Code of Captivation by Chris Bashinelli
“It’s got to be funny to you. If you don’t laugh, they’re never goona laugh.”
- Mel Brooks
We live in a world that is absolutely flooded with content from every angle. It doesn’t matter if you’re giving a speech, creating a video for youtube, or sending an email to a potential buyer- you’ve got to engage your audience at their core. There are five helpful keys I’ve found to captivate someone’s attention, and keep it.
I love the line by Mel Brooks because it helps us start with the person we know best- ourselves. This simple litmus test is a wonderful check point to constantly return to. If we find the sentence in our email, the scene in our movie, or the line in our speech engaging, then we can gauge whether or not the audience will. If we don’t find it appealing, it’s time to try something new. The only way we’ll ever determine what’s best is by trying a plethora of material until seeing what sticks. Hence, the more we do, the better we tend to get at things.
CODE OF CAPTIVATION
1) COLD OPEN- GRAB THEIR ATTENTION
A cold open is the very first thing that people see in your movie or read in your email. It can be a startling moment, a high energy or out of context phrase, so long as it peaks people’s curiosity and makes them want to see or read more. I love using cold opens that hint at a later-to-come theme, which forces people to stay tuned in order to figure out what happened in the first few moments of the presentation. Many messages do not include a cold open, but used correctly it is a very powerful means for gaining people’s attention.
In my first PBS TV Show our cold open was a 15 second clip of me biting into a raw buffalo liver and screaming out loud. People had no clue what was happening, but they needed to watch the film in order to find out.
2) CREDIBILITY- WHY SHOULD I LISTEN TO YOU?
After you’ve gotten people’s attention it’s helpful to give them a good reason to listen to you. What makes you an expert on the topic at hand? The answer to this could be a measureable credit such as a PhD in the subject, or in many cases it could be having a personal connection with the subject. IE: If you’re raising money for a particular cause, it is helpful to know that you’ve had a direct experience with that cause. Credibility doesn’t need to come in the form of a doctorate, in can be based on palpable passion. NOTE- #2 and #3 can be interchangeable; depending on which you feel is stronger to lead with.
3) WHAT ARE YOU DOING?
Be clear about what you are doing on that stage, in the film, or in that email. It’s also important to hint at #5, the action step. Do this in as few words as possible.
4) CONTENT: Facts, deliverables, added value
This is #3 extended upon. This is where you can really build a case for your #5. You have the chance to go into detail about the reasons why your argument is strong. In the example of writing an email to raise funds for a particular mission, be clear about how many people the mission will help, and the ultimate impact it will have.
5) ACTION STEP
Be very clear about what you are asking people for, or what your call to action is. You’ve (hopefully) gotten everyone very engaged with your 1) cold open, 2) built your credibility, 3/4) explained in detail what you’re doing and why, and now is your chance to have 5) a clear call to action. If you don’t include #5, all of the previous steps might be a waste. In the case of my speeches, I make sure to include a clear call to action- which is that we take the needs of the person sitting right next to us and place them on an equal or greater pedestal then our own.
There you have it- the code of captivation as I’ve found it in my experience. This code can translate to the stage, the computer screen, or in a major motion picture.