Brent Coker Digital Marketing Expert

Why Can’t I Get Anything Done?

People are working from home, but can’t concentrate. And it’s not the kids or the dog.

The last remnants of an analogue social life have been yanked away. For now at least. Of course, we’ve been replacing face-to-face communications with digital devices for a while now. But no one fully understood the privilege of real-world social encounters, until now.

When the lockdowns first started, many people were secretly pleased. They could get more done, save time for reading, or maybe take an online course. Those jobs where people could work from home were revered – wouldn’t it be great not having to commute!

Yet people are struggling. Our survey of workers new to working from home has discovered a pattern of idleness and inactivity. Why are people struggling to concentrate and get anything done?

There’s a lot of advice out there about avoiding distractions when working from home. The shrill of kids playing and barking dogs makes it difficult to get much done. But it’s not all about distractions. The fog of apathy is usually caused by anxiety. Everyone knows there’s a silent killer out there – but no-one knows how it will end.

According to psychologist Dan Grupe from the University of Wisconsin-Madison: “Uncertainty diminishes how efficiently and effectively we can prepare for the future.” Uncertainty fuels anxiety.

He goes on to say, “Unpredictable threat cues produce anxious risk assessment behaviour that is likely to persist until such uncertainty is resolved”.

Mary, a legal clerk from Brisbane, fits Dr Grupe’s explanation: “I just feel so unfulfilled at the end of the day, always doing less than I had planned. I keep thinking about what might happen.”

Some people are more affected by anxiety than others:

“It’s not just my work – I’m finding it hard to finish watching a movie! Never mind my plans to practice guitar. I’m actually falling behind” says Michael, a marketing assistant from Melbourne.

Anxiety doesn’t always induce apathy. In fact, a moderate amount of anxiety is good for performance. But it’s a ‘U’ shaped curve. Anxiety boosts our alertness up to a point before it begins to erode performance.

The problem starts when anxiety is too high or sustained over long periods. The result is restlessness, irritability, and procrastination. Eventually it leads to poor coping strategies, and messes with people’s ability to control their emotions. Animal researchers have observed strange behaviours when animals suffer sustained anxiety, including bite tendencies and compulsive licking. If you corner a stressed animal, they snap.

Strategies to Get Back Your Concentration

The dominant theory for why anxiety ruins our concentration suggests that anxiety uses up thought capacity by hogging brain resources. Our minds tend to wander to the same thoughts over and over, making it difficult to concentrate.

We can’t remove our uncertainty, but we can try to control our thoughts.

Think comparative thoughts.

People have a natural tendency to focus on the bad, and overestimate how likely a bad thing will happen to them. Thinking positive thoughts helps reduce anxiety, but it’s not easy when you’re constantly reminded of COVID-19 on the news.

One strategy to deal with our tendency to focus on the bad is to put things in perspective. Some people find that watching prison or war documentaries helps blunt the sharpness of their own predicaments. Others make a list of everything that’s good in their lives and compare it with the bad.

According to John Hopkins University data, the recorded mortality rate of COVID-19 in some countries could be over 10%. But remember that on average 90% of people who catch coronavirus survive, which doesn’t sound as bad as the Spanish flu which had a mortality rate of 50%. Making a habit of comparing your thoughts to more extreme circumstances helps you to keep things in perspective.

Staying social.

Humans are social animals, and it seems we’ve been forced into isolation. But we’re not completely blocked from being social. We can converse with others online, or even in pairs when exercising. One strategy that clinical psychologists use to help anxiety sufferers is getting them to express their ideals, values, convictions, identifications, and meanings. Expressing your feelings to others reduces the sting of those thoughts that are troubling you the most.

Use your social time to share your feelings and concerns, and you’ll soon find it easier to put those troubling thoughts aside.

Tackling the easy tasks first.

One of the unusual things about anxiety is that although it can impair your ability to concentrate, it can also improve the performance of habitual tasks that don’t require much thinking.

