Free the world from boring lectures! Provotain!
“Imagine the postman rings. He brings you a package. The package smells good. It looks good. He smiles at you. The only thing that surprises you is that you don’t know the sender. Who is sending you a package? Because it smells so good and looks so beautiful, you tear it open and inside you will find a smartphone. Even the latest model. Who’s sending you a smartphone? Under the smartphone is a Post-it: Call us, we are your new employer! A company did that in 2014. 20 packages were sent and five new employees were hired.
That’s how I start my presentations.
This is how I am sure to attract attention. From both employers and employees. Some are looking for employees, others want to be wooed. Most people can connect spontaneously with the story.
The first minute of lectures already speaks volumes about the dynamics. I could also talk about myself for two minutes, or say that I’m glad that everyone showed up in such large numbers. I feel that this is a waste of time. I start with the first story, and after 60 seconds the guests have already laughed and learned something new. And in this spirit – laughing and learning – the lecture continues.
Just because 18 colleagues are present in the meeting and 157 or 633 guests are sitting in front of you in the lecture, does not mean that only one is listening to the speaker. You know this yourself. You rush to the conference, the child is sick. At the last second you have organised childcare. Then you think of the boiling heat: you didn’t even buy a parking ticket for the car. And who’s gonna bake the birthday cake for the best friend? The tennis tournament of the weekend is still in the bones and the flat tire on the bike is annoying. In front of you are thousands of different thoughts and feelings. If a speaker then stiffly presents the agenda before giving a monologue about the beauty of beauty, you are unrestrainedly at the mercy of your own thoughts. The parking ticket pushes. Besides, you have been looking for engineers for several months without success, which is annoying. And at this moment you hear me say this: “A company did not receive applications from engineers. The human resources manager then asked various questions, for example: What music do engineers listen to?” Then you hear a heart-piercing cry: “WACKEN. Heavy metal. Engineers listen to heavy metal more often than average. The company bought four tickets for Wacken and wrote in the next job advertisement: “We are giving away four tickets for WACKEN among all qualified applicants. The festival is sold out quickly and this offer spreads like wildfire among the target audience. The company has received more good applications than ever before.”
Again the guests laughed and learned something new.
I continue without a break: “And I recently told this to the city council of Hamm. They were looking for civil engineers and didn’t receive a single application for months. Ten days later, the Hamm city council was in the BILD newspaper with a big article and photo, and the German TV station RTL had already called. Hamm promised three civil engineers a trip on the cruise ship Heavy Metal. This is so extraordinary that the major media reported on it. In this way, Hamm also reached people who did not even knew before that the city of Hamm employs engineers at all.”
Only a few minutes have passed in the lecture, and the audience has already marvelled three times. None of the lecture guests now think about the parking ticket or the birthday cake. I continue: “Such ideas in personnel recruitment are no coincidence, but are based on imagination, which can be trained like any other strength and competence. I’ve been practicing idea fitness for 20 years.” While I say this, I take off my jacket and put on a red tracksuit top. Throughout the lecture, I will be offering visual stimuli. The training jacket, a red thread that I stretch across the room, elephants, Lego Duplo, a ladder and cocktail mixer that I shake.
We humans are sensory beings. We taste, hear, see, smell, feel. An experience that appeals to all the senses will stick. Naked words are the worst form of communication. If you want to win people over for your ideas, themes and thoughts, create an experience. My movements also outsmart the brains of the audience. Thoughts prefer to revolve around themselves. But I offer the eyes incentives to look. You must follow me as I walk across the room and across the entire stage. The eyes constantly send signals to the brain, which inevitably has to deal with me and cannot drift off into self-absorbed thoughts. This way my content wins listeners, because they really listen to me.
I call this provotainment. Entertaining provocation. For this I use five elements:
- Breaking Taboos
With jokes the walls of entrenched thoughts are taken by surprise. We are constantly busy with old patterns and habits. Fortunately, we don’t have to think about how to tie shoelaces. That’s good. But if all our activities follow routines, the first challenge for speakers is to create a gap into which content can penetrate. Good jokes make us laugh when the punch line surprises. Laughter opens people. This is how important content gets the appropriate attention.
