“‘We learned that by studying cancer cells in culture,’ Defler said. He grinned and spun to face the board, where to wrote two words in enormous print: HENRIETTA LACKS…
‘HeLa cells were one of the most important things that happened to medicine in the last hundred years,’ Defler said.
Then matter-of-factly, almost as an afterthought, he said, ‘She was a black woman.’ He erased her name in one fast swipe and blew the chalk from his hands. Class was over.
As the other students filed out of the room, I sat thinking, That’s it? That’s all we get? There has to be more to the story.’”
The passage above is excerpted from Rebecca Skloot’s acclaimed 2010 non-fiction book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Skloot’s book exemplifies the power of storytelling, and serves as a great example of the ‘sticky’ virtue of unexpectedness that Chip & Dan Heath point out in Made to Stick. Few people have heard the story Skloot tells in the book, and she does well to point out the mystery and interest surrounding the story with passages like the one above.
“That’s it? That’s all we get? There has to be more to the story.” This is the kind of reaction we need to elicit from our audience: excitement, fascination, and the desire to hear more. How can you present information in a way that will make them think, ‘I need to hear more’? How can you give your audience just enough information so that they’ll be waiting on the edge of their seat for more? Is there a piece of information you can hold off presenting until the end (like the teacher does in the passage), so as to make a bigger splash with its impact?
Don’t limit yourself to presenting information in a linear, chronological, or otherwise typical way. Think outside the box. Consider unexpected and unpredictable ways you could organize your presentation’s information.
Your presentation will be much stronger if you dangle a proverbial carrot in front of your audience’s faces, and wait… tease… wait… tease… and wait until the opportune moment to release the bait, and deliver your compelling information.