Listening to a radio interview with Kevin Rudd, our ex Foreign Minister (and ex PM…but that’s another story!)..I was reminded of the power of small details to make a story believable. And make it stick. He was asked about a meeting he had with journalists a while back in a place called The Stag Hotel. The venue was just a mention in the interviewer’s question but Rudd seized on the possible interpretations that a listening audience might make. He wanted to clarify that the hotel was not a macho watering hole but a respected venue that often hosts government events. He drew a picture of the hotel for the listeners and suddenly we had context for the question; good details of time and place.
Next he went on to describe exactly a meeting with journalists that without the detail, appeared covert and planned. Rudd gave a discursive answer to the challenge from the journalist that he had met with the journos to make fun of the PM’s speech.The story went like this. He explained that a group of journos were gathered at a table, sharing a drink after a speech by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. Rudd took his time to convey the mood at the table and the conversation already in place and so created context for what happened next. He then described where he was in relation to the group. He described his path from the venue, that he was walking along a concourse with his advisors when he was stopped by the journos and invited to join the lively discussion.
In that spirit of an already amusing conversation, he said he contributed his own take on the speech which then became part of a bigger conversation. And was exaggerated.
Rudd’s attention to detail around how the meeting took place, resonated with me and invited understanding. We have all been in situations where we have become participants in an existing conversation with a direction and tone all its own.
It was a deft and persuasive answer to a limited and pointed question. The story insisted that reality is always more complex than might first appear.
Rudd used only clear and conversational language, consistently stopping to include the interviewer and call on the interviewer’s own experiences of situations like these.
Rudd may not win first place in the leadership battle today but he consistently takes the gold for story: he las learnt not to avoid questions with defensive politic gobbledegook but to use story to provide details to create a context that is human, believable and resonant. Incidentally, Rudd has over one million Twitter followers, so he’s obviously reaching his audience!
Don’t forget that I am launching my new story consultancy The Story Doctor on March 14th and from that date, I’ll be blogging from there! New twitter handle is @StoryDr and web address www.storydoctor.com.au. Sign up now on that page for our blog feed and news of good story practice around the globe. Join me!