Keeping Your Audience’s Attention: The Mis-direct, Redirect (or Reveal)

Posted: January 7, 2016 in Art Technique, Speaking ministry, Thoughts on art ministry and life
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As a speed painter, this is so vital to my ministry. It’s a sort of visual slight of hand that gets people engrossed and engaged. Simply put, you keep them guessing and it’s not just for artists, virtually any communicator. The idea is pretty simple, you make people think you’re heading in one direction, then at just the right time, you throw in a twist. It’s a beautiful thing.

As an example, in my presentation Pictures of Jesus, at the very beginning I tell the congregation I am going to paint five pictures of Jesus. Then just past the middle of the presentation, I paint a picture that looks like Satan. The people are now misdirected. I say something to the effect of, “I thought he said he was going to paint pictures of Jesus… and… well, that ain’t Jesus!” Now the painting is done very quickly and it is done just before I give my testimony. At the point of my conversion in the story, I turn the painting upside down and reveal that it is also a picture of Jesus. Things like this really keep people guessing and when they are guessing, they are engaged. They want to see and hear what is coming next. It becomes an amazing tool for the Gospel.

This technique is nothing new. Paul Harvey kept audiences spellbound with his “Rest of the Story” broadcasts for years. We would listen with baited breath waiting for the twist we all knew was coming. The surprise, the anticipation of the reveal and on and on help the audience to receive what is about to be said. They simply must know what is coming next.

I deliberately try to design and construct my paintings in such a way that people have to guess what I am doing as long as possible. It’s always fun to hear the whispers of people trying to guess what I am doing, and the “wronger” they are, the happier I am, because I know their curiosity is piqued. Why would I go to all that effort? Because the most important thing in the world to me at that moment is not that the people think I am a great artist, but that they are engaged and ready to receive the Word of God. Frankly, I can do much better art in my studio all by myself, taking my time, but the point of this is not to make great art, it is to “draw” people to Jesus.

Keeping them engaged is key!


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