Divide your day into easy tasks and hard tasks. Get the easy tasks done first, or if you find yourself struggling on the hard tasks switch to the easy tasks. Feeling like you’re getting stuff done gives you a sense of purpose – and feeling a sense of purpose makes you feel more in control, reducing anxiety.

Live Healthy.

It’s a cliché: a healthy body makes a healthy mind. But it also reduces anxiety. There’s a tendency for people in lockdown to drink more alcohol, stay up later, and forgo exercise. But each of these contributes to anxiety, worsening your ability to concentrate. Try to set a healthy routine, and push yourself to get outside each day.

We are our own enemy

Silent threats attack by proxy. Catching COVID-19 will most likely put you off your work for a while. But so will merely thinking about catching it.

In ancient times the purpose of anxiety was to help us deal with predators. Anxiety energised us to fight or run away. But problems like COVID-19 are not something we can easily run away from. A small percentage of the world will unfortunately catch the virus. But many more will suffer from their thoughts.

Economic Suspension What It Is and Why We Urgently Need It

Economic Suspension: What It Is and Why We Urgently Need It

It was only a month ago when Scott Morrison boasted about his plans to watch his beloved Sharks team play in the NRL. Since then, the country has been whammied with an unprecedented social lockdown. The result has been an economic catastrophe, with scenes of the great depression in colour as thousands joined queues outside Centrelink offices across the country.

In response to the crisis, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg advocated ‘cryogenic suspension’ as the solution, suggesting drastic and unprecedented planning was underway. The term cryogenic suspension was quickly replaced with ‘hibernation’, maybe because it sounded more friendly and less panicked. But perhaps more likely because it became clear that the government didn’t have the power to completely freeze everything.

What the government actually did was inject liquidity into the market, offering tax incentives, one-off payments, and subsidizing wages for jobs that were rapidly disappearing. These broad-based economic stimuli are like a turbo-version of the usual fiscal measures taken by governments during deep recessions. They’re designed to get consumers shopping again, thereby getting more money to businesses, and therefore more jobs to pick the economy up again.

But here’s the problem: This isn’t a normal recession. Normal recessions are caused by consumers losing confidence: Consumers spend less, buy cheaper options, and defer purchases to the last minute because they’re worried about the future. This time around consumers didn’t stop buying because they were doubtful about their future, they stopped buying because they were forced to stop.

Broad based stimulus packages to entice consumers to start shopping again won’t be as affective in today’s situation, because it’s not that consumers don’t want to go shopping, it’s that they can’t go shopping. Recent data from trend analysists Glimpse is consistent with the types of things you’d expect people to buy in a lockdown – home fitness equipment, bread makers, and external monitors for their laptops. That’s about the extent of it – things like holidays, cars, and even buying new outfits are either impossible or suddenly unnecessary, even if consumers had the money for it.

The current situation is not an economic slowdown – it’s a cultural and economic catastrophe that requires disaster relief measures that have never been tried before. The government is suffering a double whammy – on the one hand they need to salvage as much of the economy as possible, and on the other they have an expensive and resource intensive health issue to deal with. It’s starting to look increasingly uncertain they can adequately deal with both problems at the same time, especially if this drags on.

The bailouts we were given might look like they benefit consumers, but the reality is they are designed to prop up businesses, with the hope that when the health crisis is resolved the economy can be revved up again. But it’s a weak solution – citizens are losing their jobs en masse, fearful about keeping their homes, and dipping into their superannuation funds to pay bills they can no longer afford. The government can’t rely on consumer spending to soften the blow. Giving handouts to businesses so they don’t fire anyone is almost pointless if there are no customers for them to serve.

Josh Frydenberg actually had it right the first time – the correct solution is to completely freeze everything, or as he called it: cryogenic suspension. For literal preciseness, I call it complete economic suspension.

A complete economic suspension would mean immediately freezing all rents, loans, taxes, mortgages, and supplier invoices for a fixed period, likely several months. During this time, businesses and individuals do not need to pay any bills, and no interest is charged. Essentially the government freezes all economic activity, except for those activities necessary for survival. The government subsidizes basic needs including food and medical expenses, like they are doing now. But nothing else.

