Friday, July 03, 2015

The weekend read

Hangry on a Friday? Pull up a chair, communicators, and dig into this stack of goodness: My finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and curated here just for you. Pass the maple syrup:
Keep stacking 'em: Buy my new ebook, The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panelssign up for my free monthly newsletter, or let me know how we can work together in 2015 with an email to eloquentwoman at gmail.com.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Tell it Better: 4 ways slides can interfere with your storytelling

Storytelling's the new big thing in communicating, social media, and public speaking. What's behind that? Many would say the TED conferences brought storytelling back, and as the coach of more than 100 TEDMED and TEDx speakers, I have to agree--if only because of the high interest I see among executives in all sectors who want, suddenly, to learn storytelling in the style of TED.

At the same time, however, I see companies and individuals clinging to their slides like life rafts in a raging river. Some stories can be told beautifully with slides. But I'm thinking of the executives who issue everything in a slide: the meeting agenda, a thought, a quote, the outline of what to expect, and more. If there's a thought to be expressed, it goes on a slide.

In a world where slides are as thick as fog, storytelling can cut through like a lighthouse beacon--if you let it. My own view is that the TED style of speaking and presenting works precisely because we, your audience, are sick of slides. Even slide users are sick of slides. So if you're going to bring storytelling back, you might want to consider the ways in which slides can interfere with that goal when used not wisely, but too well:
  1. Slides prompt reading, not telling--and we can read, too: One reason the TED form strikes awe in the hearts of executives: The realization that you cannot use slides as cue cards. You have to tell us things on your own authority and be convincing, without using the slide as a shield or a badge of credibility. The rule of thumb for TED conferences is that what's coming out of your mouth should not repeat what's on your slides. That's why audiences love the form, since we can read, too--and if we wanted to do that, we wouldn't be at the conference, or your presentation. The reverse also is true: When slides are all you use, your audiences may believe they can get all your content by reading the slide. Then you've really lost them.
  2. Slides divide our attention: Should I look at you or at your slides? Slides force the audience to make a choice. Even the largest slide projected behind you challenges our attention. Last time I looked, audiences for any presentation or speech have plenty of distractions as it is. Why add to them?
  3. Slide decks cut to the chase, rather than follow it: As noted earlier in this series in Tell it better: Storytelling with surprise and suspense, a big deck of slides almost screams for a summary slide at the beginning to detail what we can expect. Cutting to the chase in that informational way not only presupposes that your attention might wane, but also takes the element of surprise or suspense out of the equation. You're letting any drama leak right out of the story by doing so.
  4. Slides give my mind's eye (and its engagement) a vacation: Showing us what you're talking about takes away from your audience once of your most valuable presenting tools: Their minds' eye, or what I call the invisible visual. It's powerful to describe something so clearly that your audience can picture it in their minds, minus slides.Those self-generated images mean your audience is engaged actively, and the images themselves will last much longer in the memory than your projected slides.
Not long ago, I did a storytelling workshop for IBM's portfolio marketing managers in North America, with many executives also attending from its European, Middle East, and Asia Pacific sectors. In a world where slides are assumed, I used none for an entire afternoon. At the end, one of the senior executives came to me to say, "Because you didn't use slides, I had to listen to you. You had my full attention." And isn't that just what you want to hear from your audience?

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Alan Levine)

Got a panel coming up? Whether you're a conference organizer, speaker, or moderator, you'll have a better panel--and a sparkling discussion--if you plan with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels. At just $3.99 in all ebook formats, it's like having a coach with whom you can prepare and bring on stage with you.

Friday, June 26, 2015

The weekend read

I get it, communicators. All week, it was bumper cars at every turn. Park it right here and recover with my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and curated here just for you. Consider this your pace car:
Take another turn around the course: Buy my new ebook, The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panelssign up for my free monthly newsletter, or let me know how we can work together in 2015 with an email to eloquentwoman at gmail.com.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

6 big ways I get the most out of Evernote

It's no secret that Evernote is perhaps my most-used tool for organizing, well, everything: Work. Home. Play. Exercise. Garden. Hobbies. Book. Collaborations. Clients. Billing. Travel. Recipes. You name it, I've got it somewhere in Evernote. And I've shared a lot of perspectives as I continue to explore this Swiss Army knife of online organizing. Here is the most thorough collection of posts I've done sharing how Evernote works for me:
  1. My paperless office strategy counts on Evernote as a file cabinet, and has completely changed how I operate. This post includes other apps I use to help keep my work paperless, along with exceptions to that rule.
  2. My secret weapons for staying organized personally includes Evernote as a star player--for everything from my medical records and recipes to hobbies and home and garden resources. If you only think of Evernote as a workplace resource, this is the post for you (and it comes with 14 other secret weapons for organizing my personal life). 
  3. I don't write blog posts until I'm ready to write, and a big part of that strategy involves collecting string in Evernote. It helps me power posts seven times a week.
  4. Forget travel guides. Evernote's one of my "traveling stars," apps that help me roam without worries. This post tells you how, and shares additional travel resources that help me stay mobile. I'm heading to Chicago next week to coach an executive speaker, and my Evernote resources are all I need to make the trip smooth.
  5. 12 ways I'm using Evernote in business travel gives you even more ideas for making this app your portable office.
  6. What to do *before* you run out of Evernote notebooks is a cautionary tale for the power user. These are simple tactics to help you stay within Evernote's generous content limits, without losing any fine points of organization.
I use several apps compatible with Evernote to make it even more productive for me. Among them are Powerbot for Gmail, Feedly Pro, and Callnote, which let me send or clip emails, articles, and phone call or Skype recordings right into the app. IFTTT also helps me automate putting certain files right into Evernote, a time-saver if ever there was one.

