It’s happening again… You are passing by the aquarium and one of the fishes swims quickly toward the window. You are convinced it went straight for you, its body and fins swinging in rhythm with an unheard song; its mouth opening, closing, bubbles of expression dancing in your eyes. You pause… this time you know, you’ve heard it, like a short…
There are many rules written on speech theory, and many things will vary depending on elements such as the timing, the overall intention, the type of visual aids, the room, etc. But one item is constant.
You want to grab the attention of your audience straight from the start -okay if you insist, let’s say the first 30 to 90 s- and then you want to nurture their interest regularly up to your conclusion.
On that conclusion, you want something which is going to create an impact, easy to remember, which will stay with for a long time. You’re right this sounds perfect for a TED format speech. This is also perfect for a training format, a presentation format, a lecture.
Grabbing the attention is about creating curiosity and we do that with the content, the form and the style.
You pause… this time you know, you’ve heard it, like a short… yes a short story. You rub your eyes “Is that a dream?”, you’ve been told about speaking fish, but joking fish, that’s another thing, still here it goes “You know St Peter, I am really tired” “I hear you Jesus, why don’t you go on vacation?” “That’s an idea, but where” “What about earth?” “Earth, ah…”
We all hate it, right? When someone starts a story and stops just before the end. The only thing in our mind becomes the story, and that question “What’s going to happen next?”. TV Series are really good at using that trick, a simple mechanism creating curiosity up to the point of watching the next episode. I call this the “open story effect”. In public speaking we often refer to this as using open metaphor. A metaphor is actually a story, which is chosen for the content, and for the emotions it creates, for instance such as a story about a curious fish, on a quest for a curious frog.
This tip is a mix content and form. Let’s look at another tip, this time on the speech structure. For this we go back to Simon Sinek speech “How great leaders inspire actions.” Your remember is idea “Give the Why?” first; he is directly applying this to the structure of his speech, at the same he explains how this had been validated by recent research (marketing, neurosciences, socio-psychology). People are more likely to be motivated when they have a purpose, Behind that “why” -“why we do that”- is the purpose, and if that purpose is aligned with values hold by your audience, they will want to know more. In andragogy, we find this concept in the 4 MATsystem (4 MATsystem, from Dr. Bernice MacCarthy – original publication 1981), where training content is known to be most impactful when organised in 4 sections, presented in the following order: Why, What, How (and what if).
We could review many more tips to create curiosity. None of them though will be as important as this one…
Be curious yourself.
Be curious of the interaction, the group dynamics, the pacing and leading, your subject. More than curious… show me you care and I am already curious. And tomorrow we will review how this can be done with “Contrast, humour and storytelling”.