At the end of the hibernation, on a set date after the health crisis is contained, the economy is turned on. People go back to their jobs and start paying their bills again.

With a complete economic suspension, the government does not need to entice consumers to start shopping again using traditional stimulus measures. Critically, the freeze gives those who have lost their jobs and those businesses under threat valuable time needed to reorganise, reskill, and pivot. The world not only needs help to survive, it also needs time to adjust.

The alternative to not suspending the economy is grim. Likely the government will be forced to implement further fiscal stimulus packages, raising more debt and widening the poverty gap. Jobless rates will steadily rise as the inevitability of business closures accelerates over time.

It will be some time before Scott Morrison can ever boast again about his beloved Sharks. The real problem is not when things will get better, but how long it will take.

The former Prime Minister Bob Hawke, following Australia’s victory in the 1983 America’s Cup, famously said: “Any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum.” The cheerfulness of his threat is unfortunately prophetic to what is desperately needed now for us to get through this. The government needs to suspend the economy now, before it’s too late.

How to choose the best marketing keynote speakers for your event

How to Choose the Best Marketing Keynote Speakers for Your Event

This article is to help conference organisers, event organisers, and agents to find the best marketing keynote speakers they can afford.

It isn’t my intention to self-promote myself – I don’t need to. There is enough biased information out there already. Which is actually the problem. People recommend their friends, agents put forward the ‘safest’ speaker, and event organisers choose the person with the slickest showreal (I’m sorry if this is you!). None of which is the best strategy for hiring the best marketing keynote speaker, as I’ll explain below.

I’ve seen dozens of marketing keynote speakers over the years, some great, but so many times I’ve sat in the audience and thought to myself – Wow. This person is definitely not a good fit for this event.

Don’t get me wrong, when I first started out keynoting I was also not that great – even with training and ‘exclusive’ status at Australia’s top entertainers agency, I was sometimes assigned to events that I knew I was not the right person for. I don’t envy the people whose job it is to hire event speakers – the risk of hiring the wrong person falls directly on them – they have a lot to lose.

So how do you find the best marketing keynote speakers for your event? Here’s what I’ve learned after a decade of keynoting, and how you can do better hiring the best speaker for the job.

Read on, I’ll let you in on a few secrets.

Why you need to be careful when hiring a marketing keynoter

When I first started keynoting, I was hired to speak at an event on viral marketing – my area of expertise. There was another guy who was speaking directly after me on the same topic – viral marketing. At that time (maybe even now), not many people knew too much about viral marketing, so the event organiser must have been under a lot of pressure to find people.

After my presentation, I stuck around to hear the other viral marketing speaker.

I squirmed in my seat. What he’d done was skim read someone else’s book – actually a colleague of mine in the US whose work I know well – and basically made out it was his own. No acknowledgement that it was someone else’s work at all – he had made it his own, and it was difficult to watch.

He might have gotten away with it, but he messed up. Turns out he didn’t read my colleague’s book carefully enough, or perhaps didn’t understand it. Much of what he was saying either fell flat or didn’t make sense. What he also didn’t realise is that a big portion of the audience had also read the book – it was an international best seller at the time. The audience was murmuring, and I could tell they were annoyed. I felt sorry for the event organiser.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen similar situations too many times. As an academic, it’s my job to read a lot, and know where ideas come from (plagiarism is a serious business in academia). It’s pretty obvious to me when someone has plagiarised ideas, or someone else’s presentation. It’s often also obvious to the audience – more than you think. It’s okay if the speaker acknowledges where they got their ideas from, but I suppose many speakers prefer to ‘fake it until they make it’ and are under pressure to sound better than they actually are.

I’ve seen keynoters pull other people’s ideas from YouTube, or worse copy slides from Slideshare countless times. I even remember my agent one time telling me it was common practice. But it’s not just an ethical issue, the audience are often not that naïve – they also watch YouTube and can sense when someone is full of it.

