The Big Short

BigShortBlog

A lot of times people ask, “What are the essential components of a speech?” They’re looking for the silver-bullet, the ideal length of time spent, the appropriate level of seriousness, how much humor, how many data points to include, etc. Often, we look to TED talks, popular speeches and commencement addresses as examples of ways to inspire, motivate and shift the way people think or act. Rarely can we look to a movie as an example of how we should give a speech.

That was before we saw The Big Short.

If you haven’t seen it, yet, try to do so before this Sunday’s Academy Awards. It was informative, educational, entertaining, connecting and unexpected – and you’ll feel thankful that you saw it (unless, of course, you were personally responsible for the mortgage crisis).

So often, we need to make the complex simple.

Adam McKay (the director) went way outside the box, presenting the facts and history of the mortgage collapse in a way that fueled ah-ha moments – enabling us to see, feel and grasp the complex concepts of CDOs, credit default swaps and tranches.

How can we do this in speeches?

There are the 3 key things we can learn from The Big Short:

1.    Tell it like it is. Starting at the beginning, one of the main characters (Ryan Gosling) broke the 4th wall to talk straight to the audience. Plainspoken and raw, he showed his involvement – and ours, too. When you’re the one speaking, telling it like it is shows transparency and vulnerability. Add your emotions – show how your own blood, sweat and tears impact whatever you’re discussing. Don’t whitewash the details. You’ll really get to the heart of the issue – and your audience – when you tell it like it is.

2.    Add SHARPs. We talk about SHARPs all the time – and this movie was filled with SHARPs! Looking for a great presentation visual? Think beyond 2-D. Jenga blocks were an incredible visual – and also tactile and audible – representation of the complexity of mortgages. Don’t have the right prop on hand? Share an analogy, or get a celebrity to share one for you (practically speaking, a video clip is a great way to do this). Selena Gomez describing betting on a bet, Anthony Bourdain outlining how three-day-old fish can become fish chowder – these analogies helped these complex financial concepts come to life in a way that most economic textbooks – and professors – do not.

3.    Add a Dash of Unexpected. Whether it’s a blonde bombshell in a bubble bath sipping champagne and explaining sub-prime loans (like Margot Robbie, above), or a false ending that gets the audience to laugh, interrupt the current flow. Crystalize and break – it’s one of the SUCCESs principles from Made to Stick. Business meetings are fairly predictable! To really keep them paying attention and wanting to know what you’re going to do or say next, you must shift gears and bring them the unexpected.

It feels like a huge risk to take a high stakes opportunity and add these SHARP and unexpected elements, or to tell it like it really is. But the fact of the matter is that it’s not fluff; it works. It might even win an Oscar. And it could help you win your next project, client or presentation, too.

 

A Picture Worth a Thousand Words

There’s nothing like 77 bathtubs to give you a quick idea of what “7.7 cubic meters of water” looks like. A friend recently sent me a link to this post on the current drought situation in California. Regardless of your political standpoint on Gov. Jerry Brown’s response to the drought, … Continue reading

Stop Compartmentalizing: Find a Story to Tell

Last week I was working with an executive, and he got flustered. “I can’t think of a story,” he said. I told him, “Just think about it – the stories will come to you.” And sure enough, they did. Why were we looking for stories? Not just because it’s trendy … Continue reading

Ring in the Humor

Bobsled. Halfpipe. Hockey. Figure skating and speed skating. Slalom. Ski jumping. Even curling. With 3 young boys in the house, we watched a lot of Olympic coverage this year. My personal favorite moments are always the opening and closing ceremonies, and I was floored at this year’s closing ceremony. Of … Continue reading

Green Means Go

Do you remember the movie Gone in 60 Seconds? Even if you remember it as a bad movie, it’s a good reminder about how quickly we can lose our audience. The first 30-60 seconds of our presentations, speeches or reports are always the hardest part. Physiologically, it’s when our hearts … Continue reading

The Straw that Broke the Camel’s Back

I’ve heard over 100 presentations on philanthropy and giving. I spend a lot of time recording people speaking on video. Luckily, many of us are motivated to give back, and we want to urge others to do the same. This is not a complaint – instead, there is a great … Continue reading

The Deal is in the Details

In case you hadn’t noticed, the concept of story is pretty hot right now. Basically every industry endorses it as its #1 bit of advice, with entire companies popping up to “help tell your story.” There are two avenues of storytelling. First, there is the simple method of telling what … Continue reading

Raise a Pint to Unexpectedness

It’s rare to catch me watching a commercial. But somehow, between DVR, my kids, Twitter and all the emails in my inbox, there I was, feeling affected by 60 seconds of brilliance. Don’t think it can happen to you? Then watch below: The genius of this ad comes from a … Continue reading

Just Add Humor

“I love people who make me laugh.  I honestly think it’s the thing I like most, to laugh.  It cures a multitude of ills.  It’s probably the most important thing in a person.” – Audrey Hepburn The key to being funny is not worrying about the outcome. Release that armor … Continue reading