“X is like Y, because...” is a useful way to generate fresh thinking about pretty much any topic (and quite a good qualitative research technique to boot).
“Presentations are like films, because they are about telling a compelling story through a primarily visual medium” is so well established that it is now a cliche. Cliff Atkinson even suggests using a three act structure for your presentations (actually not as silly an idea as it first sounds, albeit over-prescriptive).
The lean forward moment
I've just finished a great book on film-making and editing called “The lean forward moment”, which has lots of useful advice about telling stories.
In a nutshell Hollyn argues that stories are about change, and that change (of any kind) can be used to signal important turning points to the audience. This might mean a change of acting style, a physical movement, a new camera shot, different lighting, music starting (or stopping) and so on. It doesn't matter what changes, as long as the moment has a chance to register.
As Hollyn points out, this is precisely the technique used by many public speakers when they use pauses to allow key points to land. They might also use visuals, props, changes in the pitch or rhythm of their voice, and so on. Change grabs attention.
Moments of truth
I, like Cartier-Bresson, believe that most things in life have decisive moments—lean forward moments—which are particularly powerful. When talking about the customer experience we call these “moments of truth”. Can we apply Hollyn's techniques to get the most out of moments of truth with customers?
If we take each customer interaction as a film scene, Hollyn suggests that we approach the scene with three questions:
- Whose scene is this? Many organisations act as if it's their scene, but it should be the customer's.
- How does that character change from the beginning of the scene to its end? Clearly we'd like them to be delighted by the way we've surpassed their expectations, not disappointed.
- Where, exactly, does that change occur in the scene? Ah, now that's an interesting question. What are the moments of truth? Once we realise that this scene belongs to the customer we can start to look at the turning points inside their minds as they go through the change identified at question 2. We can start to control how the scene's going to end by understanding that the outcome is not based on a gradual progression, but pivots around a small number of key moments.