The delegates are there to hear something new and original, just as much as useful and actionable, we owe them that. Unfortunately, there seems to be a lot of keynoters out there who are desperate (or lazy) enough to copy other people’s work.

The Different Types of marketing keynote speakers

The first thing to understand is that there are different types of marketing keynote speakers. It’s critical you know the different types, so you know who is best for the situation. You don’t want a deep technical discussion when the delegates have just finished drinks, and you don’t want an excited-game-show-host when the delegates are there to learn actionable insights.

The Futurist

Futurist conference speakers are prophetic, and usually motivational. They offer insight into what’s to come, with messages about remaining competitive, preparing for catastrophe, becoming more innovative, or sometimes just to wow the audience with technology that no one has heard of yet.

Because they’re futurists, conference organisers sometimes make the mistake of assuming they know about marketing. They assume anyone who knows how to predict the future must also know a lot about how to sell online. Sounds ridiculous right? But it happens.

Futurists are excellent for events when you need to inspire and motivate the crowd. But don’t count on much in the way of useful actionable insights. As an academic I’m probably more critical than most – to me it all sounds like fluff (sometimes absurd rubbish – sorry to my futurist friends!). If you’re looking for a good futurist, try to get someone who already has a name for themselves. The audience is frequently more sophisticated than you think, and if their expectation is to actually learn something useful, after the hype has worn off they’ll probably feel let down.

The ‘Excited-Game-Show-Host’

There are a lot of these. These are keynoters who are almost pure entertainment, while trying to impart some deep new knowledge (i.e., fluff 😊 sorry again). Great for waking the crowd up in the afternoon, or getting people inspired, but again – you need to make sure it’s a good fit for what the audience is expecting.

Excited-game-show-hosts do things like make the audience stand up and dance, make them feel good (or embarrassed), and are generally quite a lot of fun. But beware – ask yourself would you really hire someone with purple hair who looks like a Gym instructor with an inspirational message on their t-shirt consult on your business? (This is accurate – sorry if this is you 😊).

If it’s an event where the delegates actually came to learn something, after the adrenaline wears off they’ll also leave disappointed. Excited-game-show-hosts are masters at making people feel inspired and empowered, which might be a good thing in some circumstances, like after drinks or dinner. But be prepared for anything from ridiculous fanciful absurd content to something that resembles an aerobics session (again, true story…).

The Practitioner

These are people who work in industry as marketers. They often do keynotes for free to promote their brand, or perhaps because they’re looking to become more professional at keynoting.

Practitioners are great at sharing real world practical advice on what they’ve done in their jobs, but they’re usually not as good as professional keynoters at presenting, and usually what they have to say is pretty run of the mill kind of stuff, not really anything new or inspiring.

The problem with practitioner speakers is that you’ll get a large proportion of the audience who are bored to tears, because the speaker is simply regurgitating what they already know. You will get some people in the audience who appreciate what the practitioner has to say, particularly trade style conferences where everyone is interested in what everyone else in their industry is up to. And of course, delegates who don’t know much at all. Also, practitioners are relatively cheap or free.

The Academic

Yawn. Sorry, that probably sounded a bit mean. And, Yes, I am an academic, and probably bored the crowd early in my career also. The problem with academics is obvious – they have deep knowledge on the subject, but they just don’t know how to implement in practice since they rarely have any practical experience. Or, worse, sometimes what they’re talking about has almost no relevance to practice – too theoretical, or just plain confusing.

Some academics are great keynoters. Just be careful they’re not too out of touch with what’s going on in the real world!

The Author

Many marketing keynote speakers have also written a book(s) – it seems to be a rite of passage nowadays to claim legitimacy and credibility as a keynoter. But it’s pretty easy to claim to be a ‘bestselling author’ – there are so many lists out there you’re sure to be bestselling on one of them, so you can take that claim with a grain of salt.

