Fuel INjected IN-house: Help sell your idea with a Man In The Hole story.


By Sam Harrison

“The primary story told over and over again I call ‘Man In A Hole.’

It goes like this: somebody gets into trouble and then gets out of it.

People never tire of this.”

– Kurt Vonnegut


In my idea-selling workshops, we discuss how a successful pitch is typically a mixture of discussion, commentary and storytelling.


And when it comes to the storytelling side of the presentation, a strong structure usually looks something like Vonnegut’s Man In A Hole premise. You drop decision makers in the hole with a compelling human-interest story about the existing problem. Then you free them by moving toward the solution – which is, of course, your fantastic idea.


When James Dyson was trying to sell large retailers on his revolutionary new bagless vacuum, he had a good Man In A Hole story. He told of cleaning his house with a standard vacuum and being frustrated with how the machine quickly lost suction. Looking inside the vacuum, he saw the bag was blocked with dust and dirt, restricting airflow and weakening suction. Welcome to the hole.


Then Dyson explained to retailers how they could help their customers climb out of this hole. His vacuum uses centrifugal force rather than a bag to separate dirt from air. The vacuum never loses suction. So long, hole.


The next time you’re preparing to present an idea, develop your own Man In A Hole story. As Vonnegut said, people never tire of this.


Sam Harrison is a speaker, workshop leader and writer on creativity-related topics and presentation skills. His books include IdeaSelling: Successfully pitch your creative ideas to bosses, clients and other decision makers, IdeaSpotting: How to find your next great idea, and Zing!: Five steps and 101 tips for creativity on command. Find him at www.zingzone.com