30. High Profit Presentations: Capturing and Holding Attention

High Profit Presentations: Capturing and Holding Attention

How do you turn your message into a movement? You create a ripple effect. You drop a compelling message into a still pond. The folks near you hear what you’re saying. They like it. They tell others. Friends tell friends. Word spreads organically. Your reach expands. Your audience grows. The ripple effect carries your message farther and wider than you can alone. The organic growth is exponential. And then, the ripple becomes a wave. 

To create a ripple that turns into a wave, you need a single magical ingredient: narrative drive. Listen and learn why narrative drive is the “lightning in a bottle from which great fortunes are made.” 


  • Why Capturing and Holding attention transforms your message into a movement
  • The critically important ingredient that turns a ripple into a wave
  • What happens when your writing, podcasts or videos “read like a bat out of hell”
  • What exactly is Narrative Drive? And how do you create it?
  • Why narrative drive sets you apart from everyone else in your industry
  • Why I teach the discipline I call Speaking On The Critical Path
  • A living example of the glee of Narrative Drive and movement toward happily ever after — my beloved doggie, Sheffield


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Welcome to Episode 30 of How to Make More Money, a podcast that helps you get seriously good at the game of making serious money. I’m your host Kelly Hollingsworth and I’m thrilled you’re here because today we’re talking about the fifth target to aim for to achieve a high profit presentation. This is the last target that I’m going to discuss in this series of episodes on high profit presentations. It’s by no means the last word on this topic. I could speak endlessly about creating a high profit presentation, and there will be much more about this coming up in later episodes. But to round out this current series of episodes on high profit presentations, today we’re going to discuss the fifth target to aim for when you want your marketing message to make serious money. And then, for our last episode in this series, next time we’ll discuss why the five targets we’ve discussed so far feel so difficult to achieve, and what you can do about that.

Before we dive in, let’s quickly recap the four targets we’ve already discussed. Pay attention, because when you even aim for these targets, you hit the bullseye in your marketing message. Why? Because this stuff is money. Getting anywhere in the vicinity of the messaging targets we are talking about is money.

So what are the targets that we’ve discussed so far? In Episode 26, we discussed distilling your message. Making it clear, simple and potent. Why is this important? In a world full of noise, you need something that cuts through and makes a mark on the hearts and minds of your audience. When your message is distilled, the meaning of what you do comes rising up out of the murky depths, and this is what you need, because meaning–in other words, transformation–is what creates money.

In Episode 27, we hit on the importance of highlighting the happily ever after. A low profit presentation tries to manufacture desire, through convincing and manipulative tactics that feel salesy and repellant. A high profit presentation involves none of that. It attracts rather than repels, by highlighting the happily ever after in a way that shines a light on what your audience already wants. With this type of marketing message, your audience feels organically drawn to your offer by their own internal desire, rather than manipulated by you to buy something for your reasons rather than their own.

In Episode 28, we discussed clearing the obstacles. When you highlight the happily ever after, your audience will feel organically drawn towards your offer. They will feel a pull towards your offer due to their internally generated desire that was always there, and that you’ve helped them become more aware of. At this point, your early adopters will buy. But many of your audience members will not yet buy. Why not? it’s like in that movie When Harry Met Sally. Towards the end of the movie, in the “all is lost” part of the screenplay when Sally has had it with Harry, he leaves her a message on her answering machine, and says, “Pick up.” When she doesn’t pick up, he says into the machine, “The fact that you’re not answering leads me to believe that one of three things is happening. A) you’re not home. B) you are home, and you don’t want to talk to me. Or C), you are home and desperately want to talk to me, but you’re trapped under something heavy.”

This is where your clients are when they’re not buying. They desperately want the happily ever after, but they are trapped under something heavy. What are they trapped under? Low profit thoughts that have them believing they can’t get what they want. So another target to aim for in your high profit presentation is to dissolve the low-profit thoughts that prevent your audience from availing themselves of your solution.

Then what? Everyone wants to work with the best in the world. So the way you turn an ordinary presentation into a high profit presentation is you demonstrate your expertise. We discussed this last time, in Episode 29.

If you aim for these four targets: 1) distilling your message, 2) highlighting the happily ever after, 3) clearing the obstacles; and 4) demonstrating your expertise, you will get a lot of business. Just a whole lot of business.  But if you want to explode your business, there’s an additional target to aim for, and that is capturing and holding attention.

Why is this fifth target MONEY? Because when you capture and hold attention, your message enjoys organic growth of the most enviable kind. Picture your marketing message as a pebble that you drop into a still pond. If you are even close to the target of capturing and holding attention, you’ll create a ripple effect. The folks closest to you–the initial members of your audience who are the first folks to engage with what you’re saying –will carry your message beyond themselves. Friends will tell friends. And their friends will tell their friends. Through this ever-widening distribution, a ripple becomes a wave. Your message takes on a power of its own. It spreads on its own. In this process, your message becomes a movement. This is the profound, high profit benefit of capturing and holding attention.

