Creating Kleenex-Worthy Moments
How and Why to Script Emotion into Your Program
The room is stunning, and every last detail is perfect. Guests flood into the room, and dinner is delicious. Now it is time to ask them to support a cause or celebrate something meaningful. The lights dim and the first speaker comes out on stage…
Screeeeech. Freeze frame.
What happens next hinges on one thing that many organizations don’t stop to think about until the very last minute.
We’ve all been to events that are drop your jaw beautiful and then it’s time for “the program.” I can hear the sighs and feel the dread that is akin to raking fingernails across a chalkboard. I’ve seen the mass exodus to the bar to escape the inevitable and repetitious rubber chicken platitudes that plague many event programs.
One of the things that I love most about writing is the ability to control the mood, energy and response of the crowd in the room. I am passionate about creating Kleenex-worthy moments that will have the crowd crying, laughing, cheering or reaching for their wallets. Whatever the purpose of the event, I love creating emotional moments that drive the outcome and success of the event.
Scriptwriting encompasses so much more than hastily scrawled notes on paper. In the event industry, we often talk about touching the senses. When writing a script, the senses are of utmost importance. Using sight and sound, a great script stimulates the parts of the brain that provide an emotional response.
Let me give you an example.
The Set Up
A few years ago, I was asked by David Merrell of AOO Events to write a script for the 100th Anniversary of Naval Aviation. We worked hard to create a program for the evening that took guests on an emotional journey and had them out of their seats cheering one minute and bowing their heads in hushed respect the next. The pinnacle of the evening revolved around creating an iconic moment where the past would collide with the future. In order to make it work, we needed both the oldest living aviator and the youngest aviator present. It was a tough, but not impossible task.
Setting the Stage
The room looked incredible, guests were happy and the evening’s program was moving right along when we came up on the time to create a historic moment. Dan Fouts, our MC for the evening, delivered the narration.
“Tonight, as we celebrate the Centennial of Naval Aviation Kick-Off Gala, we are not only celebrating the achievements of the last century, but also making history. There are some things that only happen once in a lifetime. This evening is one of them.
Last night, a young naval officer, ENS Justin T. Mears, pinned on his Wings of Gold in a ceremony at Naval Air Station at Whiting Field in Milton, Florida. His squadron, known as the Hellions, falls under the command of Training Air Wing 5 and flies the TH-57 SeaRanger. Please join me in welcoming the newest Naval Aviator, Ensign Mears to the Family of Naval Aviation. He represents a future leader and the legacy of generations to come.
[Ensign Mears comes out to center stage amid applause.]
In addition, we have another very special guest here with us this evening. He is a veteran and decorated U.S. Marine Corps ace fighter pilot who served in World War II and the Korean War. He has the enviable distinction of having seen not just Naval Aviation, but the evolution of flight itself, grow from a vision to the keystone of America’s defense. Currently the oldest living naval aviator, he is a witness to and a part of the living legacy that has made the United States a leader on the world stage. Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in a round of applause for…America’s oldest living ace, Brigadier General Frederick “Fritz” Payne!
[Ensign Mears begins walking down the stairs and the aisle toward Brigadier General Frederick “Fritz” Payne’s table].
Tonight, these two men represent the past and the present of Naval Aviation as together they look to the next one hundred years of progress and achievement.”
[Ensign Mears arrives at table and salutes Brigadier General Payne.]
Emotionally provocative in words alone, the moment soared even higher than anticipated. The 99-year old Brigadier General, who was wheelchair-bound (and, bless his heart, slept through most of the evening), came alert, struggled to his feet, pulled himself erect and saluted the young ensign.
In that single moment, every element of the night came together in a mega-explosion of unbelievable emotion. The guests were on their feet and the room erupted with a roar of applause and cheers. It was a magnificent moment. I still choke up reflecting back on it.
Make It Kleenex-Worthy
That evening didn’t just happen in the last two days of rushed preparation for the event. It was strategic, meaningful and stirred the emotions that were needed to create an evening that soared up, up and over the top – both from an experiential and fundraising angle.
Whether I’m working with a local or national charity, on a commencement speech or for a former President of the United States, I chase after those golden moments like a madwoman.
It is Kleenex-worthy moments like the one I just shared with you that define the difference between success and failure. A beautifully crafted script will enhance the creativity and experience of the evening. Delivering indelible memories through experiences triggered by words are one of the best gifts that you can ever give your guests – and your client (and Kleenex, who thanks you).
eNews November 2014