The presenter’s job is to make the audience clearly “see” ideas. If your ideas stand out, they’ll be noticed. The enemy of persuasion is obscurity. You can learn what attracts attention by examining the opposite— camouflage. The purpose of camouflage is to reduce the odds that someone will notice you by blending into an environment. When is blending in appropriate for a communicator? Never. The more you want your idea adopted, the more it must stand out. If the idea blends with the environment, both its clarity and chances for adoption are diminished. An audience should never be asked to make decisions based on unclear options.

Don’t blend in; instead, clash with your environment. Stand out. Be uniquely different. That’s what will draw attention to your ideas. Nothing has intrinsic attention-grabbing power in itself. The power lies in how much something stands out from its context. If you go hunting with your college buddies and don’t want to be confused with their prey, you’d be advised to wear safety orange. Since there’s nothing in the woods that particular color, you’ll stand out.

In communications, standing out from the “environment” means standing out amongst your competitors or even contrasting within your own organization. You must show how your idea contrasts with existing expectations, beliefs, feelings, or attitudes if you want to gain the audience’s rapt attention. It certainly feels safer and easier to conform to the well-worn groove of sameness than to stand out and be vulnerable. But being buried in a sea of sameness does not yield greatness or solve big problems. it can be scary running around your bland organization with a safety orange target on your back. It’s risky, and it takes fortitude to be different amongst friend and foe. But it’s important for your message to stand out, or it won’t be remembered.

While you don’t necessarily need to rebel against the current messages and content, you do need to lift them out of the drab traditional way they are communicated. Identify opportunities for contrast and then create fascination and passion around these contrasts.

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