You Had Me at Hello
I love stories with meaning and message, which are on point to my expectations, which are told in such a way as to wrap me in another world, where pictures and sensations build inside my own mind. Where I feel as though I have literally stopped time in my current reality.
Until I am jolted back into real time because you have suddenly gone too far; we’ve stepped across the threshold into too many layers and tangents and I have lost the feeling of immersion where I felt I was part of your world, your story, where I could quite literally see, and feel, and hear, the world you were painting. Suddenly I feel as though I am trying to navigate through crossroads, and twists and turns, with layers appearing and taking my attention away from the very places you had deliberately taken me.
Where I simply want to tell you please stop, kiss me now, you had me at hello.
Where too many words strip away the magic and force me out of heart space into head space. Where emotion gets pushed back into logic, and I take a step back to work out just where I am supposed to be, instead of simply moving with the senses I had sunk into.
The collision of emotion and story-telling is recognised as essential in evoking the response we want from the people we speak with, and yet as we craft messages through story we lose sight of just what that means.
We forget it is possible to have them at hello, and in our drive to ensure we ‘tell all of our story, authentically’ we inadvertently shift from having them at hello, to losing them in the muddle.
How do we stop this?
1. One Conversation with One Person
In the midst of reading a collection of speeches by Robert F Kennedy, I am constantly reminded of what I am so passionate about; that any speech or presentation we craft is to show the best of us – not all of us. A complex person, passionate and driven across the broad frontier that is civil and human rights from an office responsible for enforcing the current laws, every one of his speeches are simply the best of what he knows to be true about the world for that audience, written specifically to a single core message. His speeches epitomise what I am passionate about; every single time we speak we must make it as if we are having one conversation with one person. To strip it back to that, and that only. To craft the stories to what will interest that one person, will support the single message that will make a difference in their world.
2. Drop us into moments
The power in story-telling is not in the chronologically correct unfolding of events that takes our audience in a logical line from Point A to Point B. The power in story-telling is in story-shaping; in dropping the person in front of us into moments that matter. Moments we can bring to life through painting a vivid picture in the mind of someone else through the words we use, the senses we ignite. That an audience can follow at an emotional level, that they can quite literally hang on to, which move us in a way that makes sense between points, leaving the space in the connections between for us to step in with our own experience, our own perspective, to feel as though I can make it my own. Strip the ramble out, ignite the detail in specific moments, and drop me into them as if they are unfolding right in front of me.
3. Know when to stop
Oh this one. This one. Please for the love of all that is great about speaking know when to stop. Understand that you had me at hello. Drop me into moments that matter, craft stories that mean something, that build the foundations of the message you want me to take with me. And stop when it is simply the best, not all, of the story. Don’t layer it up with what you learnt from it unless it is a single lesson. Don’t shift from moments and evoking emotion to chronologically laying out what happened next, and next, and next after that, and then after that.
Slip back into the focus of one conversation with one person. A conversation with a trusted friend, your lover, your children, your family, your advisors, and think about what would be too much. Where would you lose them. Slip into the comfort of deep conversations with people you know and love and work out where you would stop…and almost every single time, that will tell you exactly when you should pull up the story telling, at exactly the same point.
And remember, whether shaping stories or crafting entire presentations and speeches, this is only ever the opportunity to show the best of you – not all of you.