Category Archives: 6. Sequence / Story

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:

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.

The Three Ways the Brain Creates Meaning

I recently viewed an interesting TED presentation by Tom Wujec titled “The Three Ways the Brain Creates Meaning.”  Wujec has this to say:

We make meaning by seeing, by an act of visual interrogation. The lessons for us are three-fold. First, use images to clarify what we’re trying to communicate. Secondly make those images interactive so that we engage much more fully. And the third is to augment memory by creating a visual persistence. 

What does this mean for us in a presentation context?  In the Extreme Presentation method we design presentations using five essential elements: Logic, Rhetoric, Graphics, Metrics and Politics.  We then apply these five elements to one of two presentation idioms, Conference Room style or Ballroom Style.

I believe we can apply Wujec’s findings to the graphics element when working with the “Conference Room Style” idiom:

1.    Use images to clarify what we’re trying to communicate.

We can do this by designing each page so that the page layout itself reinforces the main message of the page. Sample layouts that achieve this can be found here.

2.    Make those images interactive so that we engage much more fully.

This is achieved by having all the information on one page and contained in or around an appropriate layout (see point 1) including charts. Most importantly this page is handed out, not projected. By doing this we can get the audience to absorb and adopt what we are presenting to them by allowing interactive discussion, which then gives them the opportunity to engage with our material and reflect on it.  Here’s an example.

3.    Augment memory by creating a visual persistence.

If you look at a well-lit scene and then close your eyes, you will notice that the image can still be sensed for some time after your eyes close.  This is visual persistence.  Under the Extreme Presentation Method we can determine whether the presentation will create visual persistence by applying the squint test.

6a00d8341bfd2e53ef0133f441f56b970b-800wiAnother way of applying these lessons is to think of a traditional painting, one that tells a story, such as “Shearing the Rams,” by Australian painter Tom Roberts, 1888.

Here Roberts depicts six men hunched over in a staggered pattern extending towards the back of a narrow sided room which belongs to a large shearing shed. By creating such a line, Roberts brings the viewer’s focus on the men’s positions, leaving the sheep secondary. Furthermore, he orientates the painting so that the viewer is directly in line with the shearers, practically hiding the sheep from view. But of even greater significance is the presence and position of the foreman to the right of the shearers. The foreman represents the shearing industry, which at the time imposed brutal and oppressive working conditions upon the shearers.

Hence in Roberts painting he uses images to clarify what he is trying to communicate – the struggle of the shearer not only with the rams but also against oppressive working conditions. He makes those images interactive so that we engage more fully through the different characters, their ages, their ranks and the painting’s location. And finally he creates a visual persistence through his artistry.

So the cognitive science research  as described by Wujec seems to confirm what our great classical artists have always known. That is, we need to use images to clarify our message, enable audience interaction and create a visual persistence.  This in turn further reinforces our confidence that the Extreme Presentation method provides the means by which this can be achieved in our business presentations.