The best signal of how good the author is, is the publisher who published their book. It’s incredibly difficult getting your book published by a reputable international publisher. If the person has published with a mainstream international publisher, then it suggests their ideas are unique, insightful, and pretty good.

Many keynoters claim to be authors, when all they’ve done is self-published, which pretty much anyone can do. Getting published in Australia is also a lot easier than getting published internationally.

Authors (good ones) usually make excellent keynote speakers because they’ve had a lot of experience on stage promoting their book, and usually what they have to say is pretty good.

Perhaps no surprise, the best keynoters I’ve seen are also great authors.

The Celebrity

I don’t have much to say on this, other than I’ve never seen a celebrity who was terrible, which probably explains why they’re a celebrity. Obviously, you need a very big budget to afford celebrities, so if you have that budget go ahead. The other benefits of getting big names in is that they help to draw delegates and registrations.

The best celebrity speaker I’ve seen is Bill Clinton. That statement doesn’t help you much, unless you want to hire him, but just thought I’d get that out there 😊

How to choose the best keynoter

Use an Agency

Using an agency like ICMI or Saxton has advantages and disadvantages. I’ve been a member of both, and an exclusive for ICMI in the past.

The main advantage is the agent is going to recommend someone they know is low risk, since they’ve worked with them before and know how good they are.

The main disadvantage is that the person they recommend is sometimes not the best, since they tend to have a narrow pool they choose from. For example, they’ll push the motivational type keynoter into jobs that are more suited to educators, because it’s better to at least entertain the audience than it is to recommend someone untested who turns out to be a dud. They have to minimize their risk also.

The other obvious disadvantage is cost – agents charge around 30% on top of the keynoter’s fee. I have heard from senior people in the industry that some agents pump up the commission way higher than 30% since you and the keynoter are blind to the costs, but I can’t verify that. Most agents are completely legit.

Do an Internet Search for Marketing Keynote Speakers

The advantage of searching for a marketing keynote speaker yourself on the internet is that you get more variety – there are obviously a lot of public speakers and keynoters out there.

The disadvantage is that you don’t really know how good they are. They might have flashy websites and fancy showreels, but in my experience the terrible keynoters look just as good online as the best keynoters, so it’s hard to know.

There are a few “best keynoter” lists on the internet, but if you look carefully you’ll see the lists are produced by keynoters themselves. To be fair, some lists are legit, but frankly most I’ve looked at are either keynoters recommending their friends, or keynoters recommending people to position themselves by excluding the best.

It’s common practice in keynoting circles to band together in groups and recommend each other – if you’re not in their group then they don’t recommend you, no matter how good you are. Kind of a circle jerk where they all benefit each other.

Search for a Marketing Keynote Speaker on LinkedIn

Almost all marketing keynote speakers will have an active presence on LinkedIn. In my view this is the best way to find the right marketing keynote speakers for the job. Here’s a list of advantages:

  1. You get easy access to a wide variety of keynoter types
  2. By hiring direct you don’t have to pay a commission – most legitimate keynoters handle direct bookings, and it’s rare for them to have an exclusivity agreement with an agency
  3. You can verify them by seeing what content they post

Let me expand on this last point. Almost all marketing keynote speakers will have an active presence on LinkedIn. And they all post self-promotional type materials, so you can get a good sense of what their knowledge is, their charisma (marketing keynote speakers tend to post a lot of video), and what sort of engagement they get.

When you’re evaluating their content, look carefully at the types of things they post – if it’s fluffy pie in the sky oversimplifications of complex ideas, red flags should go up. Good marketing keynote speakers don’t post flaky video anecdotes about how the tide coming in is like your business cycles, or this giant chess game is like your competitors. Nor do they post obscure quotes from famous people.

The best marketing keynote speakers tend to post original insightful content that tends to get a high amount of engagement. This is a direct reflection of how good their presentations are on stage.

Keynoting is not for everyone, but everyone wants to be a keynoter. This makes it difficult to choose the best keynoter for your buck.

I hope my advice is useful. Good luck with your search!

Will coronavirus cause a global recession?

