Imagine it's a hot day and you're longing for some ice-cream
I give it you.
You're about to lick it.
But then it gets snatched away from you.
You don't need to be told what happens next, right?
And that's because your brain has already gotten the “reward”. Hundreds of milliseconds before you even licked that ice-cream, the pleasure centre of your brain lit up in anticipation of how the ice-cream would taste.
When the cone was snatched away, there was an interrupt that can only be fixed one way. Unless and until you get the ice-cream back, the situation remains unresolved.
This method is called “The Man In the jungle” method
In his book, “Pitch Anything”, the author Oren Klaff describes how to create attention by leaving a situation unresolved (In the Article Writing Course, we call this the “disconnector). And it's important because you never know when the audience is going to fall asleep.
At some point, the audience will snooze
But is it bad luck or bad planning that you have people nodding off? People don't nod off when you know how to get their attention—and get it at the right moment. Just as you're about to give the juiciest part of your presentation, everyone in the room needs to be super-alert. That's when you employ “The man in the jungle” technique.
“The Man In the jungle” method consists of three parts
Part 1: Put the man in the jungle.
Part 2: Set beasts upon him.
Part 3: Get him to the “edge” of the jungle—but not out of it.
So let's analyse what these three parts mean, shall we?
Let's start with the “man in the jungle”
When you put the main in the jungle, you are using a metaphor for someone getting into trouble. In our businesses we all get into some sort of trouble. So let's say you're sitting at your computer, and you get a client telling you that your website seems to be acting weird. You're concerned, but not overly concerned.
This is the starting point. You've started to unroll the story, with a dollop of trouble, but no apparent danger.
But in the next part, you realise that “beasts are upon you”
This second part unravels the story. And not in a good way. Let's go back to your website. You head there, expecting to find nothing too dramatic. But there it is. It's been defaced. Hackers have been on your website and mutilated it.
That's only part of the trouble. Suddenly you're getting a flood of e-mails from clients. And they're all saying that red flags are showing up on all the search engines. You gulp, and you take a deep dive into checking things out.
It's worse than you thought
Not only are some of the search engines bringing up warnings, but they're preventing clients from visiting your website. Suddenly you're facing the prospect of having to clean up your website, get removed from the black list and let your clients know that it's safe to visit the site. In short, you're not only in the jungle, but being attacked by beasts.
And then you find someone who's going to help
After hours of scouring the internet to find a reliable source (it is your business, after all), you manage to get a recommendation. You've actually found someone who can clean up your site and get things back to normal again.
There's just one problem: This clean-up expert has sent you a big list of things that you need to comply with, because if you don't comply with the list, the hackers will be back and cause havoc yet again.
In case you didn't notice—we moved the third part
You weren't suppose to notice. You were supposed to get riveted to the story—which is likely what happened. But even as we moved through the article, we followed a pattern of getting into the jungle, being attacked by beasts and being taken out of the jungle.
Taken out? Not really. You're still at the edge. There's no resolution in sight. You still need to finish quite a few things before the problem even starts to get resolved.
An unfinished problem gets the audience on the edge of its seat
The audience has been pulled through the three stages of the story. And then they're looking for resolution. And it doesn't happen. Instead you move along with the rest of the story. And this lack of closure acts like a burr in the shoe. It forces you to pay attention. It doesn't let you get distracted, because your brain wants to know the answer.
But why is this burr so critical?
It's critical because of how an audience reacts in a presentation. Once a certain amount of time has passed, the audience gets restless. No matter how good your presentation, they start to think of objections, of things they want to do, or start analysing the facts coldly.
When you slide in the burr, they are forced to pay attention. They're expecting you to tell them what happened next.
So won't they get distracted if you don't tell them what happens next?
No, they won't. You still don't know if the website was fixed and the hacking resolved. You don't know the details of how the things that needed to be complied with, were finally completed. The story never ended. It just broke off at the “edge of the jungle”
But you didn't get distracted. You continued reading, expecting somehow that the details would get resolved.
The “man in the jungle” story is only a way to keep the attention going
Once you've finished with the information, you can easily bring back the closure to the story. By which point, it's almost a formality. The audience is likely to suspect there's a happy ending. And there usually is.
But you've made your point
You put the man in the jungle.
You put beasts on him.
You then took him to the edge.
You then put in the critical information now that the audience is on edge.
Finally, it's time to close the “man in jungle” story.
Attention getting is not an art. It's a science.
And in a world of distraction it's easy for audiences to fall asleep at the most important part of the presentation. To keep them awake, you need to tell a story—a “man in the jungle” story.
It's like taking away their ice-cream before they're about to lick it.
Once you've said your piece, you can give the ice-cream back.
Makes sense, eh?
P.S. That story about the hacker attack—that was our reality in 2014. Our website wasn't defaced, but because we're listed in the top 100,000 sites in the world (according to Alexa), we were repeatedly targeted. And we got the website fixed and secured.