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This Will Make Your Presentation Memorable - Lessons from the Hollywood Screenwriter's Toolkit

MARK WESTBROOK: Public Speaking Coach | I Help People Go from Nervous Wrecks to Confident Speakers, from Confident Speakers to Inspiring Leaders.


Great movies are memorable. Casablanca. Jurassic Park. Titanic. Finding Nemo. But what made them so memorable?

Great presentations are memorable too, but why?

And could it be the same thing?

Is it the setting, the performer, or the writing? The truth is that all of these elements are essential to creating a great movie AND a great presentation.

As a Professional Acting Coach turned Coach for Public Speakers, I know the power of helping a performer create an epic performance.

And don't be confused by my choice of words, the definition of the word performance according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary includes: a public presentation - so that's precisely what your speech next Thursday is - a performance.


One important lesson that I learned about performance is that it's only as good as the writing. Even the best actors struggle to make flat, boring plots come to life. That's why they pay the best Hollywood scriptwriters - the big bucks.

But often in terms of presentations and speeches - the writing gets least attention. Don't get me wrong - it's true that people spend ages on writing down the content. And maybe even editing it too. But content gets structured like information to be disseminated, not like the powerful driver of audience emotion that it can be.

So what seasoned Hollywood screenwriters know how to ask is...


All great stories take us on a journey. That's one thing that my previous examples (Casablanca, Jurassic Park, Titanic and Finding Nemo) have in common - they share incredibly powerful journeys.

In Pixar's Finding Nemo, we go from the tragedy of Marlon's wife and children being eaten, to the disaster of his surviving child getting 'fish-napped', to finding a new friend (Dory) and almost getting eaten by sharks - to overcoming his need for safety and reuniting with his son.

This is a journey from Danger(Wife and Kids Killed) to Safety (Surviving Child), and from Safety (First Day at School) to Danger (Fish-napped by a Dentist), Danger (The Sharks) to Finding New Friends with Turtles (Safety) from Danger (Darla the Dentist's Niece) to Safety (Escape back to the Ocean) to Danger (Trapped in the Fishing Net) to Safety - Free and Home Again.

The constant shifting from Safety to Danger and back again causes the audience to lean in, care about the characters and feel something for them. One exceptional way to make your speech memorable, is to help us care about some aspect of your presentation by creating emotion through journey.

This movement from Danger to Safety creates a structure for the story by giving the story a sequence of short events that happen, like the individual parts of your presentation.

Of course, there are other journeys that are well-used in storytelling.

  • Problem → Solution

  • Conflict → Peace

  • Confusion → Order

  • Ignorance → Knowledge

  • Dilemma → Decision

  • Pain → Recovery

  • Fear → Confidence

Each of these choices can be used to ensure that you take your audience on an emotional journey.

You are, for instance, a Sales Director, and you're meeting with a gathering of your Sales Representatives to share the news that it's been a pretty bleak quarter.

Here you could choose journeys such as:

Fear → Confidence

Pain → Recovery

Problem → Solution

Each of these choices will work for moving the Sales Reps from their current state (Fear, Pain or Problem) to a new place emotionally, (Confidence, Recovery, Solution). And it is this emotional journey which makes the presentation memorable.

Now all the Sales Director needs to do is to use their presentation to plot the individual sequence of events to take the Reps from emotional state to emotional state. And voila! It's memorable.

I've learned a ton of lessons about how to make presentations and speeches more effective from working in the film, theatre and television world.

Need to Up Your Presentation Game?

If you want to make your presentations more memorable, all my public speaking programmes include powerful lessons from the Hollywood screenwriter's toolkit that will improve your presentations, helping you build credibility, trust and respect as a speaker.

Find out more or get in touch at


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