So how do you accomplish this? With a single, critically important ingredient. The messaging element that turns a ripple into a wave is called narrative drive.

What do I mean by this? When a novel has narrative drive, what happens? What do we say about it? We say, “I couldn’t stop turning the pages.” High-profit writers aim for narrative drive in both fiction and non-fiction, and when they even get close to hitting it, their books sell in the millions. Steven Pressfield, the high-profit writer who penned The Legend of Bagger Vance, many other novels, and notable non-fiction books, too, does very well with narrative drive. This is why one reviewer wrote that his writing, “reads like a bat out of hell.”

This is what you want. When your book, blog, or other written presentation reads like a bat out of hell, your readers tell their friends, and they all binge because they can’t get enough. But narrative drive goes beyond books and blogs. If you have a podcast with narrative drive, your listeners tell their friends, and they all binge. They can’t get enough. If you have a YouTube channel with narrative drive, your viewers tell their friends, and they all binge. They can’t get enough.

So what exactly is narrative drive? Here’s how Steven Pressfield defines it. He writes that narrative drive is “that quality [of writing] that keeps readers riveted. It is the lightening in a bottle that creates great fortunes.  If your work has none…fuhgetaboutit.”

Who wouldn’t lightning in a bottle from which great fortunes are made? We all do. And fortunately, for those who are fortunate enough to know how to create narrative drive, this is the element that sets you apart from everyone else in your industry. Why? Because narrative drive is sorely lacking in most marketing messages. Recently I was out on a very long walk with my dog Sheffield, and I was disposing of the podcasts in my Stitcher feed in rapid succession. In almost every episode that came up, there were ten to twenty-five minutes of fluff that I had to advance through to get to even a few nuggets of wisdom, entertainment, or helpful information. I was so frustrated with all the fluff, and standing there pressing the 30 second advance button over and over and over in hopes I’d eventually find something of substance to listen to, that I quickly just started deleting podcasts from my feed. When I was finished “unfollowing the fluff,” almost every show that I’d been following was gone. I had about six shows left to listen to. And I didn’t even listen to those. At that point, I was so done with fluff and nonsense that I switched to an audio book.

And now on my walks, I keep going back to my audio books. NOT podcasts. Why? Because on balance, books have more narrative drive than podcasts. Does every book successfully harness the engine of narrative drive? No, of course not. But writers of books generally are more focused on creating narrative drive because when you study the craft of writing, you’re told to focus on narrative drive above all other things. So, in the process of writing a book or editing a book, narrative drive is a target that  writers and editors are aiming for, and when they do, they tend to get closer to hitting it than most podcasters do.

If the idea of your followers feeling frustrated, and unfollowing you, leaves you in low-profit fear, it’s definitely something that’s worth avoiding. So then the obvious question is, how do you create narrative drive? This is a subject that we work on in Gateway to Seven. I have a ton to say about it, and I’m always learning more, but one thing that is indispensable is a technique that I call “speaking on the critical path.”

Here’s what I mean by this. In a novel or movie that has narrative drive, the characters are relentlessly moving toward a desired outcome. The actions they must take to achieve that outcome form a critical path to success. In the beginning, forces are in place that threaten to keep them stuck in inertia, and not moving forward towards the goal at all. And once they get moving, they’re blocked by obstacles that thwart their progress. Villains with contrary agendas are flying at them, threatening to knock them off their path to success. And the stakes are high. If they don’t make it, all will be lost. And if they do make it, everything will be better. The world as we know it will be new and improved, or at least saved from certain disaster. In a page-turning novel or a blockbuster film, every single thing that happens is about the path and whether the hero will make it to the end, and the importance of doing so. The discipline of speaking only to this question—of speaking only about the events on the path and the importance of staying on the path– creates the relentless forward motion that we find in a film, work of fiction, or a marketing message that has the relentless forward motion characterized by narrative drive.

What happens if you don’t have narrative drive? You get the opposite. There’s a wandering aimlessness to your message. People may listen. They may consume. But there’s not a feeling of, “I need this now.”

Here’s a visual so you can see the difference. Right now my little dog Sheffield is 15 years old. When he and I go out for a walk by ourselves, just the two of us, what happens? On the way, away from the house, I listen to audio books on my phone, and he enjoys a leisurely stroll sniffing from this bush to that bush. It doesn’t matter if when we leave the house, we turn left or right when we leave the house. There’s a park that’s about five houses away from us, and it can take him a good 15 or 20 minutes just to get to the park. If we go the other direction, same thing. There’s a spit—a point of land that runs into the water–where a bridge used to be, and he likes to go hang out there and walk along the shore and sniff. He enjoys this because he’s out in the sun and the wind and smelling all the smells. It’s pleasant enough, but it’s aimless. I’m listening to audio books and he is aimlessly sniffing from here to there until he’s tired and it’s time to go home.