Want to get started? Use my link to get a free month of Evernote Premium when you sign up for and log into a free account. 

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Heisenberg Media of an Evernote meetup in Paris)

Got a panel coming up? Whether you're a conference organizer, speaker, or moderator, you'll have a better panel--and a sparkling discussion--if you plan with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels. At just $3.99 in all ebook formats, it's like having a coach with whom you can prepare and bring on stage with you.

Friday, June 19, 2015

The weekend read

Did you like your week this week, communicators? Let's put a ring on it. It's Friday, time to look through the jewel case that holds my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and curated here just for you. Time for some sparkle:
Add some more carats to that diamond: Buy my new ebook, The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panelssign up for my free monthly newsletter, or let me know how we can work together in 2015 with an email to eloquentwoman at gmail.com.

Got a panel coming up? Whether you're a conference organizer, speaker, or moderator, you'll have a better panel--and a sparkling discussion--if you plan with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels. At just $3.99 in all ebook formats, it's like having a coach with whom you can prepare and bring on stage with you.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Tell it better: Is your metaphor working...or working against you?

I encourage use of metaphors as storytelling tools, and storytellers of all kinds would be wise to dig into Michael Erard's recent article, How to design a metaphor, before using this sturdy story tool again.

Metaphors, used well, are great persuasion tools, time-savers, image-makers. As Erard , who has worked as a metaphor designer, notes, "metaphors are meant to help people to understand the unfamiliar. They aren’t supposed to make someone remark: ‘That’s beautiful.’ They’re meant to make someone realise that they’ve only been looking at one side of a thing." Whether you're persuading someone to a cause, selling something, or expanding horizons, metaphors can get you to your goal in a compact, elegant way.

But that's only true if they actually work. Among the most-read posts on this blog is Etch-a-Sketch tests for your next analogy, so named after Mitt Romney's campaign wielded that vivid analogy without thinking through the consequences. (Analogy, of course, is metaphor with the architecture showing.) And in this article, Erard walks us through user tests of metaphors, something you should try before choosing one for your storytelling, whether you're crafting a TED talk, a blog post, or a marketing pitch.

Erard describes user tests with a metaphor using dandelions or orchids to describe children's resiliency. It had taken hold in the scientific world, and with journalists. But--in a reminder to both researchers and reporters that you are not your audience--in testing, public audiences reacted differently:
We found that people knew what orchids and dandelions were (not always something you can count on). Also, the comparison appeared to help them understand why certain children do well and others don’t. Yet there was a problem: people valued the orchid and looked down on the dandelion....their child was not common but special and rare. When people won’t use a term to describe their own kids, that’s a giveaway that the metaphor won’t work.
Lovely as the concept of the orchid and the dandelion might be, that metaphor was working against the storyteller. Here's Erard's description of what happens when a metaphor about skills clicked with the audience:
When my colleagues and I tested a set of candidate metaphors on the streets, asking random strangers what skills are, the respondents mumbled in their usual ways. Then we gave them a metaphor in which skills are like ropes, woven out of many components braided together, and asked them more questions. It’s not that they became silver-tongued, exactly, but the fumbling abated. They began to talk about the parts of skills, how they have to be combined, and so on. It’s as if this new idea, which we gave to them, had taken them by the hand. Now they were walking down the street together, and the metaphor was showing them things. That’s how we knew that what we were doing with metaphors was working.
Does your new idea take your audience members by the hand, show them things, and give them words to describe new thoughts? Then you may have a working metaphor on your hands. It's worth taking the time to test more than one metaphor until you find the right fit.

For a yet deeper dive into metaphors, smart storytellers also will read I Is an Other: The Secret Life of Metaphor and How it Shapes the Way We See the World, by James Geary. You'll learn about metaphors in a thorough-going way in this book, and have plenty to test.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Paul Hudson)

Storytelling's the big buzz word in communications and marketing. But we've forgotten how this ancient art works. This "Tell it better" series hopes to revive and hone your storytelling skills for any format, from public speaking in the style of TED to social media. Want a storytelling workshop? Email me at eloquentwoman AT gmail DOT com