The Think, Feel, Do! approach to communication, presentations & storytelling

Published by Ray Poynter, 29 June 2023

For the last eight years, Think, Feel, Do! has been the cornerstone of how I craft my communications, and it is at the heart of what I teach when explaining communication and storytelling.

Think, Feel, Do! explains a process where the analysis identifies the message that needs to be conveyed, the Do! is what we want to happen after the message has been communicated. Think is the method we find the Do! Feel is the mechanism that promotes the Do! In this post, I will explain these three steps: Do! then Think, then Feel.

Every report, presentation, debrief etc. should be designed to cause something to happen. That something is what I mean by the Do! The key measure of success for a presentation is whether it led to your recommendations being actioned.

The Do! can be active, like ‘Launch the new product, and launch it in the green bottle’. Or, it can be passive, such as ‘Keep doing what you are already doing’, or it could call for further research or consideration. But there should always be a Do!

For me, the ‘Think’ part is the analysis that combines the business question, the business context and the information we have (for example, the research results). Think is the stage where we determine from the question, context and data what the recommendations are, i.e. what we want the Do! to be. This process includes reviewing the business question and context, analysing the data, shaping the analysis to answer the question and creating recommendations.

If we are trying to change minds and advocate action, then facts are rarely enough. To change somebody’s mind, we need them to feel that what they are being told is right, and they must feel that what is being recommended is right.

When we present facts (i.e. Think) and our audience does not accept the message, we too often assume that the audience has not understood the message. Because we think the problem is comprehension, we share more and more facts. However, the problem tends to be that the audience does not ‘feel’ that we are correct, and simply giving more data is unlikely to change their mind. We need to find emotional levers to enable the audience to feel we are right.

For example, we might conduct a product test of a new package. The quantitative data shows us that people don’t like it and find it hard to open. The client, who helped design the package and finds it intuitive, is disinclined to believe the raw numbers. He might challenge whether we asked the right questions or talked to the proper sample. However, a video of a real customer trying and failing to open the package and becoming frustrated with the brand will help the client feel that, for some customers, this product does not work.

This example reminds us that the way we found the story in the data is not necessarily relevant to the way we tell the story.

Want to know more about Think, Feel, Do!
You can see a video I made in 2017 explaining the Think, Feel, Do! approach and showing examples. To see the video, click here.

Background to Think, Feel, Do!
Whilst I think I came up with the idea of using this model for communication, the model has been around in other forms for decades. In particular, it is a derivative of the AIDA model attributed to E. St Elmo Lewis, with the first use of the acronym AIDA being by CP Russell in 1921. This use of the Think, Feel, Do idea attempted to explain consumer behaviour. People were hypothesised to move from cognitive steps (Think) to emotional consequences (Feel) ending in action (Do). More recently, neuroscientists have cast doubt on this model, sometimes suggesting a Do, Feel, Think model for some behaviours.

In 2015, whilst watching a presentation that referred to this model of human behaviour, I realised that I could use these ideas to help explain my approach to communicating and storytelling (which is outlined above). I tried Think, Feel, Do! with some of my client sessions that year and shared it with a wider audience as part of my Vision Critical presentation, “Creating Better Presentations”, in Chicago on October 2015. In 2016, I included Think, Feel, Do! in my NewMR Find & Communicate the Story series of webinars and have used it in articles, courses, and webinars ever since.

However, I cannot be sure that other people had not independently arrived at the same model before I did (or after I did), but I am not currently aware of any earlier uses (and I have asked ChatGPT ???? ).

Want to find out more about my training courses?
I have five training courses over the next few months. Check them out by clicking here.