The Art of Unfinished Business
24th July, 2015
I’ve been to a few presentations which; on the surface appeared to be beautifully crafted and well formed. They had a beginning middle and end. The structure was pretty well refined no more than three points to take on board, some fancy visuals and some great statistics, the presenters were even really personable in their style… but something was missing.
Have a think about what it’s like when you finish a novel or film. You might have had expectations perhaps of where the story might lead, you may well have had hopes and dreams for the characters and… depending on the writer’s train of thought your dreams will have been fulfilled or left lacking.
Now think about the most exciting novels you have read, or chapters within books… or perhaps even films watched… Specifically consider those which form a mid-part of a trilogy, series or a longer tale. Connect with those moments when you didn’t yet know where things were going to lead, but your attention was grasped. Notice the active quality that resides within you in moments such as this. What happens when you close the page knowing there are more pages to turn? Where do your ideas take you?
So it is with presentations (certainly for me as an audience member). It is great on occasions to have a call to action and a brilliant punchy closing line where everybody applauds, but sometimes the sense of closure can be too vivid. No matter how inspiring, if the journey appears to have come full circle we can walk away as passive recipients.
Too many open loops create dissonance…
Of course it can be helpful to close some loops and not open up a multitude of ideas simultaneously otherwise people can go away confused. Perhaps at the end of a presentation some ideas will be brought to fruition and reintegrated (comedians like Bill Hicks have done this really well). If however we package our message so tightly there is no wriggle room, we could be missing the benefit of unfinished business, the unanswered questions, the seed sown but not yet reaped, the ideas and thoughts placed within our head that we go away, think about, relate to and digest… and… importantly… act upon.
Perhaps the ideal call to action for any presentation is that it remains a conscious and active “pit stop”, one that can be revisited and built upon. One that extends the journey with an alignment of vision and yet allows you to write your own next chapter, taking the idea further than perhaps the author or presenter might even have considered. Perhaps the questions and orientation points that we leave people with are far more important than the information we convey.
- How can you ensure the presentation lets them know how resourceful and influential they can be (rather than how clever you are)?
- What loops can you open up to direct their attention towards a shared vision?
- Where can you allow unfinished business for them to run with?
- How will you manage yourself to allow them to take things forward?
This is not about power and status! This requires trust in your audience that they have within them the capability to make decisions, to take action, to be motivated enough to work with your passion and bring about a positive result. It requires you to believe that they have the intelligence to think even more clearly than you, it requires a degree of relinquishing control – and that can be quite uncomfortable for some presenters. Of course you will no doubt have noticed for this blog you could replace the word “presenter” with “leader” because those in leadership roles can often fall into the trap of closed loop overly directive leadership.
So start the fire and blow on the embers…
Perhaps starting the story is the most important role the presenter / leader can take. Providing enough information to empower and enable people to take the next step. Imparting and embodying enough enthusiasm to motivate people that this is an idea really worth pursuing.
You see it’s all about the “if”. Many people follow a great structure within their presentations or their leadership they might start with the “why” are we discussing this, “why” should you be interested, “why” are we here. They might then start to cover some of the “what”, such as “what’s” important, “what” do we need, “what” have we already thought about, “what” resources do we have. They may even get into the “how”. Suggesting “how” we take this forward, “how” your role assists and “how” the next steps will look going forwards.
IF on the other hand… creates options and new paths. If we did it this way instead, what if, how else, what could be, what would we never do, what haven’t we thought about? Abstract concepts, imaginings and theorizing create true transformation and the ownership that people feel then leads to real action. Ideas become larger realities than their origins. The seed doesn’t only grow a flower it populates much more vastly and through pollinators the new flowers create new seeds expanding and creating a connection that cannot be contained or owned. Who knows how far an idea can spread in the breeze when the climate is right.
And my point is… because there is one…
If your idea really is more valuable than your need for kudos, let go of the reigns… a little! Resist the urge to own and contain… The journey yet to come is almost always more exciting than the one already travelled.
In any case even if at times it is not so smooth going forwards – at least it is the part of the journey we each have power to influence.
Two links you may enjoy….
One is from a guy who really knows how to collaborate… and start a story, his vision is so large we can all play a role…
The second explains a little about our brains and why unfinished business is so important…