Grabbing Attention 101 – Bill Gates and Mosquitoes


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I don’t know how many of you saw this or heard about it. It showed up a number of times on Twitter.

At the TED conference this week, Bill Gates let out some live (malaria-free) mosquitoes into the room he was speaking in saying, “Not only poor people should experience this.” He was meaning malaria, which one thing he and his wife have been working to eradicate through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Wow! What a way to grab the attention of some influencial and rich people! My brain went to how William Wilberforce grabbed the attention of members of parliament in his fight to abolish slavery in England as was depicted in the movie Amazing Grace by putting them in a situation where they could “feel” the suffering of slaves.

Talk about EPIC! (Experiential, Participatory, Interactive, Communal)

I’m also reading Made to Stick by Dan and Chip Heath, which has been making me think through how I communicate ideas to people. So, I’m challenged, yet again, to put lots of thought into how I can best distill what I am saying and then presenting it in a way that can grab people and make it memorable.

What are some things you do to make your ideas memorable to an audience?

Here is Bill Gates’ presentation:


11 thoughts on “Grabbing Attention 101 – Bill Gates and Mosquitoes

  1. Steve Tanner says:

    I once had to give a speech and threw piles of compost into the audience šŸ™‚

  2. joshaidan says:

    While working in tech support I'm learning that there is a “right way” to say no to customers. Simply saying the word isn't necessarily good enough, you have to think about things in ways that they will understand.

  3. henryjz says:

    hmmm… i think the point is for people to not only remember you but remember you in a good light šŸ™‚

  4. henryjz says:

    yes… good point… one of the things from Making It Stick that really struck me is what they call “The Curse of Knowledge.” When communicating with people, you have to put yourself in the shoes of people who don't care about or understand the topic/idea you are trying to communicate. Too many times I forget that people many times aren't as knowledgeable or as invested in what I am passionately wanting to communicate. I have to find the “core” of what I am trying to communicate and religiously stick to it and then communicate it in a way that others will understand and care.

  5. robin dugall says:

    I read about this too…awesome! made me itch a bit…but I'll remember the idea!

  6. henryjz says:

    Thanks for hopping in Robin… yes, I did scratch a bit, too when I read this… but, oh, it makes it fun to plan a talk again!

  7. Rob says:

    I recently read Made to Stick. It is a great book. It helped shape how we communicated to parents about CM.

  8. Jorin .Cowley says:

    Great post Henry! Have you read his letter? (I like the way he is changing into a philanthropist!) I hope to have my blog up and running sometime this summer, I will definitely be checking back regularly with yours, Have a great day! Jorin.

  9. Karl Bastian says:

    what's with the original mac in the background on stage? great talk

  10. henryjz says:

    Thanks for that letter. I hadn't read it. Let me know when you get your blog up!

  11. henryjz says:

    I never noticed that! Too funny!

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