I am not interested in being funny. I want my content to reach people. Punch lines go around corners and that gets attention. If you advertise your content, you should surprise people so that they pay attention. Attention is time, and time is our rarest asset. Attention is a gift. Time never comes back. Everybody in the room could do different things, nobody has to listen. This is exactly what happens at boring lectures and teachings of know-it-alls. Guests don’t have to do that to themselves and they just wander off. Surprise them with humor. Humor builds bridges and opens. Humour is fun, and laughter connects. In a relaxed atmosphere your content reaches the guests, and that’s what it’s all about.
You know, love goes through the stomach. How many lectures do you know that go through the stomach and appeal to all senses? In your lecture, arouse emotions that support what you say. I am not primarily interested in the experience, but in actively supporting your content. Dress words in stories rich in images. A picture says more than a thousand words. And support pictures with experiences, because an experience says more than 1,000 pictures. Show prototypes, sculptures and objects vividly and tangible. Write an experience script: What do you see? What do you hear? What happens? It is boring to look beyond your own nose if you just say the dictum. On the other hand, if you take a hammer on stage or in a meeting and destroy a plate, you are sure to get full attention. You activate several senses with your staged surprise. You go one step further than expected. You take out the plate and the hammer and everyone thinks he won’t do it. And already hundreds of shards fly across the stage. What is the more emotional experience? The proverb or the shards? Do what nobody expects you to do. The wreckage is like the punch line to a joke. Your message will stick.
Is what is said relevant for the guests? All people ask the crucial question: What is in it for me? You can smash as many plates as you like, but if your message doesn’t add value in terms of content, the effect will fizzle out. People filter for relevant and non-relevant very quickly. What does your content mean for listeners? You don’t have to convince yourself, you want to win over other people. Are your pictures, stories and experiences relevant for others? A client wrote me: “Your content has been repeatedly quoted in meetings.” Goal achieved. A student starts in 2016 on Instagram goodnewsdeutsch, which is now the largest German-speaking community for good news. More than 110,000 people follow on Facebook, reports and films are shared up to 61,000 times. Good news is wanted because it is relevant. Relevance decides how your message is spread.
In 2018, 17-year-old Emma Gonzales gave a moving speech to millions of people by keeping silent. She broke all expectations. Shortly before, she had become known worldwide with an eloquent and angry speech. Everyone was expecting these powerful emotions again, but she was silent. Extremely courageous. She remained silent for six minutes, as long as the massacre in Parkland, Florida, in which 17 students and teachers died, had lasted. Two taboo breaks in two speeches that moved millions of people.
In 2015, EDEKA showed on Youtube during Advent the loneliness of seniors at Christmas. No one had ever before brought the topic so brilliantly to the point in 100 seconds. The commercial “Coming home” received 40 million clicks in ten days. The new courage in German advertising was reported worldwide.
In 2014, my book “Myth of a shortage of skilled workers” broke a taboo. I questioned the buzzword on 240 pages with good reason. My input turned a 45-minute report on ARD television upside down, the original title “skilled worker shortage” became “The fairy tale of the skilled worker shortage”.
Everything can be reversed. Quickly it’s new, but probably not useful. Something new has to seem pointless at first, otherwise it wouldn’t be new. Turning it around attracts attention. 14,000 employees in outpatient care organise themselves and plan their daily business in teams. There is no management. No one can say by example that it is not possible. The revolution becomes a wow. In Norway the land registry runs on a block chain. Registration of real estate takes only a few days instead of six months before. Another wow. With wow content, your guests walk out of the event. The benefits are convincing. That sticks.
Reversing shakes convictions. You create space for new content. There is no vacuum. Everything is used to 100 percent capacity. All seats taken. The opinions of people are fixed. Lectures that go beyond the mainstream attack habits. With provotainment I polarise and inspire. Never everyone, but everyone who wants to make a difference. Goal achieved.
Picture credits: Personnel Congress