Do you like being told what to do? Or what not to do?
That’s probably the reason so many public safety lessons fail miserably. It doesn’t matter how good, how sensible or how reasonable the advice is, we all have a natural inclination to resist doing what were told.
Smokers are notorious for their defiance. They know that smoking isn’t a healthy habit, but choose to smoke anyway. They feel as if their freedom to do so is constantly under assault. They are relegated to balconies and alleyways, in fair weather and foul, and vilified at every turn as a public health menace. No surprise that suggestions they give up the habit meet a fierce, knee-jerk resistance.
Yet, the “Call to action” close, in which the speaker tells the audience what they should or shouldn’t do, is considered the standard way to wrap up almost any speech or presentation. It’s the standard because it works. It gives the audience a clear direction to go with the information or argument the speaker has presented.
But there is another way of wrapping up that can be even more powerful, and that is to end on a question. Let the audience come to their own conclusions about what they should do.
This video, from Thailand, was part of an anti-smoking campaign that didn’t tell anyone to quit smoking. It just asked them a question.
When the children asked adult smokers for a light, the adult invariably told them that they shouldn’t smoke; that it was bad for them. So the children simply handed them a paper that asked, “You worry about me. But why not about yourself?”
No scorn. No lecture. No well-meaning advice. Just a question.
What could have been more powerful than that?