Have you ever seen the movie Memento?
The plot follows the story of a man who has a brain injury and can’t make new memories last. Dory, the fish played by Ellen DeGeneres, in Finding Nemo had the same condition. Memento follows a different path than the adventures of Nemo. It’s a mystery designed around the question of memory. It actually goes from the end of the story back to the beginning. Every 15 minutes or so is an arc of the story which ends in a cliff hanger as the main character forgets what happened. He tried to make signposts for himself with Polaroids and tattoos to clue himself in. Then we’re taken back a little bit further and more is revealed to us which explains what’s happened in the movie’s timeline. Much like the protagonist, we’re only allowed to learn so much at a time. In the concluding moment of the movie, all is revealed to us and the enormity of the entire story finally makes sense. The movie is directed by Christopher Nolan who also is responsible for the mind-bending Inception.
I recently had a full day meeting with a customer where I presented an opening story and also the closing chapter. It struck me as I started off that the topic of each slice of the agenda were like an arc of Memento. I wanted the audience to follow along attentively through the day and have a sense of closure at the end. So, in my opening I told them that this was a Memento meeting. I looked around to make sure that key people were familiar with the concept and explained it as I led into the first part of the story.
Throughout the day, I called attention to key points and told people to make a mental bookmark because we’d come back to it. Then, I’d tie that concept back to the previous one in order to add context. I also added a teaser that what we were discussing was just another step along the path to the meeting’s conclusion. By the time we reached the end, the room was where I wanted them to be and had all the concepts laid out before them. Storytelling to tease them along the way was exceptionally effective. I even left some mementos along the way to help them.
This was actually a tie to the other Christopher Nolan movie – Inception. The premise of that movie is that the protagonists want have one of the characters perform a task so unnatural that they could never actually be persuaded to do it. There would be no argument or coercion which would get the point across. They actually had to believe the idea was their own – Inception. It took lots of planning and adaptation in the movie. It takes continual reinforcement during a meeting as well. “You phrasing” helps a lot. In the end, the other participants have come to your conclusion and your idea is their idea. There’s nothing more powerful which can generate as much excitement and ownership.