Jesse tells us what “progressive complications” are, where they come from, and how to use them in our presentations…

“If you can arrange your presentation in that kind of fashion [using progressive complications], it’s really gripping for an audience.”

“One of the reasons [progressive complication] is gripping is they [the audience] are going to assume you have a solution, that’s why you’re there talking to them.”

“If [the audience] can hear how you got there [to the solution], then maybe that saves them a little bit of difficulty in their own life.”

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Matt: I have one more question related to your hooked seminar.

Jesse: Okay.

Matt: You mentioned the phrase, “Progressive Complications,” you remember that?

Jesse: Yes.

Matt: Okay, progressive complications, what does that mean?

Jesse: That’s a great phrase that I borrowed from Robert McKee, who is a well-known, screenwriting coach. Hollywood screenwriting coach. Progressive complications means that, in a presentation, let’s say you do a 20-minute presentation, you might talk about the ups and downs of the process that you went through to find a successful conclusion. For instance, let’s say you’re doing research and development. With the presentation, you might talk about how you went down one road, and it wasn’t a success. So, then you tried another road, and that wasn’t a success. Then you tried a third road, and that finally was a success. Those are progressive complications in that, when we take an action in the world, we are expecting a certain result. When we don’t get the result that we want, we have to try harder. We have to dig deeper. If you could arrange your presentation in that kind of a fashion, then it’s really gripping for an audience.

One of the reasons that it’s really gripping is, they’re going to assume that you have a solution or conclusion, that’s why you’re there talking to them. So, they’re not going to be worried about whether they’re going to get to a good place. They’re going to assume it’s coming, but, they really want to know how you got there. If they can hear how you got there, then maybe that saves them a little bit of difficulty in their own life. So, the ups and downs, when you string them together in progressive complications, then, what you do is, you build engagement from the audience. They can sense that they’re getting closer and closer to the solution, and they’re still not sure what it is. It’s just an effective way to transmit a lesson to your audience and keep them engaged while they’re listening.

Jesse Scinto is a public speaking expert and lecturer in the Strategic Communications Department at Columbia University in New York.


About Matt Krause

Matt began his professional life as an import buyer, and since 2006 has been teaching companies how to connect with their investors and clients better. His clients work in Istanbul, London, and Madrid for companies like Allianz, 3M, P&G, Citibank, and Reckitt Benckiser. He also walked across Turkey and wrote a book about it.