In my broadcasting years it was called, bury the lead, and I was guilty of it more than once. The most important part of the story was written in the second or third paragraph. Sometime I thought it needed a set up, other time I was concerned it had to be told chronologically. No matter the reason the most important part of the story was ‘buried,” not intentionally but it happened.
The same happens in speeches. The presenter, you or me, think we have to start at the beginning. Eventually we get to the most important part … the part that we came to tell them … later in the speech.
Here’s a different way of speech writing or speech thinking. Bring the middle to the front, or start in the middle. Start with the part that is going to WOW the audience, start with the part that always works! But Gary, you might say, we have to give them the background. Right! Of course you do! But I bet you can write around that with a simple phrase like…”let me back up to the beginning,” or” let me share how we arrived at that magical moment.”
I recently watched a video of a very influential person giving a presentation. He has written three best selling books, has a wealth of knowledge and stories and commands attention when he speaks. But while I was watching him he was moving nervously, not sure of what he was saying, he looked at the floor, head down and filling space with ums and ahs! He was horribly uncomfortable.
After about 7 minutes of this he got into the meat of his presentation. The Ahs and Ums disappeared. He stopped moving nervously and stood with a strong foundation. He looked at the audience while telling his powerful stories. No longer was I thinking this guy is nervous or uncomfortable. I was listing to the stories he was sharing, no he was re-living! He was a powerful presenter because he was sharing the part of the presentation where he was comfortable. I thought out loud while watching “OH YEAH!” He had buried the lead.
Well, not actually but it’s a similar concept. As presenters we should start with something that allows us to be most comfortable. Move your best stuff up to the top. Start with the stuff you used to put in the middle. You will start more comfortably and the audience will feed off your lead. They feel comfortable.
Try it sometime. either in a formal presentation or a casual conversation. When telling that story that is funny or feeling, try to start with the most important part or the most important line. It will get the attention of your audience and they will eagerly listen for more. Start in the middle!