Contrast this with when I walk with my husband. When we don’t have Sheffield with us, we want to walk. We are not out there to stand around. So usually, I do two walks a day. One with my husband, where we’re constantly moving forward. And one with Sheffield, where we’re ambling along. This used to work out fine, but recently Sheffield was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Now we know that we’re not going to have Sheffield that much longer. So we want to make sure he’s as happy as he can be in the time that he has left.

And this means two things. My walks with Sheffield have gotten even longer and more aimless. I let him go wherever his interest may lead him for as long as he likes. That’s not the problem. The problem is that when my husband and I want to actually get out and walk and not just stand around while Sheffield sniffs, we feel like we can’t do that. Sometimes when my husband and I are getting ready to go out and do a serious walk, Sheffield doesn’t want to go, and I can take him out for a sniff later and walk with my husband now and everything is fine. But this doesn’t always work. Because sometimes when my husband and I are getting ready to go for a serious walk, Sheffield is standing there, politely wagging his tail because he wants to go, too. And given his current situation, the last thing we’re going to do is leave him at home if he wants to go. He doesn’t have much time left, and we want to make sure he enjoys every last minute of his time with us.

So here’s the doggie dilemma that we’re in. Thad and I want and need a serious walk, for the exercise of it. We’re both recovering from injuries right now, and walking is about the best we can do and we need to keep doing it. But Sheffield wants to go, too. We want him to have a good time but not impede the purpose of the outing—to get some exercise. So how did we solve this problem of Sheffield wanting to walk when we want to get a light workout in? We solved it with narrative drive.

Here’s what happened. Before we solved this problem, the three of us would go out for a walk and the walk was so frustrating, for everyone. I would hold the leash and Sheffield would sniff and Thad and I would stand there, and then Thad would get frustrated because his injured foot hurts when he stands still for too long. So I’d tell him to walk ahead and I would wait with Sheffield, who would have absolutely no motivation to stop sniffing and actually walk. Thad would be way up ahead, wanting to go even further. I’d be standing there with Sheffield, also wanting to go and feeling frustrated. But Sheffield would be totally oblivious. He’d be sniffing and messing around and doing his thing, like it was one of those leisurely strolls he and I take when it’s just the two of us.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Sheffield loves to sniff, but he still loves to walk for exercise and he’s totally capable. He can walk four or five miles, and he enjoys it, even though he’s old and has cancer. But often, when Thad and I want to walk, he just wants to sniff. He has no drive on those occasions.

So how did we solve this? through a structural solution that enhanced Sheffield’s drive to move forward. What is this solution and why does it work? Well, Sheffield, like every self-respecting Maltese, is a one-person dog. The Maltese was bred to be a lapdog to royals. They attach to one person, and they don’t let go. I happen to be that person for Sheffield. He won’t even leave the house to walk with Thad if I don’t go along.

So the thing this dog wants most in the world is to be close to me. When I hold the leash, I’m giving him exactly the thing he wants most in the world–to be close to me. When he has that, there’s absolutely no reason to move forward. The structural solution to the lack of drive Sheffield was in, was for Thad to hold the leash. If Thad is holding the leash when Sheffield stops to sniff, and I keep walking, then what happens?

What happens is narrative drive. Sheffield no longer wants to stand still and sniff. He wants to move forward towards his ultimate happily ever after—being right next to me. This very organically happens because the thing Sheffield wants most in the world isn’t next to him. it’s further ahead on the path. And that gets him going. When he looks up from sniffing and sees that I’m not right there, but I’m further ahead on the path, he moves, like a bat out of hell, running with glee to get close to me again.

Now, I want to be very clear. We are not forcing a sick dog to walk further or faster than he wants to. If he ever got tired, we could take him home. He weighs 11 pounds. We have never had to help him get home because he was tired, but if he were, we could pick him up and carry him all the way home if necessary. Or Thad could go get the car and drive us home. So please don’t think that we’re abusing our dog or treating him badly in any way.

The point here is exactly the opposite. He’s having a great time pursuing me whenever he notices that I’m further ahead. It’s a game, and he loves it. It keeps him interested, and it keeps him moving forward. This is what narrative drive does for Sheffield, and it will do the same thing for your customers. When you have narrative drive in your message, because you’ve built it in structurally, your customers will keep moving forward towards the happily ever after that your business creates. They won’t listen and consume and amiably wander along. They will listen, consume, share what you’re doing with their friends, because there’s a sense of forward motion in the whole thing that humans find as gleeful as Sheffield does, and that’s when they buy. They don’t just buy. Their friends buy, too.  

This is the magic of a marketing message that incorporates narrative drive. To achieve it, you need all five of the targets we’ve discussed so far. You need a distilled message that highlights the happily ever after, clears the obstacles from the path, demonstrates your expertise, so folks know that you’re the person to run towards, and you need to structure the whole thing properly, so it’s obvious that the thing they want is in front of them and they need to gleefully run towards it. That’s when people buy. That’s when your message has narrative drive.

So now the question is, if this is what we all need, why don’t more of us employ all of these tactics and hit all of these targets in our own marketing messages?

The answer may surprise you. Stay tuned for the next episode, and I’ll tell you what it is. And thanks for being here today.