Will Coronavirus Cause a Global Recession?

As of 26 February 2020, the Coronavirus continues to spread globally. News about the virus is not only harming people, it’s also affecting the global economy.

But will coronavirus cause a global recession?

Here are some recent statistics compiled by Statista on the effects coronavirus is having on the stock markets and industry. If these trends are indicative of global economic health, they might signal the beginning of the next global economic correction cycle (recession).

Many economists believe the world is long overdue a global recession. They occur in cycles, usually about 10 years apart, and the last one we had was in 2008.

Figure 1 shows how fast coronavirus is spreading. As at 24 February 2020, there are almost 80,000 reported cases of coronavirus worldwide. And it doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

Confirmed coronavirus cases as at 24 February 2020
Figure 1: Confirmed coronavirus cases as at 24 February 2020

Figure 2 shows a disturbing increase in market volatility, most likely caused from the uncertainty surrounding coronavirus and the impact it’s having on industry.

The VIX Index measures expected volatility over a 30-day period. The data suggests that the current volatility is extremely high. A VIX score over 20 (currently 26.5) is considered abnormally high.

Financial volatility is thought to be a direct signal of an impending financial crisis.

Market volatility since news of coronavirus emerged
Figure 2: Market volatility since news of coronavirus emerged

Figure 3 shows what has happened to mainstream stock markets, with one index recording the biggest one day drop in the past 10 years.

Stock markets negatively affected by coronavirus
Figure 3: Stock markets negatively affected by coronavirus

Figure 4 puts the stock market effects in perspective, suggesting market uncertainty has retraced the gains made in the first half of the year. The Dow Jones Industrial Index recorded it’s 3rd biggest single day drop in the history of the index.

Steep drops in market indices as a result of coronavirus uncertainty
Figure 4: Steep drops in market indices as a result of coronavirus uncertainty

Figure 5 shows which industries are most common in Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus, now in lockdown.

Wuhan industry sizes
Figure 5: Wuhan industry sizes

Figure 6 shows the likely impact on tech industry shipments out of China, as a result of coronavirus.

Except for Samsung who now do most of their production in Vietnam, big brands such as Apple and Huawei who do much of their production in China are likely to suffer.

The downstream effects could mean more expensive electronics good to consumers.

The Expected Impact of Coronavirus on Tech Industry Shipments
Figure 6: The expected impact of coronavirus on tech industry shipments

The coronavirus is most certainly having a profound effect on the global economy. It seems that the effects will not subside anytime soon, and we should prepare for recession.


The Problem with Conversion Rate

What’s the number 1 metric Digital Marketers talk about? Conversion rate.

It’s calculated as the number of sales over the number of visits

But have you ever thought about what conversion rate is really telling you?

Because of the way its calculated, a Higher Conversion Rate Doesn’t Always Mean Higher Performance!

Consider these 2 examples:

Week 1: 4% conversion rate. (50,000 visits, 2,000 sales)

Week 2: 10% conversion rate. (10,000 visits, 1,000 sales)

 So what’s the problem? The problem is that week 2 is telling us that we have a better engagement rate. But in reality, it has half the number of sales. It’s misleading us into thinking that conversion rate accurately reflects performance. 

So the lesson is – be careful when using conversion rate – look at how it’s been calculated, and don’t blindly use it as your main metric of success.


The Biggest Mistake in Content Marketing: Creating Negative Motives to Share

For viral content to succeed, it must create strong motives to share.

Soon after I developed the BUMP Viral Content algorithm I was sitting at my desk putting together some notes for a night class I was scheduled to teach, when I got a phone call. The woman calling introduced herself as Cheryl, and explained that she was the director of a boutique advertising agency in Sydney Australia. Her voice was rushed and forceful, and she sounded stressed. She explained she heard I was researching about viral movies, and wanted some advice.

I was flattered, and curious.

