I have been a fan of ABC’s Lost since it started. I was sucked into the stories of the survivors of Oceanic flight 815 and their perils on the island. The stories were complex and the characters were deep. There was also an element of supernatural and fantasy that made it just weird enough so that there was always something I just couldn’t figure out. Unlike most really good tv shows that end up getting canceled because of poor ratings, the creators of LOST decided to plan an ending to their program and next season will be the last. This seasons finally was last night and the two hour extravaganza revolved around two separate groups trying to save the island and save the people. And as I watch it finish I was left to wonder, as I have after many episodes, “Where is my payoff?”.
Do your speeches have a payoff?
Do your meetings have a payoff?
Do your stories have a payoff?
Happily ever after isn’t the only possible payoff at the end of a presentation. In some cases we need an action statement. In some cases we want to know what happened to the principals in the story. Sometimes we need to know that everything didn’t work out for the best. But we always need SOMETHING at the end to show for the time that we have invested in your work.
Basic speech structure is: opening, body, conclusion. The opening is the set up for your story with provides the conflict and the conclusion wraps it up and gives you a payoff. Take a look at the presentation that you are working on or the speech you just practiced and think if there is something in it for the people in the audience. The whole idea of professional speaking revolves around sharing something with an audience that gives value to the members of the audience. That value is the payoff.
Hopefully next season will be 30 episodes of non stop payoff and resolution of issues (I still want to know about Locke working at the box factory and what kind of powers Walt has), but somehow I don’t think that will be the case. Instead maybe I will just make sure that the speech I am working on isn’t just a well crafted roller coaster ride, but that in the end it not only provides value to the audience but they get a payoff.