That’s Intriguing #47: What is Entrainment and How Can It Help Me Be a Better Speaker, Author and Communicator?

What did the meditation teacher say to the hot dog vendor? “Make me one with everything.”

Have you heard of the concept of “entrainment?”

When you “lose yourself” doing something you love, (whether that’s reading a great book or working in your garden), that’s the exquisite state of entrainment.

When you’re completely immersed in your sport and playing “out of your head” – that peak performance zone state is a form of entrainment.

When you spend hours happily engaged in your hobby and you’re not even aware of the passage of time, that’s entrainment.

As someone who’s earned her living as speaker/author for 20 years presenting to clients ranging from Intel to Cisco; I’ve studied the art and science of intrigue and have developed specific ways to “become one” with our listeners, readers and viewers.

See, one of our goals as a communicator is to establish this exquisite state of entrainment. And one of the best ways to do that is to re-enact real-life examples so they come alive.

People are yearning to be swept up. When we re-enact something important that happened to us, everyone is right there “with us.” They’re not just passively reading or hearing about it; they’re experiencing it as if they were there too.

For example, when I’m speaking about SerenDestiny and the importance of taking wise risks, I love to relive a memorable day at Hawaii’s famous North Shore.

I was living on Oahu at the time. My firend Leslie and I were both young, fit, and bold/brave enough to tackle Waimea Bay’s winter surf. (The inside waves – not the huge, 20 foot outside waves.)

Two Bodyboarding

Waimea Bay’s winter surf.

I don’t just tell my audience what happened. That would still be my story, not theirs.

I act it out so participants can see us standing on the sand watching the waves come in. I paint a vivid word picture so everyone in the room is in the scene and in the story. I re-create the dialogue . . .

“Leslie and I stood there with our boogie boards wondering, ‘Should we go in, shouldn’t we go in? Should we go in, shouldn’t we go in?

If we go in, we could have the time of our lives. We could also get tumbled around, inside out-upside down and deposited on the beach.

Thirty minutes later . . . we were still standing on the beach, ‘Should we, shouldn’t we? Should we, shouldn’t we?’

Leslie and I finally looked at each other, simultaneously nodded and said, ‘Let’s go in.’

We kicked as hard as we could to get out past the surf line and then bobbed in the water, gripping our boards, waiting for a suitable set. We knew once we committed, there’d be no turning back. You can’t tell a 6 foot wave, ‘Sorry, I changed my mind.’

We finally saw a wave we thought we could handle. We kicked, kicked, kicked to match the momentum of the wave and caught it at the same time. The swell lifted us up and shot us forward. Whoosh.

Aaahh . . . the thrill of cutting back and forth on the face of that powerful wave and riding it all the way in until we scraped our bellies on the beach. We looked at each other, grinning from ear to ear, and decided to go back out again for another ride, another shot of adrenalin.

Later that day on the drive home, we debriefed and both realized . . . we never would have had this exhilerating experience if we’d stayed on the beach, wondering, “Should we, shouldn’t we?”

I then ask the audience, “What is something you’ve always wanted to do? Write a book, start your own business, get your pilot’s license? Are you standing on the beach going, ‘Should I, Shouldn’t I?’

You’ll never know standing on the beach. Go in!

I’m not suggesting we wade into 20 foot waves. I’m suggesting we take the first step towards making our dream a reality – we initiate one action that will move us closer to writing that book, starting the business or getting our license to fly.”

Soren Kierkegaard said, “We always experience anxiety whenever we confront the potential of our own development.”

We are not here to play it safe. We are here to appreciate and act on the opportunities of life. Do what makes you anxious. Don’t do what makes you depressed.

What’s something you’ve been wanting to do? Ask someone out? Train for a mini-triathlon? Go back to college to get a different degree?

As Hue Wheldon said, “The crime is not to avoid failure. The crime is not to give triumph a chance.”

Give triumph a chance . . . today. You won’t regret going in, you’ll only regret not going in.”

Break, break (as pilots say when they want to change the topic.)

Are you wondering, “And how does this relate to entrainment?”

I frequently get emails from people who tell me about a dream they’ve realized because they remembered that “Should I, shouldn’t I?” story and decided to “go in” instead of standing on the beach and letting their doubts get the best of them.

When are you speaking next? What article, blog or chapter will you be writing next?

If you want to win over your audience – and if you want a long tail of positive influence – identify a real-life example that is original to you, that illustrates your point, that is on-topic and that is relevant for your readers/listeners.

Put yourself back in the scene and re-enact what happened so you put everyone in the story and establish that state of entrainment where your readers or listeners are right there with you.

When everyone feels “one” with you and your message, you will have connected. And isn’t that the ultimate goal of all communication?

If you’re preparing a presentation or writing a book and would like to work with Sam to create a state of entrainment to win buy-in to your message, mission, cause, company; contact us at

  1. I cannot believe I am the first to comment on this blog post! It is so excellent in so many ways. A one-page course in entrainment and effective communication. It, in itself, is an example of same. One more valuable gem from the mind of Sam Horn. Thank you.

  2. Thanks Lowell:

    Glad you found those insights on “entrainment” intriguing and useful, Lowell.

    I’ll be speaking on this topic several times in the upcoming weeks (How to Create Entrainment and win buy-in for your message and mission) . . .

    * April 26-27 – Invent Your Future Conference at Santa Clara Convention Center

    * April 30 – ASJA (American Society of Journalists and Authors) convention – how to win-buy in to your e-books

    * May 5-7 EO (Entrepreneurs Organization) Global Leadership Council

    * May 11-13 – BMG’s Global Customer Summit in Denver, CO

    * May 21 – Houston – Win Buy-in to Your Book and POP! Your Success

    * June 7- NAWBO -Orange County, Southern CA

    Hope to see you at one of those events . . .

  3. Another follow-up to this blog.

    Lowell emailed me separately to say, “Now, I’m confused.

    I commented on your great post about entrainment. I really got it.

    Then I did some research on the word and could not find uses of it in the same context you used it.

    My sense of it is that it is like “flow”, “being immersed in the moment”, being “unselfconsciously competent”, “immersed or totally absorbed in an experience”… like that.

    Are there other examples of using “entrainment” as you used it?”

    My response to Lowell – and to anyone else wondering about the word “entrainment” – is that this is EXACTLY the context of how I’m using it.

    My point is that great speakers and authors can set up GROUP FLOW – where everyone is immersed in the same moment and absorbed in the same experience.

    That’s our goal. To create a shared entrainment in which our readers and listeners are one with us and the story.

  4. Ok – one more thought about “entrainment” since I’m getting a lot of questions about it.

    If you look it up on Wikipedia, it has a lot of different definitions and usages in such diverse fields as physics, brainwave synchronization, meteorology,geography, etc.

    I like singer Van Morrison’s (who wrote a song called “That’s Entrainment”)defintion best.

    “Entrainment is when you connect with the music…Entrainment is really what I’m getting at in the music…It’s kind of when you’re in the present moment – you’re here – with no past or future.”

    Well said! That perfectly describes this complete absorption when we’re one with the moment instead of distractedly thinking about the past, future or anything else.

  5. Fabulous post! I’m so guilty of the story from my perspective instead of engaging my audience to make the story “theirs.” Great information and certainly eye-opening for me. Thanks for the re-enacting advice — taking it to heart and my audiences will thank you for it!

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