The stars of silent films got it right. Ignore the Middle.
The basic structure for any story, any communication interaction is:
I know, incredibly complex. Violating this simple structure, however, can mean the demise of your message.
When I ask communication skills workshop participants, “In which of the above sections do you spend the most time preparing your message?” the majority of respondents say “the Middle”.
That makes sense, doesn’t it? The Middle is where the “meat” of the interaction is as it contains the main story elements. It’s where your data is, your key plot line, the points you use to make your case?
Buster Keaton, Fatty Arbuckle, Charlie Chaplin and their silent film contemporaries of the 1920’s provide a refreshing twist for us—they often determined the Beginning and Ending scenes of their black and white movies before they started. They figured out the Middle on the fly.
Consider the richness of the bookend parts: Beginning and Ending. These are the places where you first engage your Audience and what you leave them with at the end of the interaction. These are places where you can make a big difference in the Action of your piece—where you capture attention and then remind your Audience of what they should take away from interacting with you.
What if we were to spend more time focusing on how we start and how we finish? Maybe giving one-third of our prep time to each of the three basic sections? Considering that many Actors (authentic communicators who get stuff done) don’t even have a Beginning, and often run out of time for an effective End, the impact we can have on our Audience is huge.
What if you were to start your interaction with something besides the “our agenda for today is” or “I’m Corey and I’m going to talk about”? How about launching into one of the stories from your Middle content right from the start? Don’t say anything prior, just jump into the story or data point or key phrase that you want your Audience to leave with? It may seem really uncomfortable when you practice this and crazy scary to actually do it in your meeting or presentation. But remember The Kid in the Audience—they love a good story and will probably only remember one or two things about your discussion, and you’re starting with a story! Hoopla! And remember to circle back to your initial story as your End! That will satisfy the Kid as well and give you a much better chance of Landing your Thought and moving your Audience to Action.
With so few people focusing on Beginning and End, you’ll be different! And as long as you have your story together, have prepped and practiced, that difference can resonate big time with your Audience.
Your stage. Your performance. And with a strong Beginning and Ending, you’re on!
Buster Keaton photo from http://www.geekadelphia.com