1. Summary of the Minto Pyramid Principle by Harrison Metal
2. Summary of Robert McKee’s Storytelling Principles by Harrison Metal
The premise of this book is that big films are made up of little films called sequences, each lasting 8 to 15 minutes. Each sequence consists of three parts: setup/beginning/situation, development/rising action/complication, and partial resolution. Each partial resolution creates anticipation as it “opens up new issues, which in turn become the subject of subsequent sequences.”
The book explores the following four tools used to build anticipation and or tension:
A typical film has 8 sequences (2 in Act I, 4 in Act II, and 2 in Act III) serving the following function:
Other useful tips:
– “Coincidences that hurt a protagonist tend to work in drama, and are viewed suspiciously if they help.”
– “… it must seem as though what the movie is what happens despite what the characters want or expect.”
– “Human nature being what it is, chances are the man will do the easiest thing first, and only if that fails will he try a more difficult course of action.” Often characters have no other choice, or a choice between the lesser of two evils.
– Try to “smuggle” exposition (background information the audience needs to know) as a subtext of underlying action (arguments where people attack and defend, persuasion, seduction, reassurance) and NOT as an explanation
– Create believability through foreshadowing (which the author refers to as the use of motifs that are later paid-off)
– Audiences occasionally need “recapitulation scenes” to review important information they may have missed that sets up future action
– Character arc = In the face of major challenge, the protagonist must give up her (known) want to obtain her (unknown) true need. Only then will she realize the fundamental truth that is the theme of the story.
– Subplots have three main functions: (a) plot function – to help or hinder the protagonist, (b) thematic function – to show variations on the theme by presenting alternative ways of solving problems, and (c) structural function – to retard/delay the main plot and thereby intensify it
In the Spring of 2001, McKinsey presentation guru Gene Zelazny shared public speaking insights gleaned over his forty-plus year career (video at bottom of post). Here, I have summarized his very well structured tips:
1. The only thing that matters at the end of your presentation is the answer to the question: Did I accomplish my objective.
2. Nervousness is natural and should be viewed as a sign of respect for your audience. Accept that you will make mistakes.
I. Define the situation
A. Objective: Why are you presenting? What do you reasonably hope to accomplish? What do you expect from your audience?
B. Audience: Who are the key decision makers with authority to say yes or no? How interested do you expect them to be in your recommendation? How knowledgeable are they about your topic? Why would they say no?
D. Scope: Your material should be no more comprehensive than the minimum needed to accomplish your objective or the time your have with your audience.
E. Media/Facilities: Use the simplest, most-appropriate tools for the task.
II. Design the presentation
A. Structure the story
1. Body: Do not chronologically recreate the months long discovery process you endured to find the recommendation. Start with the overall context (see II.A.2) and use the body for support. The exception is when you have an audience that will be hostile to your recommendation and they need to be taken there more slowly.
2. Introduction: You want to light a fire in the first minute. Use the PIP (purpose + importance + preview) approach.
3. Ending: Repeat your recommendations. Give your action program to turn your overall recommendation into reality. This includes: people responsible, time required, costs, etc. Last, finish with Next Steps. Note that the next steps should not be premeditated; instead, document the next steps that emerge from the discussion.
B. Sketch the storyboard
1. Visuals (based on Zelazny’s book: Say it With Charts)
a. Select the chart form
b. Write titles that ARE the message/point you want your audience to know
c. Use graphical treatment (ex: contrast) to draw attention to your message
(“Take responsibility for your point of view.”)
C. Produce visual aids & handouts
III. Deliver the presentation
A. Rehearse: Once alone in a room out loud. Once in front of three or four constructive colleagues.
B. Set up the facilities: including physical setup, room layout, lighting, etc.
C. Set the tone
2. Conviction: You must believe in what you are recommending or someone else should present.
D. Apply delivery skills
1. Verbal: natural, conversational word choice
2. Vocal: expand your range
3. Visual: open body language, natural gestures, and effective eye-contact (FYI: It is OK to occasionally refer to notes, but put them down when you are not referring to them.)
E. Work with visual aids: If your slide is complex, you will likely want to get close to it and point out the elements you are describing.
F. Handle questions: It is appropriate to say “I don’t know.”
1. Try to anticipate the three most difficult questions you will get from the most difficult people in the audience.
2. Listen the the question completely
3. If the question has multiple parts, it is OK to write down the parts
4. Pause to think
5. Repeat the question only if people were not likely to have heard it. Do not rephrase the question unless you must and, if so, you need to ask for permission to do so.
