steve Brett speaking at a TEDxMed session at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Almost no one reads the primary source material. Most people's opinions are a composite of what they see and hear from others - who think the way they do.

How do you know what’s true? And more importantly for communicators: How do you cut through the noise?

It’s no accident that some people generate huge audiences and their talks drive people to act. What's the secret?

The most effective communicators on any platform understand the basic principles of persuasion and how their listeners process new information. Public health communicators have an especially difficult task. As you work with the people in your centers and agencies – your job is to explain the information you’re getting into understandable language as you translate complex concepts, data, and trends in a way that everyone can understand how it impacts their work and their lives. And if that’s not hard enough, people are getting bombarded with “facts” presented by people they want to believe.

How do the good and altruistic folks out there compete against a wave of mis-information and untruths promoted by people with bad intentions? First, you have to know what really motivates people. Then you have to know how their opinions are formed. And finally, you’ve got to understand the paradox and secret of mass communication.

Professionals know why people push back and how to influence an audience. Once you learn why listeners may reject the most obvious facts; how we arrive at the truth; which of the Big 3 is the surest motivator; and how you can structure the narrative of your lecture, TED-talk, or article - you'll be able to move the needle towards better behaviors or more effective policies.

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