Creating a great story by KILLING OFF THE MAIN CHARACTER

They say a powerful story is one that grabs you by the throat and that’s definitely what UNCUT GEMS staring Adam Sandler did to me, but not a good way. It consisted of Adam Sandler yelling  and swearing and talking over the top of everyone else for 120 minutes – but I was determined to see it through because my son said it was a great movie. Having said that I think the story line was fantastic as Sandler got into and out of trouble – tension release, tension release – all the way through.

However, overarching the entire story was the tension created by Sandler’s delivery style.  When this tension came to an end, the release was one I wasn’t expecting. I think the writers did this deliberately but the emotion I felt was very much a surprise.

Moving Mountains

A participant on a program recently worked on a presentation that was due in two days time. He delivered the presentation and I called him the day after: “How did it go Jim?”

“Not so good Justin”

“Why was that Jim, did you achieve your objective?”

“Yes I achieved everything I wanted to, but it just turned into a conversation”

Jim was stuck in an old school mindset of presenting – the “sage on the stage”.  What happened was his presentation turned into a conversation and he started to engage the audience because he was talking about things that are important to them – he nailed it!

So, the formulae we use to get the audience involved is what Andrew Abela calls the SCoRE method which is based on the work of Henry Boettinger in his book Moving Mountains. It works by juxtaposing tension and release – the formulae for all good stories.

SCoRE stands for:

Situation – what are you there to talk about – put simply in a few words

Complication – What’s the biggest problem the audience is facing.  This creates tension and the need.

Resolution – what’s the solution to that problem.  This creates the release and satisfies the need.

Example – provide some evidence as to why your resolution will work.

Then continue on with the next CoRE (Complication Resolution Example) for as long as you need to.

This simple formula enables us to craft a story, engage the audience and achieve our objective.

Boettinger, HM 1974, Moving mountains; or, The art and craft of letting others see things your way, 1st Collier Booksedn., Collier Books, New York,.

WHY Ecstasy, Misery and Cinderella are so powerful

There is a part in The Extreme Presentation Method program where we show participants how to construct an anecdote. In order to do that we have to tell them one. Without fail, as soon as I say “I have a story to tell you” I have everyone’s attention, they are all focused on the storyteller. Why are they so powerful?  There are many reasons from historical to neurological, but the famous American writer Kurt Vonnegut helps us with a simple explanation.

If you think of the Cinderella story, you have a dynamic of ecstasy and misery played out over time.  Derek Sivers draws it like this:

https://sivers.org/drama

So why is this so compelling. It’s because most of our lives don’t have this dynamic.  They look like this:

So when you are constructing anecdotes (hypotheticals) or deciding which story to tell, make sure they are dynamic so that you grab the audiences attention.

Two types of stories

There is an abundance of evidence that stories are essential for persuasion, to the extent that storytelling in organisations drives business results. To take facts and figures and craft them into a story links the information together and aids retention by the audience. Also stories engage emotions which also aids memory.

In the next few posts we will talk about two broad categories as they relate to the Extreme Presentation Method.

The first is anecdotes and the second is sequencing your evidence to craft a story.

Anecdotes.  Anecdotes are used to highlight the most important points of your presentation and will be typically one of three types:

  1. Directly relatable to a company issue e.g. an employee did “x” which resulted in “y”
  2. Hypothetical. A story about a company that is not real, but the story is possible
  3. Metaphor.  A story that is symbolic of the story you want to make

The second type of story is the one where your evidence and anecdotes are sequenced in a way that juxtapose tension and release which is the formulae of all good stories. Andrew Abela calls this the SCoRE method and is based on the Method of Opposites outlined in detail by Henry Boettinger in his book Moving Mountains.

We will explore these two categories in the following posts.

How to stop people from sabotaging you pitch

It’s interesting to watch team dynamics when coaching bid presentation teams. Especially when the team has come together having previously not known each other. Psychologist Bruce Tuckman came up with the phrase “forming, storming, norming, and performing”, which pretty much describes what we see in bid presentation teams.  In the storming phase people start to push against the boundaries established in the forming stage and start to belittle each other as they jockey for position.

I’ve seen this belittling present itself when a senior member told a less experienced and nervous team member that their presentation style was boring. And another senior team member telling two other presenters, two days before a major $400million bid that if they presented “like that” the team was stuffed!

In both these situations the senior members were deflecting – denying their own failings and projecting them onto someone else.

Here’s three things you can do to prevent this from happening.

  1. Set the ground rules up front for feedback and that you as the facilitator will control (not dominate) that process. Make sure everyone knows there is a right time and place for giving feedback.
  2. Make sure everyone uses the aware, impact, change model. For example, rather than saying ”you’re boring”, say “are you aware that when you read from your notes the impact is you stop engaging the audience, you can change that by making sure you use more eye contact when you speak which will give you more energy.”
  3.  If people start to deflect call them on it quickly. Preferably one on one.

So watch out for the any narcissistic behaviour because it can undermine what should be the celebration of a lot of hard work.

Evidence is everything

The reality principle states that you should always present evidence that is concrete rather than conceptual. Showing real things, real people and specific details makes your presentation more interesting, memorable and persuasive.

Andrew Abela (Abela 2013, p 37) suggests the following when thinking about your evidence:

  • Provide lots of relevant detail – it increases credibility.
  • Verify your facts – where did your evidence come from.
  • Understand the constraints that inhibit your audience from taking action.
  • Demonstrate that you understand these constraints.
  • Make it personal and reflect that you understand the realities in your audience’s lives.

It doesn’t matter what type of personality your audience has, concrete and particular evidence is important for everyone.

Abela, AV 2013, Advanced presentations by design : creating communication that drives action, 2ndedn., Pfeiffer, San Francisco.

Marijuana, Comedy and Presentation Skills

Audiences have become so distracted that keeping their attention has become more challenging than ever.

Hollywood comedy writers now find that to hold their audience’s attention they need to provide a new punch line or gag every fourteen seconds. A study by the institute of psychiatry in London found that participants who were interrupted with emails performed worse on IQ tests than participants who were under the influence of marijuana. (Abela 2013, p. 2)

Here are three things we can do:

  1. Only focus on a problem your audience has that you can help solve.
  2. Don’t have a presentation if everyone knows and agrees on the answer to a problem.  Send out an email with suggested next steps instead.
  3. If you have really interesting information that you want to share, but it doesn’t help the audience, put it in an appendix, on a shared drive or email it out before hand. Or just leave it out all together.

If we can focus only on the specific needs of the audience, then we are more likely to hold their attention.

Abela, AV 2013, Advanced presentations by design : creating communication that drives action, 2ndedn., Pfeiffer, San Francisco.

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