Usually good stories start with a strong opening line, grabbing the readers’ full attention and trying to stimulate an immediate emotion in them, wanting to keep them engaged until the last word.
But as this is a great story, it will start from it’s ending.
I won the IPA Speaker’s Cup competition 2018. And for once, I know exactly how I did it.
The competition itself was based on a 3-4 minute speech about an ad related topic, such as an issue, a particular fact, or an event that involves the advertising world. I was against 12 other individuals from media and creative agencies.
The core reason of the contest was to prove the importance of speaking and presentation skills, especially in everyday work. More and more of these abilities are getting lost due to our increasing dependence on technology. The excessive use of slides (often word-heavy and misleading) takes away the creative and personal aspects of a business presentation.
When you are given tasks like this it is very easy to “get lost” in thinking about what can be said in such a short time. Many times we tend to overthink about what to say in order to not appear too simplistic, and that was the exact feeling I had the night before the competition. I still hadn’t written my speech because of this. The fears of failing and regret were clearly on the horizon. Nonetheless, among all the doubts and uncertainties that were in my mind, a question inspired me for a moment and broke that wall of insecurity, “what do I actually have to say”?
This question really revolutionized the way in which I started thinking about the speech, and all the subsequent thoughts helped me consolidate it in my mind.
This question becomes even more valid if we consider that we all have a deep need to listen to a good story and to be continuously entertained, throughout the day. We are all so absorbed by our daily routines and stressed by our chaotic lifestyles that all we desire at the end of our day is to have some time to relax, trying to find a bit of comfort in our favourite social media, scrolling down the feed until the very last post in order to maybe find a nice tale to read, to enjoy, to get inspiration from. But often we tend to forget to produce our own, and somehow fall victim to what other people tell us, eventually influencing and conditioning our own vision on events. But this would bring us to talk about the fake news phenomenon, a very different topic…
After all this thinking, the following morning I could finally rehearse the bullet points of my speech for the first time…
In the shower.
I indeed realised what was needed in order to approach the competition: telling a story that could offer everyone a deep moment of relaxation and enjoyment, but without forgetting to communicate my content and my ideas, an essential part of any speech.
I opted to open my speech speaking Italian, creating a shocking opening to engage the audience and eventually prove the main point of the whole speech: the importance of placing ads in the right and most appropriate context possible for our customers. Starting the speech in Italian (and following up with some more practical examples) proved that even though we might have the most interesting and appealing message to communicate to our audience we, as the whole industry, risk not to be understood properly if we don’t convey our message through the right channels, in the right moments, with the right creative and, last but not least, with the right “language”.
Working in the media industry we hear everyday words like “engagement” and “brand storytelling” for our marketing strategies, and we challenge ourselves and our clients to invest more and more in the latest technologies and products to raise the awareness of that specific brand in the minds of the consumers. But are we still able to tell a story to someone, a friend, an acquaintance or a perfect stranger, without relying on anything else than our imagination and creativity, rather than the technology? Are we still able to create a story that is not an Instagram one? This will surely sound demagogic, but only daring ourselves to answer these questions will make us more capable to overcome the problems and challenges in this fast moving market and world.
Personally speaking, I did find my own answers to those questions, and now I can admire the Cup shining in front of me.
A great story always begins from it’s ending