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Narratives & Openings

Updated: Jun 29

Once you understand how to do it, creating a narrative is the most natural thing to do.

Your narrative work began with your WAIAD worksheet. It both starts to provide the connective tissue between the different details of your research, and also starts you down the path of triggering questions in your audience's mind.

It is this triggering of questions that is a key component of why stories captivate and how we leverage the captivation of storytelling without sounding like storytellers.

I call this approach Answers & Questions:

The key is to get your audience thinking about what you just said in a way that triggers them to need to know more. This is done by creating what are called "open information loops." As we tell our audience things, the natural question triggered creates an irresistible need to have a question answered. And then in the answering of that question, we then trigger another, and another, and another.

Let's look at the final outcome of our sample WAIAD worksheet to see how this happens.

Consider all of the questions that this naturally triggers:

About the gut-imulator:

- What is a gut-imulator anyway?

- And what does that thing look like?

- How do you build one?

- How do you know it works?

About Anti-microbial resistance:

- How big is the problem of AMR resistance?

- Will it affect me? How soon?

- How do you know?

About gene transfer:

- What is this gene transfer you mention?

- How do you study it?

- How reliable is this approach?

About preventing it:

- What can we do & will it work?

- What is the next step toward getting there?

Now if you look in aggregate at the questions here, you'll quickly realize that this is the contents fo a research talk. Background, methodology, results and discussion are the answers to the questions triggered here. That's obviously on purpose. Our plain language, general understanding not only does the early comprehension and connection work we need it to, but also sets up the need in our audience to hear "the rest of the story." And if we stop thinking about story as "once upon a time" and instead think of it as the research work we have done, we can now leverage the power of story without feeling like we are "telling stories."

At this point our work is mostly done. From here, we explore openings, and then look at some sample trajectories.


We know from research, the highest attention and memory moment is the opening. We need to leverage that moment.

We also know that audiences distracted each thinking about something different, each in a different emotional state. Our first job has to be to make them forget the other thing they are thinking about and to get us all on the same emotional page, essentially becoming in sync with each other.

What we are talking about here is something called brain coupling. It sounds like science fiction, but it is actually well established science.

Watch the first 3 minutes of this video to hear directly form the Princeton researcher who has studied this phenomena in detail.

If you've noticed you've heard me talk about this before, you're right -- you've been visiting the delivery hive, bravo, I think it's my favorite. This is the science behind what I talk about there as immersion. Immersion that starts with you being fully present and then brings your audience into the experience and keeps them there all the way to the end.

And this then brings us to Story

Humans make sense of the world and process the world through story. One reason your WAIAD statement is so vital is that work is the story of your research. If you do not give people that story, it is the story they will attempt to create themselves. The problem with that strategy is that they spend too much time trying to figure it out (rather than listening), and the one they create will not necessarily be the one you wanted them to. So the solution is to do has we have done here, and give them one.

And here, we finally arrive at Openings

Our opening is where the heavy lifting for all of this work gets done. We are not going to

start with our name or our lab or even the title of our talk. Instead we are going to start with something that captures attention, creates immersion and starts triggering the string of questions that will make it so that the audience needs to hear the information that we want to share.

This type of opening works does some serious multi-tasking.

It captures attention and begins immersion.

It foreshadows without being too explicit.

It serves as a memory anchor.

In order to understand how this works, let's now look at examples.

Sample Trajectories

Notice the progression here. The difference in time for the opening and conclusion barely changes between 3 and 10 minutes., It's only beyond 10 minutes that the opening is allowed to expand. Notice how much time this gives for our research in a 10 minute presentation. If you follow this, never again will you run out of time to talk about the most important part of your presentation.


Your content work is done, now let's move on to talk about how to deliver it and how to integrate visuals: the other 2 components to nailing your next presentation.

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