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Why Writers and Speakers Should Lead With the Exciting Conclusion

By Motley Fool Staff – Updated Apr 13, 2019 at 5:52PM

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The temptation to save the best for last is understandable, but it risks wasting that brief window at the beginning when you have people’s full attention.

Considering Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner named his podcast Rule Breaker Investing, you might expect that its sole focus would be on helping folks grow their money. But as it happens, the motto he and his brother Tom Gardner chose for their company is "Making the world smarter, happier, and richer" -- which covers far more ground than just the financial.

In that context, it shouldn't be too much of a surprise that he frequently detours away from the world of stocks and into areas more connected with the "smarter" and "happier" part of the equation. Hence this week's theme: It's his fourth podcast of "mental tips, tricks, and life hacks." And to open it, he starts off with a bang -- and a discussion of getting started. His gurus for this particular mental tip are the well-known author and humorist Dave Barry, and Priya Parker, founder of Thrive Labs, which specializes in improving how we bring people together and build purpose-driven communities. (She's an author too, of The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters.)

In their own ways, each one offers the same advice: to get the most out of those early moments when your words can have the most impact, start with something important and powerful -- even if it feels like the sort of thing you'd want to save for your big finish.

A full transcript follows the video.

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This video was recorded on Mach 6, 2019.

David Gardner: Mental tip, trick, or life hack No. 1. This one is in the "life hack" category, and this one starts with an interview that my brother Tom and I did with the columnist, the humorist, Dave Barry from the Miami Herald. Years and years ago, I remember the story that Dave told, and I'm going to share it back with you now as a wonderful life hack that you can use in different situations.

Before Dave Barry was the famous humorous columnist, syndicated in many papers nationally, he was a technical-writing teacher. His job was to come in and advise engineers about how to write a better document to explain whatever their manual was they were writing for whatever gizmo or widget they were working on. Or maybe they were a software developer, and they're trying to lay out the steps by which their code is organized. It's technical writing. I know some of you probably know that much better than I do, very well. That was something that Dave Barry knew pretty well. And he said invariably, when he worked with engineers, and they wrote their white papers, they would go through one page after another, all the steps that they went through in order to reach their interesting conclusion. So, what Dave said back, his No. 1 bit of advice to people when they're writing technically, is always lead with your interesting conclusion.

Some people may be interested by the various steps and pivots that you made to get from Point A to your final destination, Point C. But the vast majority of us just want to hear right upfront what you're interesting conclusion is. Then, maybe, we'll have questions about how you got there and want to hear more about it. I've always thought that's great advice in writing. I'm sure it's great advice in advertising and other areas of life, public speaking. Always lead with your interesting conclusion.

I think that's particularly appropriate to lead with for this podcast. I'm leading with my interesting conclusion, or my interesting Dave Barry story, putting it right up front here. I wanted to connect that back to another author that I was talking with last year on this podcast. I know some of you will remember Priya Parker. She appeared on August 8th of 2018. I interviewed her about her book, The Art of Gathering. One of her chapters in that book is entitled Never Start A Funeral With Logistics. She makes the point in that chapter, it's a very memorable line, but the concept -- and I certainly encourage you to go back and listen to that whole interview with her, because there's so many great points about how to do any gathering of humans, whether it's a business meeting or a wedding or a corporate off-site better. We can do so many of our gatherings just with little tips here and there better. One of them is never lead with logistics. Priya says, "Remember that the two greatest points of impact that you have for your event, whatever it is, is right at the very start and what you leave them with right at the very end." The very worst way to start an important or exciting event is, "Now, before we get started, a few housekeeping items. Someone left their lights on in the garage. If your license plate number is this or that... " That's such a missed opportunity for the start or conclusion of any event.

In fact, I took Priya's words to heart because pretty much ever since I talked with her in August of last year, I've tried to start this podcast with more of a cold open like good, smart TV does these days. When I was growing up, TV would start with a jingle, a song, the song of the show, and then credits, credits, credits. These days, it's very different. Television's a lot better. You still see credits, but you're usually going to have a real moment of impact at the very start of the show. They're never leading with logistics, some of the best shows on Netflix and HBO these days. So, similarly, while I'm never going to have the same impact with the start of a Rule Breaker Investing podcast as, let's say an episode of Breaking Bad might have, at the same time, I do try to lead off with something that will catch your imagination. I try never to go with logistics.

These points are sort of the same point in the end. Always lead with your interesting conclusion and make the best use of real moments of impact.

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David Gardner owns shares of Netflix. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Netflix. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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