Recently, I attended an event where someone I admire and respect was speaking. He’s one of my favorite leaders and typically a dynamic speaker, so when he took the stage, my notebook was open, pen in hand, and I was ready to be blown away by his insights. I listened, took a few notes, and thought it was pretty good. But for some reason, I walked away feeling disappointed. I couldn’t put my finger on where he missed it this time, but it just fell flat.
Later, I was with a friend who attended the same event, so I asked him, “Was it just me, or did he miss the mark today?” My friend’s response created a perfect mental picture of precisely what I’d been feeling. He said, “Yes, a lot of the content was good, but he took us on a merry-go-round, and we were hoping to go on a roller coaster.”
I had never heard that metaphor before, but he was exactly right.
Think about it: if you’re on a merry-go-round, you’re there for one of two reasons. Either you’re there with a child, or you’re on a first date. (If you’re an adult and enjoy merry-go-rounds on your own, that’s definitely weird.) Merry-go-rounds are predictable. You hop on; the music starts; the carousel starts moving; and it goes in the same direction, at the same speed, the entire time. It will never speed up, turn around, stop abruptly, or change directions—you know exactly what you’re getting.
A roller coaster, however, is different. When you ride a roller coaster, there’s anticipation before the first plunge, inflection of speed and height as you ride, and emotional highs and lows throughout the twists and turns of the track.
We should apply these same three things to give speeches, create experiences, and make moments that are memorable.
Almost all roller coasters begin the same. They hit the track from the loading zone, and you hear the click, click, click of the cars climbing the chain up the first hill. The incline steepens, the noise of the ride gets louder, and your vision of the sky against the track builds your excitement for that first plunge. People love to feel anticipation. Sometimes, the build up to an experience is the best part. Krispy Kreme does this well for their customers. When you see that the hot sign is on, there’s a gravitational pull of your car into their parking lot. You anticipate that warm, sweet, perfect donut that will melt in your mouth before you even turn on your blinker.
Roller coaster rides are exciting because your position is constantly changing. You’re up and down hills, around circles, upside down, right-side up, moving extremely fast or extremely slow to build dramatic effect. Whether you’re creating a customer experience, an event, or a speech, how do you create levels of excitement? When speaking, you can elevate your voice or get softer to emphasize a point. You can add various components to your event to engage your audience. Sometimes, it’s getting people out of their seats, or simply changing the medium you’re using to deliver your message. If we are intentional, we can use inflection to create exciting experiences and events.
How do you feel when you ride a merry-go-round? About the same throughout unless you’re feeding off the emotion of another person—the joy of a child or the laughter of a first date. Often, riders high five each other when they get off a roller coaster because it created an emotional experience they want to share even after it’s over. In the same way, we want to create experiences that leave people feeling so excited, challenged, and empowered that they want to share it with other people.
When you build anticipation, use inflection, and evoke emotion, you’ve created something special that people will remember and remark about.
When you build anticipation, use inflection, and evoke emotion, you’ve created something special that people will remember and remark about. @KevinPaulScott
Try to add one, two, or all three of these elements into the next experience you’re creating.
Whether you’re leading a meeting at work, teaching a Sunday School class, planning a birthday party, or giving a speech, think of ways you can make it more of a roller coaster ride than a merry-go-round.