Monday, November 26, 2012

Why movies don’t start with the credits

What do movie makers, televangelists, advertising executives, infomercial producers, and even high school speech team students have in common?  They all know that the first few moments of an interaction provide the greatest opportunity and the greatest need to grab their audience's attention.  Unfortunately for the rest of us this principle remains elusive in our day to day lives.

Think about your last meeting.  How did it start?  Most likely someone went through the agenda or discussed the logistics for the day.  How many people got excited about that?  What about your last training session or annual retreat?  Probably the same.  I’d bet that in most instances where you get people together, the first thing the audience hears is something administrative and logistical.  In one meeting that I attended recently, the first thing the organizer told us was the location of the restrooms.  It’s no wonder that there is so little engagement in the workplace and in meetings.  Perhaps it’s because we don’t capitalize on opportunities to engage people.

Contrast that with the last movie or television show that you saw.  How did those begin?  They didn’t start with the title, theme song, or “opening” credits.  They generally start with a scene to capture your attention and draw you in.  Then, they take an abrupt break to formally introduce the event.  That’s how they create an engaging experience and pull you in.

I’m not suggesting that the agenda, logistics, and especially the location of the restrooms aren’t important.  From the perspective of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, if people are concerned about those things, they probably won’t attend to the issues you really want to discuss.  However, just because they are important, you don’t have to address them immediately. There are very few emergencies in the first three to four minutes of a meeting.

Shakespeare once wrote, “All the world’s a stage" (As you like it, Act 1, Scene 7).  Every interaction is an experience.  If you want to engage your audience, capture their attention in the first few moments that you have it.  Then you can sort out the details.

Brad Kolar is an Executive Consultant, Speaker, and Author.  He can be reached at