The Paul Harvey Affect
Readers and communicators under 40 are probably asking, “Who the heck is Paul Harvey?” Allow Wikipedia to introduce you.
“Paul Harvey Aurandt (September 4, 1918 – February 28, 2009), better known as Paul Harvey, was an American radio broadcaster for the ABC Radio Networks. He broadcast News and Commentary on weekday mornings and mid-days, and at noon on Saturdays, as well as his famous The Rest of the Story segments. Paul Harvey was also a delightful history teacher — with a velvety voice that turned the news into narrative and entertainment.”
The Rest of the Story
This phrase—Now the rest of the story—was his hallmark and what he is best known for. Paul Harvey would begin his broadcast telling a story. Then he would interrupt the story at some interesting and critical place leaving the listening audience hanging. This was done to provide time for radio sponsor advertisements, but it also was done intentional to keep the listening audience on the edges of their seats, coming back for more. And while the audience waited Paul Harvey could teach, and promote and do all sorts of other communication because he had his audience held captive. They wanted to hear “the rest of the story.”
Bookends and sandwiches
In communication terms this is called “bookending” or “sandwiching” a presentation. The communicator places something at the beginning of the talk that grabs the audience’s attention and keeps them listening. Then, based on the length of time the communicator has, the last portion of the presentation is reserved for bringing back the opening story or illustration and finishing it. Whatever the story or illustration used, beginning and ending with it serves to tie up the presentation in one complete well wrapped package. In addition to keeping the audience interest, this method also helps the audience remember the content—what was presented in between–and maximizes the productivity of the communication.
Bridging a cultural chasm
In the fall of 2016 I was invited to attend the unveiling of a plaque dedicated at the mine in northern Japan where my father did forced labor as a prisoner of war in WWII. I was also asked to speak. This was an historic event. It was the first time since WWII that a Japanese commercial entity was publicly acknowledging the treatment of Japanese held POW’s during WWII. And the company who used my father as forced labor was also the company sponsoring this event and my attendance at it. It was a challenging venue and audience. Japanese and American media were present. Four plaques were being installed at four mines but only this one was being publicly unveiled. I knew that I needed to acknowledge what my father had suffered but also acknowledge the historic and courageous step Mitsubishi Materials was taking that day. I also knew I only had a few minutes to speak and that I needed to grab their attention and keep it and end with a surprise that would tie it all together. I did it by bookending my speech.
I began with the story of my father bringing a Japanese couple home for dinner when I was just twelve years old. I described how they sat together, and shared what they had in common and that I had no idea at the time what tragedy and suffering stood between them. I stopped there and then talked about the courage of my father who survived such brutality and was able to rise above it and be hospitable toward the Japanese. I also acknowledged the courage of the Mitsubishi Materials Company for taking this first step in acknowledging the brutality and working toward reconciliation and a different future. Then I said, “But there is more to the story of my father and that Japanese couple in my home when I was twelve. My father suffered greatly at the hands of the Japanese, but that young Japanese man also suffered. He lost his entire family in the bombing of Hirsoshima. He was the only one that survived. Both of these men suffered. And, both of these men were now taking courageous steps to reconcile to be part of a different future between Japanese and Americans.” A couple of the Japanese cameramen and journalists dropped their cameras and their pens and were obviously taken by surprise at this story ending. This was a Paul Harvey moment. This was a “And now, the rest of the story,” moment. And it perfectly wrapped together the purpose of my talk to acknowledge the hard truth of the past and my father’s suffering, and the truth that Japanese people suffered as well. Bookending this speech allowed me to thank Mitsubishi Materials without absolving them of responsibility and clearly point to the courage on both sides that makes reconciliation possible. This is the Paul Harvey Affect. It kept the attention of those present for the unveiling. The American journalist covering the story for USA Today later acknowledged that the Japanese journalists were talking about the surprising story. The bookending had helped to bridge a very wide cultural chasm.
Every story has potential
Almost any story with a surprise or dramatic ending has the potential to be used in this way to tightly wrap a presentation for maximum audience interest and reception. Three necessary steps.
Three simple steps to wrap it up
First, the communicator pursuing excellence will spend time analyzing the story to determine at what point the story should be suspended for maximum interest. Second, the communicator who wants to be extraordinary will spend time crafting the words used to reintroduce the story in such a way as to capitalize on the audience that has been waiting to hear the rest of the story. The third and the final step is to artfully describe the facts of the story that reveals the surprise or dramatic ending. Extraordinary communicators will be very intentional about the exact words, the pace, and the closing tone of voice of the closing sentence that reveals “the rest of the story.”
Bookending or sandwiching a speech or presentation is an extremely powerful way to grab, keep the attention of your audience and delight them with storytelling surprise. Paul Harvey was a master of this technique. The communicator who wants to be extraordinary will work to master it, too.