When your funny, shocking, dramatic story ruins the message

Editing videos and public speaking are in many ways the same thing. It’s about structure, flow, dynamics, retaining attention. It’s more about what you don’t include that makes for sharp and focused content. And that requires some brutal editing.

It’s one of those beautiful dynamics where creative skill bleeds over into other disciplines. The underlying narrative structure of anything with a timeline holds the same principles. So don’t give up on your essays, your blogs, your journalism, your presentations or whatever. They all make you a better content creator.

So often we include stories, illustrations or anecdotes because they’re funny. Or shocking. Or interesting. Or because they show the depth and breadth of our knowledge. And all of this serves to create more spicy, more interesting content, right?

Not too long ago I had to edit a story out of a preach because it was too sensitive to go online. Great in the room, but not for the world to hear. The inadvertent side effect was that it made the sermon better.

Suddenly, the message was more succinct and punchy. The content was less distracting. The space between two of the points was now much shorter which made the whole thing easier to follow. Less noise, less fireworks, more substance.

It got me thinking that, on reflection, I had spent much of the remainder of the preach just thinking about that story. It was a bit dramatic, a bit shocking. But it served to lead me on a train of thought away from the message, for quite some time. And the story itself didn’t advance the narrative or say anything new.

When we do this type of thing, this is what happens to the flow of concentration:

Narrative: the flow of concentration

Story telling is a powerful thing. Think of all the parables Jesus told — he was a master at it. But when Jesus did it the story was the narrative. The story was the message, the thing to remember. There was no conflict or distraction.

Stories are amazing when they fit the purpose of your message. When they are the thing that takes you from A to B or C to D. But as content creators, be wary of the funny, nostalgic, interesting and compelling details you include to retain attention. Maybe they’re too good. Maybe they’re all that people will remember.


Ouch… Actual genuine pain.

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