Secret #7 -What’s The Angle?

The angle we take on a subject is what makes it interesting to us. It’s the point of view, or the perspective we offer to help shape our message and give it dimension. A well developed angle makes what we say more specific and compelling. It’s the difference between, “Real estate sales are increasing,” and, “As panic over the economic crisis wanes, people again turn to real estate,” or “Cruising: A popular vacation option,” and, “Cruising: Strap on the Feedbag and Get Your Nap On!” (Maybe not that…)

We are inclined toward a point of view when we speak, so an angle may be apparent from the start. If not, we can ask ourselves, “Why am I the right person to talk about this?”

In lieu of a naturally occurring angle, understanding the needs of the listener will guide us to a good choice. For example, if giving a talk to seniors about unique events in their city, I might present from the angle that people often underestimate their abilities. I might divide activities into groups from more energetic to the relaxing. Same information—the events haven’t changed—now organized around a clear point of view.

You: I have to present the national quarterly earnings for Aunt May’s Bundt Cake. I’ve got a great idea! I’ll use this angle: We could have doubled our profits—instead of flat-lining like we did—if Warren hadn’t pushed for that asinine cross-promotion with the anti-fungal cream. Good, right?
Me: Wait, cake and athlete’s foot? You’re saying those things don’t go together? Assuming you’re right, you may do well to choose a more diplomatic angle—or you’ll make an enemy out of Warren.

How provocative we want to be is another choice we have to make. Generally, the situation will tell us. The angle may be bold, unconventional, or a subtle shading. Even with a Dragnet (“just the facts”) report, there still may be room to angle.

Here’s a great example of how this works: My human biology professor’s lectures were so interesting due, in part, to his unique angle: What happens when things go wrong? He talked about his study of rare maladies in India. He spoke about the people and their conditions with respect, drawing a clear line between observation and judgment. He made it interesting by using this angle to show why the systems are so important to healthy development. It was standing room only for a required science class in a lecture hall that seats hundreds. Clearly, I wasn’t alone in my appreciation of Dr. Swan’s unique angle.

Conversely, I remember precisely nothing my astronomy professor said. (I had anticipated astronomy to be more interesting than biology.) He spoke with a flat affect, avoided anything that might suggest relevance, offered no insight, nothing that might suggest he was interested. There was no angle to his speaking and, as a result, not much teaching going on at all. He was uninvolved, uninspired and completely uninteresting. But other than that, a great guy.

The angle can have the power to make listeners rethink their assumptions on a subject. The angle and the hook (next secret) are interdependent and work together to make communication dynamic. They’re also both related to fishing, but that’s not important right now.

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