6. Assume everyone is interested in the answer so balance the eye-contact with the entire audience. (Tip: If you want to move on from the questioner, finish your eye contact with someone else.)
7. If you get a very difficult question, try to avoid saying, “I’ll get back to you later.” Instead, it is OK to say, “I don’t know.” Or, even better, consider reaching out to the rest of the audience to see if someone else has the answer!
Here is a link to my session at Marco Montemagno’s Presentation Super Summit. I believe you will need to complete a registration form, but it is worth it for free access to all past talks as well as 19 public speaking experts including: Nick Morgan, Oren Klaff, and Scott Schwertly.
While TED Talks offer excellent examples of extended pitches, I’m always on the lookout for compelling examples of pitches that are more relevant to business, especially entrepreneurship. I found a great example in the Stanford eCorner ‘Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders‘ series.
The pitch is by Heratio Harts, a graduate of The Last Mile which is a controversial organization that teaches entrepreneurial skills to inmates so that they can make a successful transition from prison to living productively in society. Heratio’s one-minute pitch begins at 52:30 of the video embedded below. Mr. Hart’s words are in italics and I have added descriptive labels and commentary.
By show of hands, how many of you have witnessed either a parent, a child, a friend or maybe your spouse struggle with obesity? You don’t have to raise your hand for this, but think about it. Did you ever feel helpless in their struggle?
[Commentary: While I’m not a big fan of the “By show of hands…” technique, I appreciate that Mr. Harts not only got right to the issue his organization addresses (obesity), but also used a question – “Did you ever feel helpless…” to connect his cause to a powerful, personal emotion.]
If you have, you’re not alone. Many people who have lived in a low income community like I have where the obesity rate is above 50% have experienced the same feeling of helplessness. That’s why today I am doing something about it.
[Commentary: Mr. Harts’ phrase “lived in a low income community like I have” establishes his credibility as the right person to tackle this problem without boasting. His reference to the 50% obesity rate clearly demonstrates this is a large opportunity.]
Good evening. My name is Heracio Harts and I am the founder of Healthy Hearts Institute, the co-op that will bring health and fitness back into our neighborhoods.
HHI will turn empty lots into gardens and transform neighborhoods of food deserts into green nutritional oases. We will turn abandoned buildings into LEED certified fitness centers and provide our members safe places to exercise.
[Commentary: Notice that Mr. Harts’ descriptions of how his organization combats obesity are highly sensory.]
Our goal is to get us back to the good old days when the community was ripe with nutritional foods, kids were outside and running and playing, and the obesity rate was below 17%.
[Commentary: Mr. Harts sets a benchmark for what success looks like – an obesity rate below 17%. This benchmark is believable since it was achieved in the recent past.]
So join the Healthy Hearts Institute and let us empower the beat of your heart. Thank you.
[Commentary: Mr. Harts ended with a reasonable call to action given that he was giving this pitch to a practice audience who were not expected to take any action. A real pitch should have a call to action that is concrete, immediate, and easy. For instance, Mr. Harts could have asked audience members to make a contribution or to share a fundraising link supporting HHI with their social networks.]
Though not nearly as well known as TED, The Moth is gaining momentum as a platform for great storytelling. The range of TED Talks is broadly inclusive of personal storytelling as well as high minded ideas grounded in social and scientific research. The Moth is more narrowly focused on emotional epiphanies drawn from life experiences – particularly those rooted in failure, frustration, futility, and fear. Note that many speakers have shared both stages including: Malcolm Gladwell, Janna Levin, and Ed Gavagan.
The ones with an (*) at the end of the title are featured in The Moth’s new book. Without further delay, here is the list of the 10 most viewed Moth stories as of December 20, 2013.
#1 Anthony Griffith: The Best of Times, The Worst of Times
#2 Steve Burns: Fameishness
#3 Mike DeStefano: Franny’s Last Ride (*)
#4 Moran Cerf: On Human (and) Nature
#5 Dan Savage: Not That Kind of Gay
#6 George Lombardi: Mission to India (*)
#7 Andy Borowitz: An Unexpected Twist
#8 Neil Gaiman: Liverpool Street
#9 Edgar Oliver: Apron Strings of Savannah
#10 Ed Gavagan: Drowning on Sullivan Street (*)