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Communications in Manufacturing: Contrast Helps Your Audience Pay More Attention!

Using contrast in your presentations


Contrast in storytelling

Good storytellers use contrast to keep our attention.

The Hero of the story alternatively makes progress towards the goal (good stuff) and meets obstacles that get in the way (bad stuff).  Going back and forth between the two is what keeps the story interesting.  The opening and closing of those “Story Loops” make us want to stick with the story to see how each twist and turn comes out.

Similarly, when we are giving a presentation or communicating with our Teams, we can use contrast to keep them engaged.

4 Steps to Build Contrast into the Narrative

In an earlier blog, we talked about framing a presentation in four big steps:

  • Intent
  • Obstacle
  • Plan
  • Result

In using those four steps, we are building contrast into the narrative.

If you start with your Intent (something good) – typically the positive thing you are trying to accomplish.

Then you shift to the Obstacle (something bad) – the things that are getting in the way of reaching that Intent.

With the Obstacle in the way, you move to the Plan (something good) – the method to lead you past the Obstacle.

Then you close with the Result – the clear picture of the positive outcome if you execute the Plan to overcome the Obstacle and achieve the Intent (something very good!).

Why Contrast Matters

Think back to almost any entertaining and engaging movie you’ve ever seen.

The Hero routinely goes from an exhilarating high of overcoming an obstacle and the victory seems easily in hand.  Then, suddenly something goes horribly wrong and now victory seems all but impossible.

This yo-yo effect keeps the audience on the edge of their seats and completely engaged in the story.

If you use the same concept when you’re presenting, you’ll keep your audience engaged, too.

How to Use Contrast in Your Next Presentation

As you get your presentation outlined and start filling in the text, take a few minutes and see where the positive and negative aspects are arranged.  You can even highlight the good stuff in green and the bad stuff in red to look for the contrast on the page.

Hopefully, you’ve got both good & bad represented, or the story won’t be very compelling.  Remember, it’s the Hero overcoming obstacles that make stories interesting!

You’ll also want to see how much you alternate between good & bad.  The more you can alternate back and forth, the more engaged your audience will be.

Let’s take a look at how our starting story would look if we highlighted the good & bad.


Contrast in storytelling

Using contrast will help keep your audience’s attention and make you a better presenter and storyteller.

Next week, we’ll talk about the importance of using Visual Language in your presentations to capture the imagination of your audience!

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