Your Message as a Journey
When you’re putting together a large message, like an article, book, or talk, part of the challenge is figuring out what to put in between the pieces of your Red Thread. If you’re putting that much effort into a message, what you’re trying to do is get someone to move mentally from one side of something to another. That’s why thinking of your message in terms of trains, stations, and tracks can be useful.
So, using our metaphor, the pieces of the Red Thread are our stations, and the audience is the train, but if there isn’t any track they won’t be getting anywhere soon. The question to ask before each station is: what does someone have to understand and agree with before they’ll go with me there? For each piece of the Red Thread, you can use the previous piece to set them up for what’s coming next, going deeper into the problem to explain why the Idea is so important, for example.
Finally, this train metaphor is helpful in cases where some information is very familiar to your audience. You can think of these moments as an express train, where you can move faster over the track you’ve laid. In other cases where the audience is more resistant, you’ll need to be more like a local train, making a number of smaller stops to make sure they’re still with you on the journey.
– When you have a larger message to put together, let’s say an article, or a book, or a talk, it can be kind of confusing sometimes to figure out, “Well, what do I put in between the pieces of my Red Thread? How do I fill in all the other spaces? And how do I use that to organize what I’m going to talk about?” There’s a useful metaphor that can help you think about this, and it’s all about trains, tracks, and stations. I’m Tamsen Webster of TamsenWebster.com and that’s what we’re talking about this week on Find the Red Thread.
On one hand, you have all this content, all these examples, and stories, and exercises, and data, and research. And on the other, you’ve got the Red Thread. How do you put those two together to create a longer piece of information, a longer message, like a book, or a talk, or a piece of content?
This is where this mental idea of trains, stations, and tracks can come in handy. Because, really, if we are putting that much effort into a message, we are trying to get people to move, at least mentally, from one side of something to another. So let’s think of that something as the country, in this case, the United States. Let’s say the beginning, where they are right now, was in L.A., and we want them to get to D.C. L.A. is their mental starting point, and D.C. is our mental finishing point where we want them to end up. Where we want them to change how they’re thinking or behaving about something.
The question of course is, “Well how do I get them there? What’s the most efficient way to move them from one side to the other?” And for any number of reasons that we’ve already talked about, the stations of the Red Thread are the most powerful, fastest, most efficient way to get them there. You need to move them through agreement with their Goal. Agreement with your Problem as you describe it, agreement with an Idea that gives them a shape to this new opportunity. A Change that you want them to make and some Actions that will make that Change come into effect.
Now, those are the stations on this journey, and they, in their mind, are the train that’s traveling it. But obviously, if there’s not any track they’re not going to go with you. And so this is where all the content, and all the other concepts that you’re thinking about come into play.
Here’s how you put it together. You want to think to yourself, before each station, what does somebody have to understand, and agree with before they’ll go with me there? What do I have to tell them? What do I have to show them? What do I have to explain to them? Before they’ll say, “Yep, I agree. Let’s go to the next one.”
So a couple weeks ago, we talked about ways to open a message. That’s all the different ways to think about how to get someone to understand and agree with moving with you to the Goal, to starting the rest of your presentation. In between the Goal and the Problem, you’re going to need to lay some more track. Why aren’t they reaching that Goal? What have they tried to do? Why isn’t that working? Which will get them to agree to go with you to the Problem.
Once they’re at the Problem, what are the things they need to understand and agree with to go with you to the Idea? This is probably where you want to go deeper into the Problem. Explain why you care about it, what you’ve learned as you’ve tried to solve it. What realizations you’ve had, so that they say, “Well great, well what does that mean? What’s the thing that I can’t unhear?”
Now they’re ready to go with you to the Idea. Once they’re there, now you need to move them to the Change. Well, what do they have to understand and agree with there? They probably want to see why the, why and how the Idea explains everything else you’ve been talking about so far. They probably, at that point, want to hear what that means that they need to really give up mentally, what kind of patterns that they’re going to have to get rid of. It’s probably a place where you’re going to have to acknowledge something they’re going to have to sacrifice before they’ll really make that Change successful.
And then, once the Change is there, what do they need to hear and see from you before they really believe that they’re capable of doing it? Obviously the Actions are a major part of that, but think about showing the Change at work, things like a case study, or an exercise they can go through.
Make sure to answer any objections they may have and address any challenges that might come, but after all that, now you’ve got an opportunity to say, “Look at how far we’ve come. Look at all these stations we’ve passed through. We had this Goal, we found out about this Problem. We’ve come to this new understanding and the Idea. We’ve seen this Change, and how it works, and that means, not only did we arrive where we wanted to arrive, we arrived in a way that we never expected to before. A new version, a bigger version, a better version of the Goal.”
So as you’re putting this information together, as you’re trying to figure out, “Where do I spend my time, and where do these concepts go?” Think about it in the terms of what do they need in order to move to the next station?
And a quick note here, you don’t necessarily need to spend the same amount of time either in every station, or on the track. There’re going to be certain places where people are already familiar with what you’re talking about, or they don’t resist to it. They already agree with what you’re talking about so, in those moments, consider those express trains. You don’t need to lay as much track there, or at least you can move faster through what you’ve laid. In the cases, though, where they’re a little bit more resistant, or where they’re going to need a bit more explanation, a little bit more education on something, that’s where you’re going to want to slow the train down and think of it as a local stop. Making a number of different smaller stops to make sure they’re still with you on that overall journey.
That’s how trains, stations, and tracks can help you figure out how to spread your content out along the Red Thread. I’m Tamsen Webster of TamsenWebster.com, and if you’re trying to figure out what your Red Thread is, go to findyourredthread.com and download the free Red Thread Worksheet. If you want help laying out that content, well, that’s something I can help with too. So send me a form or a contact on my contact form on my website. That’s tamsenwebster.com/contact.