Fit Focus Flair

What’s the story? It’s a question?

I was working with Dystin Johnson, a British actor and screenwriter the other day, and in our discussions when trying to help a client run an effective training session for salespeople for a really exciting new product- we got into a discussion about ‘the story’.

I was thinking that the story is the thing that makes the point you want to make, you know- prologue, act 1, act 2, etc.  She was thinking of the story as the point…  And took for granted the structure.  It took us an hour to realise that we were talking the same language and failing to understand each other’s use of the story word.  She explained her meaning of the word as a TV writer, and for once, I listened, understood and saw her point.

I learned something really useful.  That a great story is the point, and that it’s also the constituent parts that drive you through from ‘Once upon a time, to ‘Happily ever after’.

I learned that a great story can be framed in a simple question that must be relevant and interesting to the audience.  And everything that happens in the telling of that story must be judged against whether it helps answer the question, or not. Examples?

In film terms- The intriguing questions to be answered by the following films are- in my opinion-

  1. Toy Story 3- What happens to the toys after their kid has left home?
  2. Casablanca- Should we care about 2 people in love when the world’s gone mad?
  3. Schindler’s List- Does saving one life save the world entire?

In business terms-  it’s useful to focus the question on what the audience wants from the presentation

  1. In sales presentations- How will this make me safer, healthier and more successful? Is it worth the price?
  2. Venture Capital presentations asking for funding- Can you show me how I’ll get the returns I want from investing in your business idea? How? Why should I believe you?
  3. In employee briefings- How will this reorganisation affect me? Why is it being done? What can I do if I don’t like it?

Identifying ‘the question’ is a really useful starting point for anyone planning a speech.  It can be a difficult thing to do, especially when you’re not certain of the question?  But it’s worth persevering with because it then gives you real focus for the talk.

NB- I was working with Ron Oort- Driving Change– European marketing & sales thought leader and the exciting new product is Nissan’s all electric car, The “LEAF“- The question is- ‘Why is this all-electric car better for most people, the planet and your pocket than the Toyota Prius…’

This is a part of my Fit, Focus & Flair model. To be great, a presentation must be a perfect FIT for the situation; the content must have complete FOCUS on it’s purpose and message; and it must have enough FLAIR to stand out on the day, and in our memories. Learn more about developing your Fit, Focus and Flair.

Jim Harvey

Jim Harvey

Managing Director at The Message Business
Jim is the MD of The Message Business, a company which helps FTSE 100 companies to sell themselves, and their products better. Speech writer, Prezi trainer and designer, coach and consultant, Jim also finds time to be a proud father and husband.
Jim Harvey


  1. Pingback: 10 things to help you start brilliantly

  2. Pingback: Persuasion

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


To Top