Spin to Win

Many unbelievable events have accompanied the Indianapolis 500 over the years, but it would be hard to top what happened on lap 120 during the 1985 race. After coming out of turn two, Danny Sullivan passed Mario Andretti and in the process went into a spin that should have caused him to hit the wall. Somehow, whether skill, divine guidance, luck, or serendipity, he spun around—yes, 360 degrees—at 220 miles per hour with Andretti’s car just a few feet behind. The crowd, as you can imagine, could not believe what they had just witnessed. Nothing like that had ever happened before. The video of the event has been shown countless times.

You would think that Sullivan would not take such a chance on lap 120 with 80 more laps to go. He said later that he thought there were just l2 laps left.

He lost the lead, but after stopping in the pits for a complete change of tires he eventually passed Andretti late in the race and won that race by 2.5 seconds over Andretti.But it was the spin to win on lap 120 that elevated Danny Sullivan into auto racing history for one of the most amazing feats of any race driver.

Have you seen an amazing feat in racing? How would you apply this story to make a point?

William Henry Harrison

The following story is good to tell if you are discussing the importance of limiting your speaking time when delivering a presentation. We are very time- conscious in our culture and as a speaker you want to know how much time you have to speak. Staying within that time limit or perhaps even stopping a couple of minutes under the allotted time enhances your credibility.

The shortest presidency was that of William Henry Harrison who was elected in 1840. He delivered the longest inaugural address of any president—nearly two hours long. Unfortunately, he was not dressed for the cold and rain of March and came down with a cold. He became progressively ill and died on April 4, 1841, due to complications of pneumonia. His presidency lasted only 32 days. One might say he talked himself to death!

You could certainly add more detail if you needed to, but the brevity allows you to stress the point simply, humorously, and then move on.

The value of the historical example is that it gives your idea legitimacy and credibility and shows you can apply your expertise to other environments to make your point. As you read, look for events which you might develop into a historical story.

Sharpening Your Axe

The story goes that in the fall of the year, a couple of men were chopping wood to heat their homes for the winter. They both worked all day. But one man took a break every few hours and the other man worked without a break except for lunch. At the end of the day the woodchopper who had taken his breaks had chopped more wood than the man who did not take breaks. So the man asked his chopping partner how he could chop more wood when he had worked hard all day long and he had taken a break every few hours. The man’s reply was, “Well, while you were continuing to chop wood, I was sharpening my axe.”  We all need to take time to sharpen our skills and we can see that this habit pays dividends.

Both Charles Miner and Ben Franklin told versions of the story so you know the story has been around for over two centuries. One of the reasons this story works is that the narrative has several applications you could make concerning preparation, keeping fit, cutting edge material, and many others.

You want the audience to know that the story did not really happen. I did that here by purposely keeping the details vague and identifying the narrative with “This story…” If the story were historical, you would certainly answer the “W” questions in detail. For a hypothetical story, you don’t want to make up the answers to the “W” questions because that would imply it was true. Other ways to introduce the hypothetical story might be, “Picture with me this scene…” or “Imagine you were driving….”

The hypothetical story is the weakest of the three types because the event did not really happen. If anyone disagrees with the application you are making, then a person can say, “Well, because that did not really happen, the example does not make your point.”  So the hypothetical story is best to help an audience understand, not to persuade.