It is that time of year again, when the big names create their Christmas Adverts. John Lewis over the last few years has created fabulous stories – the one from two year’s ago with the animated bear is ingrained in my children’s memories (especially since it came with its own ipad app). Last year’s penguins had us all saying “Awww”.
This year, the story is about reaching out to those who are lonely or a long way away.
But instead of just watching it and thinking “that was amazing”, let’s look at it in detail to discover what you can learn from it about being Unforgettable..
Within the first twenty seconds of the advert, we see something extraordinary. The girl looks surprised and then zeroes in on a house in a crater on the moon. A truly “attention grabbing” moment for those watching. You want to know what happens, who this person is. The film made me curious and spellbound and unable to click away until I find out what happens next.
Keep It Simple
There are only two characters in this film – the man and the girl. The more characters or details you have in a story, the more your audience have to concentrate to keep track (think Tom Clancy novel). This one is as simple as it can be. Two strong, clear, contrasting characters that your audience can relate to.
Make it Vivid
The expression on the man’s face as he looks up is so filled with loneliness, you can’t help but feel moved by him. This contrasts brilliantly with the excitement of the girl waving. Just 35 seconds in and there is this beautiful tension in the story – between the happy girl and the sad man. They bring those emotions to life using vivid visuals – what more perfect expression of loneliness is a man sat on a bench on a planet all on his own? Then the lyrics of the song echo the feelings “my body is young, but my mind is very old” as the camera zooms into the man’s eyes.
Break the Spell
If your audience feels too sad, there’s a risk that they might turn off to break the spell. Instead, John Lewis does this for us. We have been touched by the old man’s plight, so the video moves into humour, to break the tension. The cleverly shot ladder to the moon gets us all thinking “there’s an idea…” and its followed by the girl’s creative attempts to make contact. Because this video is not about sending a letter as such, but about creating a connection with someone.
And we wonder just how this problem might be solved, as the lyrics make it seem impossible by reminding us “you are half the world away.”
Happily Ever After
There is the girl’s delighted face as she opens something we cannot see (what can it be? we wonder) and then hugs her mum. The man looks even more dejected with his head bowed. Just as we begin to lose faith, the balloon-fuelled parcel arrives – a gloriously colourful package that breaks through the monotone grey of the moon. The audience now whoops and hollers – the problem is solved, their tension is released and we have a happily ever after. The man knows he is loved – how wonderful.
This is when I started crying my eyes out. And because it has touched me that deeply, I know that this story will last for years in my mind, body and soul.
Not only that, but the first morning it was on Facebook, it was spreading like wildfire. Because we all love a happily ever after story. And this one made us feel good.
John Lewis have tapped into something within all of us. Something simple and powerful: our desire to feel special, to feel loved.
The next time you want to create something that is truly Unforgettable, try taking a leaf out of the John Lewis’ playbook.
One of the most important stories that you can tell when you’re speaking is the Before and After story. It’s a simple format where you create two powerful images that demonstrate the value of what you are talking about. The first image is one a person with a problem, the second of one where your topic has solved that problem and made that person’s life better.
Then this week whilst describing it I had a breakthrough! The Before and After phrase came from an analogy with weight loss or cosmetic surgery businesses. They use real photographs to demonstrate the difference in how people look – and need both images to encourage others to buy their services. It is the contrast between them that demonstrates the value of what they do. Either image on its own simply wouldn’t work.
“Before and After” as a phrase is clear and descriptive. So what’s not to like?
The trouble with that phrase is that they are not clearly associated with a simple powerful image. By using that phrase, I was asking those listening to do all the hard work and decide on their own images. Not only that but it’s not surprising or unusual enough to be memorable (never mind unforgettable)!
Making It Memorable
To bring the process to life, I asked my audience of business owners to bring to mind the story of Cinderella, which follows the classic “before and after” format. They clearly identified both the “before” image of Cinders in rags, sweeping, unhappy, and bullied by her mean sisters; and the “after” image – the Happily Ever After of being married to the prince.
PING – I had an idea!
Instead of calling it the “Before and After” story, it became the Cinderella Story.
My audience of business owners became Cinderella’s Fairy Godmothers – those magical people who grant wishes and make transformations come true.
So think about the Cinderella story that your audience needs to hear – something that will tap into the problems they are experiencing and give them hope for how their lives might be better in the future.
What’s the Cinderella story that you could tell when you’re presenting about your topic? Share your Fairy Godmother status below (or be Aladdin’s Genie if the title Fairy Godmother doesn’t fit!)
TV Soap Operas deliver a cliffhanger at the end of every episode to ensure that you tune in for the next one. Think of the ending of the classic heist movie “The Italian Job” when the group and their loot are finely balanced over a cliff and then the credits roll… and you can’t help wondering ‘what happens next?’ Do they escape? Does the loot fall out of the back of the van?
Stories are invaluable for presenters and a cliffhanger is a great way of creating curiosity, of keeping your audience on the edge of their seat and paying close attention.
After all, a cliffhanger is really just the first half of a story. It creates excitement, anticipation and tension by giving us the problem without the solution. And as curious as we are, we cannot help but want to know how the story ends. Which keeps our audience hooked!
Creating a CliffHanger
All you need to create a cliffhanger is to tell the story of a single character and put them in a situation with an uncertain outcome. Take Lucy here. Lucy is stuck in some handcuffs and doesn’t have the key. You cannot help but think: I wonder what happens next? How does she escape?
Create More Connection With Your Audience
You can create even more connection with your audience if you do any of the following:
- name your character after someone in the audience who is well known
- refer to the town/ city at which you are speaking within the plot
- make the main character very similar to your audience members (age, job title etc)
- create the problem that closely mirrors that which your audience is experiencing right now – so that they are nodding their heads and relating to the hero of your story
Building More Suspense
There are some simple ways to build the suspense:
- Make the possible outcomes more extreme– falling a few feet is not great, but being suspended 30 floors up, or over a canyon creates a real life-and-death scenario
- Create an urgency – the ticking time bomb effect from a train speeding along the tracks to which the damsel is tied definitely ups the ante
- Make a positive outcome less likely – the fingers starting to slip, the knots are too tight… show that the first or most obvious solution doesn’t work!
Releasing the Tension
In most situations, you are likely to tell a story with a happy ending. Not always, but the story you tell at the end of your presentation is best if it has an uplifting “this is what’s possible” emotional connection, so that your audience leave feeling full of a sense of what is possible. You can weave your story throughout the presentation – starting with the first half to create a cliffhanger, building on it throughout the presentation and finish your presentation by telling the story all the way through to the “happily ever after.”
So what happens next for our Lucy? Find out in the next installment of Naked Presenting’s blog (ideas welcome below)….