Hats and Handbags
I recently heard a very entertaining speech.
The subject matter, on first impression, may not sound very encouraging - the menopause.
However the lady's handling of the subject was light, witty and energetic.
And having shared her stories and experiences, she finished with the line:
'You don't stop laughing when you get old,
you get old when you stop laughing.'
Coming to a strong memorable conclusion is of course very important.
And a good rhetorical phrase will always tie things up nicely.
This particular rhetorical form is called 'antimetabole' (or sometimes 'chiasmus').
It is a neat mirror structure that appeals to us because of its apparent balance and symmetry.
(Other well-known examples, include:
'Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.'
'Beauty is truth. Truth is beauty.'
'When the going gets tough, the tough get going.')
So we had a wonderful speech with a wonderful ending.
So why was I unhappy? -
Because it seemed like a wonderful ending for another speech!
It was like going out for a drive and thinking:
'How did we end up here?'
This is why it is a good idea when designing a presentation, (or a training), to begin with the end in mind.
And then at every stage of the presentation you can make sure your material is leading towards the desired conclusion.
Does that mean that either our speaker should not talk about the menopause, or should she have chosen another ending? - (I am sure she thought, 'I really do want to talk about the menopause and I really do like that ending!')
Could she have the best of both worlds? Yes.
All she really needs to do is tailor the content a bit more towards that ending.
It is like putting together a beautiful outfit, and having an equally beautiful hat, that does not quite match.
There might be a way of adapting the outfit: a coloured scarf, a handbag or shoes that pick up the colour or style of the hat, so that they can fit together.
So therefore, while this speaker was narrating a particular story or awkward experience, she could tell us how, despite the embarrassment, she was able to stand back and laugh; that regardless of the situation she could still see the funny side; that despite cursing the passing of time and the 'cruelty of nature' she realised that the Creator probably just had a very good sense of humour.
Having guided our thinking a little, when she now arrives at her memorable last line,
we now smile with her and think:
'Yes! That is a great point and a lovely way of summing up.'
Make sure that the content of your talk leads logically to whichever ending you choose.
Usually it is not hard to adapt stories and examples, or create little signposts that look forward to the conclusion.
Because sometimes all it takes is a bit of forward planning and a few well-chosen accessories to create a successfully matching outfit!
So always begin with the end in mind.