Giving a presentation or a TED Talk or just describing your work to someone at a party?
Use this technique:
Most engaging idea first, most important idea last. In the middle is when you actually win them over.
Here’s how you do it:
1. Start with the most interesting and engaging idea first.
Think about what would surprise or shock your audience. Something non-obvious. Something interesting. Something that makes your audience go,
“Okay, now I really want to know more about this. Spill the beans, please!”
Start with the moment of intensity the story is building towards. Attention spans are low and you can’t risk people dozing on you. Hence, instead of building towards it, you start with it.
If your story is about meeting Bill Gates at a gas station, start with “My punctured car tire got me a meeting with Bill Gates.”
If you’re presenting a new product strategy, start with something everyone takes for granted but isn’t true. Start with taking a counterintuitive or opposing stance.
People do not like to be opposed. Naturally, they will want you to explain yourself and be fully attentive during the explanation.
So — moment of peak intensity at the start, and then you reveal the story that led up to that moment.
Got it? Okay.
2. The middle is where you maintain the “illusion of awareness.”
Everyone tells you to start with interesting hooks. Well, the thing people miss out on is to follow through in the body in a way that does justice to that spicy hook.
You don’t want to disappoint your audience by putting up a clickbaity hook and then not following through well!
To avoid this problem, you just have to understand this:
After hearing your counterintuitive opener, your audience will have many questions. If you sense that there is going to be one big question around your proposal, make the entire body of the pitch primarily focused on addressing that.
Like if the big question is,
"How is your company different than the 20 other companies currently in the market?", you can't have a single competition slide with a 2x2 that paints you as the hero in the top right. You have to craft a compelling narrative to get someone to really understand why you're different.
The best way to do that? Speak your customers’ language and lead with anecdotes. If your assertions need data to back them up, show data.
The important point to note here is that good persuaders answer the obvious question as soon as they sense it coming up in the minds of their listeners. If you’re accurately able to guess the question that’s going on inside your listeners’ heads at that very moment and address that, they feel heard. You form an unspoken bond with your audience, which helps them engage with your story more.
I call this “maintaining the illusion of awareness and empathy.”
3. End with the most important idea.
End with what you want to impress upon the minds of your listeners. If the most important idea translates into a bunch of activities and actionables, make sure you address the “How do we go about it?” question.
If it’s just a conversation at a party, leave them with something they want to remember you for and call you up when the right opportunity arises.
The next time you’re preparing a narrative script for your presentation, use this technique to not just present a bunch of data, but tell a compelling story.
Have any thoughts, tips, or suggestions you wish to add? Write back to me and do let me know.