I recently came across the following terrific commercial from Guinness. If you have not seen it, watch the clip before reading further.
As the commercial unfolded, I was thinking that the message would have something to do with perseverance and commitment in the face of adversity. And, indeed, the first word from the voiceover at 0:34 (when one of the players struggles to right himself after being knocked over) is “Dedication”. The game continues and we hear about “Loyalty”.
But at 0:42, something unexpected happens. The game ends and we learn that all of the players except one are able to walk without any assistance whatsoever, and we hear, at 0:47, the word “Friendship”. And that’s when we realize what the story is truly about. And it sticks because we didn’t see it coming. At least I didn’t.
Here’s another commercial with a story built on the same principle of a surprise twist:
It’s the surprise ending—the twist in the tale—that often makes a story memorable. Many great movies and books are based on this principle. And those are the ones we talk about: “Man, it blew my mind when I realized that she was the murderer!”
We can apply the same principle in the stories we tell in our speeches. Not every story needs a twist, of course, but having a surprise ending can be a powerful way to reinforce a message. Below are five ways to give your stories a twist. Can you think of others?
- Tell a story about yourself but only reveal that it was you at the end.
- Tell a story about a famous person but only reveal the person’s identity at the end.
- Tell a story where things are going badly but there is a positive ending.
- Tell a story where things are going well but take a turn for the worse.
- Tell a story that reveals an unlikely connection between two people and/or events.
And to conclude on a lighter note, here’s one last story with an unexpected twist!