Engaging a Visual SocietySep 25, 2023
MOVIES AND MEMORIES
Years ago, I remember scanning the room in my 8th-grade science class. Everyone wondered where our teacher was. The door opened, and in walked the science teacher from down the hall. He handed out a surprise quiz sheet with 25 blank spaces. I felt queasy since I had a history of doing poorly on tests, especially pop quizzes.
Once everyone had their quiz paper, the teacher walked to the door and held it open. Our science teacher entered, wearing all kinds of sporting goods from a hockey jersey to a baseball mitt. He walked around the room waving his arms slowly, rotating to reveal all sides of his body, and then he left.
The other teacher then told us to write down everything we could remember that our teacher wore. The class wrote fervently in the first minute or two, but most temporary memories quickly faded. I was one of the few who continued writing.
When the time was up, I had 25 items listed. Most students had 7-15.
Our science teacher returned to the room wearing his regular clothes and talked to us about observation skills, which all scientists need to develop. He verbally reviewed the test answers, which most failed. We had a few laughs from some who listed things he hadn’t worn, and then he pointed out that I was the only one with all 25 correct answers.
Most students were confused, knowing my poor testing abilities, but I was elated. That day might have been my first perfect test score since starting school. Unfortunately, most of the class failed the quiz, so the teacher decided not to grade the tests.
Noooo! It was my first A+ pop quiz score.
Since I wasn’t known for my academic achievements, the teacher asked me how I did it.
I had associated his movement with the entertaining antics of Walt Disney’s sports Goofy. As a child, I laughed out loud watching Goofy’s “How To” shorts before a feature film. This association drove me to focus on all the things he wore.
During the test, I merely replayed his animated actions back in my mind and wrote down everything I saw. The teacher used my comments as a springboard to share my understanding of visual language. He pointed out that many used their left brain to recall the items, while I used my right brain.
It was my first time understanding the difference between literary and visual languages.
LITERARY TO VISUAL
Over the next few decades, I mastered the visual language while living in our literary society. This mastery only benefited me until our world shifted from a literary society to a visual one. This shift is most prevalent online, where 73% - 80% (depending on your source) of all Internet traffic is video.
This can also be proven in reverse by tracking the readership of newspapers.
When I was born, newspapers were written so anyone getting a high school education could understand the articles. When I entered university, articles were written at the 8th-grade level. Today, articles are written at the 6th-grade level, and most people don’t even read them.
Because only 70% of Americans are literate, and of the literate, 72% can only read at the 6th-grade level. So, it’s best to use visual language to communicate with the average American.
Storytelling is the best way to transition from literary to visual communication. It is the only art form that speaks to people regardless of them favoring their right or left brain hemispheres. Storytelling also reaches the logical and the emotional decision-makers, making it an ideal art form for businesses to embrace.
We see this shift first embraced during the summer blockbuster movie season. Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws” was the first blockbuster film in history, quickly followed by “Rocky” and “Star Wars.” These stories were so rich with visuals and sounds that they had about a third the amount of dialog compared to other films of their day.
The focus was on the story, not the dialog, getting and keeping the audience’s attention. This shift in focus also made the stories more memorable and easier to recall. The visual language within Star Wars was so powerful many remembered the story for years after having only seen the film once. And yes, the story was so strong that many saw it multiple times.
Each blockbuster empowered national and international conversations. The films altered our culture and made the visual language more prominent. With every year of blockbuster movies came less focus on the literature of the day.
TRANSFORM YOUR MESSAGE
Reaching Americans with your message today requires understanding how to transform your literary message into a visual one. While nine specific things can be done to ensure the cinematic translation, I’ll review the three that will get you started.
Blockbuster films are, first and foremost, entertainment. Most include exciting attention-getting devices, surprise turns in the plotline, and a hero that overcomes the impossible.
For those who think education is a better approach, let’s consider the language. When we want to have someone consider our educational point, the person might agree to “entertain” the new idea.
“Entertain” originated in the 15th century, meaning “open the mind“ or to “receive” shared ideas. Entertainment, which has the same origin, is the act or process of providing pleasure, recreation, or amusement. In other words, entertaining your audience opens their minds to your new ideas.
If all we do is communicate facts and data, the audience can keep a closed mind. It’s not until their mind is opened to entertain new ideas that genuine consideration can be given.
Entertainment is also a tool that helps us keep, hold, or retain shared information. Most studies reveal how quickly people lose the information presented in a lecture (within hours or a couple of days), with one exception. If the information is shared with a properly related story, the person can recall the information several months later.
When we entertain the audience, we open their minds to consider the information we share, empower them to have greater recall of the critical points, and give them the type of pleasure that builds trust. This makes the value of entertainment within our messages critical to our success.
Most blockbuster movies start with the hero’s everyday life. When sharing your story, start by sharing the ordinary and let the twist in the plot shift the focus to your extraordinary ability.
In my 8th-grade science class story, I opened with the dreaded pop quiz and how I was terrible at them. When it came time for the twist in the plot, I shared how my observation abilities were beyond the average person’s—the unexpected twist from the guy who often failed pop quizzes.
Next, salt in some education.
Apprenticeship was once the standard way to educate new workers in successful processes. It worked well in the day because it transferred more than just knowledge from the mentor to the worker. The process also transferred wisdom from the mentor’s real-life experiences.
This means that the transformation of all information must include the practical and the applicable when empowering workers. Demonstrating the solution’s application becomes the most valuable output that can be provided to an audience. When a real solution is provided, its perceived value escalates, empowering the audience to become a hero of their life story.
This educational process often creates an “Ah-ha” moment that alters the brain’s intake, making recall more effortless and enjoyable.
In the story about my 8th grade year, I shared about the teacher clarifying how the literary-oriented people tried to answer the quiz compared to how the visual person answered the quiz. This gave the audience the facts about how our brain’s left and right hemispheres worked without lecturing on the data points.
Next came the inspiration or the remarkable.
I shared with my 8th grade class how I could replay the visuals in my mind and pause them to write down everything I saw. This inspired some students to wonder if they used their right brain more often, they might be able to do the same.
Inspiration often moves a person from a standstill to action. When we inspire others, we move them emotionally or guide them along a specific beneficial path. Not only is the person thankful for movement in their life, but they typically take advantage of the moment to self-empower additional ideas.
Inspiration can become a motivational tool that makes forward movement easier. Leveraging inspirational moments advances causes and can spur a person’s purpose.
Take time to write down one of your favorite stories and edit the story to add in the cinematic elements of entertainment, education, and inspiration.
The entertainment grabs their attention and opens their minds. The educational elements offer new information worth considering. And the inspiration empowers the audience to try the story’s application in their life.
The best way to help others embrace your message is to start where they are at and with what they understand. Some of your audience will be made up of logical and emotional decision-makers. Some will either favor the right or left hemispheres of their brain.
Your presentation needs to communicate to both types of people. By ensuring your story includes the cinematic elements of entertainment, education, and inspiration, you will be successful in speaking the language of your audience.
Share your story with a new group and get their feedback. You might be amazed at how well your story touches our world’s logical and emotional decision-makers.
By CJ Powers - President, Powers Productions
Whether through video, writing, or speaking, CJ is a natural storyteller. CJ transforms his clients literary messages for our visual society with the Cinematic Advantage.