We chatted for about 5 minutes, whereafter some small talk and pleasantries she explained her predicament. She told me her agency had recently taken on a new client who wanted to launch a new brand of underwear. Her brief was to produce a high engagement advertisement. Or as she put it, something that would “go viral”. The problem was that the advertisement wasn’t creating buzz—after several months it had barely 400 views, and the client wanted answers. Cheryl had no idea why it wasn’t working, and wanted to find out if anything could be done to make it work.

Before the phone call ended I promised Cheryl I would have a look, though suspecting that it would be unlikely anything could be fixed.

I set aside my class preparation, and began watching. It was a personalized story type advertisement—a technique I had seen before where the viewer was asked to upload a photo of themselves that would be included in the story. I followed the instructions – uploaded a photo of myself, and selected male for my gender.

The movie loaded and revealed a dimly-lit studio apartment. A woman appeared from the shadows wearing lingerie. Gliding past a coffee table she picked up a magazine, headed towards her bed, and lay down. She opened the magazine, flicking through the pages before pausing. The camera zoomed in on the page she paused on. It was a fit male model wearing underwear. The camera zoomed in to the face—it was me! They had superimposed my face from the image I uploaded at the start.

The women began to touch herself, and moan… I felt awkward.

It was obvious to me why the ad had not gone viral. The problem was not the quality of the production—it was the content. Incorrectly assuming that sex sells was where it went wrong. Or more precisely, they had wrongly assumed that by showing provocative content it would somehow make people want to share it.

One of the reasons why something goes viral is because it motivates people to share it with other people. Worse than creating no motive for viewers to share, Cheryl’s advertisement actually created a negative motive to share. Most people would not feel comfortable sharing soft-pornography with people they knew, let alone publicly on social networks, since most people don’t want to risk their reputation, and there is no social capital available from sharing. Cheryl’s campaign actually created an incentive to not share.

The lesson to be learnt from Cheryl’s experience is important: For viral content to succeed, it must create strong motives to share.

Exercising Together Speeds up Bonding

Want to Get to know Someone Better? Our New Research Suggests Exercising Together Speeds up Bonding

There are times when we want to get to know someone quickly – perhaps on a date or an important  business meeting with a client. The problem is people are cautious and distrustful of people who ‘come on too strong’ or disclose too much about themselves too early in a relationship.

The key to developing strong relationships with others is reciprocal disclosure – in other words disclosing personal things about yourself. However, for the bonding process to work it requires reciprocation. If one person is disclosing personal information but the other isn’t, it may lead to regret, embarrassment, and even rejection from the other. The key to getting emotionally closer to someone else is mutual trading of more and more personal information over time, until eventually you know them well enough to share highly personal information, and even secrets.

Over the past three years we’ve been studying why people say things they later regret. In several experiments we found that people disclose more personal information about themselves directly after jogging on the spot for 60 seconds. The implications of these experiments suggest that reciprocal personal disclosures are more likely when both parties are physically exercising together.

The psychology behind how this works

From innocuous faux pas to more serious disclosures of secretive information, in each experiment we found that arousal explains tendencies to disclose personal information about themselves. So, what’s arousal, and why does it cause people to disclose personal things about themselves? Essentially arousal is the degree to which an individual is awake and alert. It is characterised by things like increased heart rate, increase blood pressure, and the secretion of endorphin chemicals in the brain.

Arousal also uses up so-called ‘cognitive resources’, — basically brain power. Because there are less conscious cognitive resources available for controlling what comes out of our mouths, our minds default to more automatic, and seemingly less considered, responses. Normally it takes some effort to conceal personal information about ourselves – we are careful and somewhat guarded about what we say. When we lose conscious control over what we say, it becomes more likely that we’ll disclose information that we would otherwise keep to ourselves.

The Implications

If I were going on a date, and I wanted to get to know someone, I would do a physical activity such as bike riding or ice skating. Same with a business meeting – golf would be preferred over lunch, if you can swing it that way. Of course there are other ways to loosen the tongue, such as drinking alcohol together – but exercising is so much healthier, and I think you’ll find your relationship grows in better ways with the exercise.

The full research is published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, and can be found here.