Friday, December 02, 2016

The weekend read

I've been in Palm Springs, California, this week, coaching speakers at TEDMED--the medical and science TED conference--for the sixth year in a row. Time to end the week with my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and don't get caught on Facebook, curated here for you. Call it our own little backstage magic:
(TEDMED photo)

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Tell It Better: Breaking down storytelling skills for communicators

Lots of communications pros style themselves as storytellers...but are all at sea when it comes to story choice, components, structure, and other basics. So I'm breaking down those storytelling skills for you, using our Tell It Better storytelling series to give you the basics, special story tests, and good examples, with 14 important factors you should know:

Storytelling structure:
  1. Avoiding chronological order when telling a story: Many storytellers (hello, scientists and ye who labor in academe) have been taught that you have to start at the beginning and plow straight through a story. But sometimes, changing the chronology takes a story from plain and uninteresting to special and mesmerizing. I have a Nobel laureate's example for you at the link.
  2. Why you should 'plant the seed' for a storytelling payoff: When you want to really underscore a point in your story, it pays to think about the payoff--and how you can set that up earlier in the tale.
  3. Storytelling with themes and symmetry: Themes are an important part of any layered story, and if you can reflect them at the beginning and end, your audience will be more satisfied with the outcome. That symmetry pays off in greater understanding.
  4. Who's the hero when you tell the story of your customer's journey? If you thought that was you, your product or service, or your cause, you're wrong--in a way that will make all the difference when you're using storytelling to pitch.
On choosing which story to tell:
  1. Borrowing a story: If you want to add personal touches to your story--which are like catnip for the audience--but don't want to share your own story, borrowing one is a time-honored tradition, although there are some rules that go with it.
  2. Should you or your speechwriter get that story for your speech? If you're lucky enough to have a speechwriter, you shouldn't necessarily delegate to her the responsibility for finding a story for your speech. A frequent speaker explains why. Speechwriters, listen up.
Components that enhance or hurt your story:
  1. 4 ways slides can interfere with your storytelling: It's not that you can't use slides with storytelling, but that you must use them wisely. Here's my shortlist of pitfalls.
  2. Using metaphor to tell a visual story can reinforce your message, particularly when you carry it all the way through, verbally and visually. I have a great example at the link.
  3. Is your metaphor working...or working against you? Use metaphor, the power tool of public speaking...as long as you test it first. A great cautionary tale here.
  4. Storytelling with surprise and suspense: In our era of informational slide presentations, we've taken all the surprise and suspense out of our presenting. Good storytelling can bring that back. Here's how.
Great storytelling examples:
  1. The Whistlestop podcast shares campaign stories that review American politics through the lens of history, and in the process, shares some great storytelling examples for you to follow.
  2. A street doctor's lessons in storytelling take issues of health care and homelessness and make them real. One of the most compelling storytellers I've worked with shares lessons and examples.
  3. Getting patient data in healthcare from storytelling shares a bonus that emerged from a group of community health activists I coached for a conference: Storytelling can be another way for policymakers to collect data.
Want a workshop on storytelling for your executives, or your communications team? Email me at eloquentwoman AT gmail DOT com.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Phillippe Gressien)

Don't get caught unprepared, speechless, or without a message, but do catch me on Twitter, on Google+, and on the don't get caught page on Facebook--all great places to add your comments to the discussion. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Speakers & Communicators, to make sure you don't miss a thing on my blogs and get the first news about new workshops and projects.

Friday, November 25, 2016

The weekend read

I reject the notion that the weekend read is like your Thanksgiving leftovers. This, my friends, is a curated sandwich of elements cooked precisely for this purpose, from my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and don't get caught on Facebook. Dig in:
(Creative Commons licensed photo by jeffreyw)

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

What your email auto-respond can do for you

"I saw your out-of-office message," said the vice president, the boss of the group of general managers I was training at a big corporation.

I'd crafted a message that told clients where I was traveling, which companies and groups I was working with and what we were doing, with links to my clients' websites...including his. And, of course, when I'd be back and how I was handling responses.

"I'm going to steal that idea," he said. "My group travels a lot, and their auto-responses could be telling clients and prospects about our work, and sharing examples, instead of just saying we're out of the office. And I like that you promoted us and the training we are doing with you. Makes us look smart."

That was when I told him I'd stolen the idea from another client, who was using her out-of-office automated messages to say things like "I'm in Portland, Oregon, for the week, working with the most amazing scientists and hearing about their plans to change how we protect the environment!" -- a message with good internal and external content, and likely a real team-builder, if nothing else.

Much as I learned in What's in a filename? The story of scipak and why filenames matter, these seemingly mundane, routine bits of content can play a powerful role in your messaging. And by that, I don't mean adding your corporate tagline to your signature block. I mean going a little further, being concrete and specific and authentic to what's happening right now, since an auto-responder most often reflects something that's happening right now, aka your absence. Your primary message is about how long you're away and how you will handle messages during that time. But you *could* add value by telling us more about the work you are doing, where you will be, with whom you are working, whether you want to meet up with people who also are there, and more. And that lets you co-promote your colleagues, your clients, and your portfolio.

If you work with clients, internally or externally, this is a no-brainer. Even if you can't mention with whom you are working or the specifics of the job for an external client, you can say you're in Seattle to work with a major client in aerospace or a corporate client for a high-level training. Get descriptive. And if it's your internal client taking you out of town, treat them the same way. "This week, I'm teaming up with our publishing department to work with the top editors of our award-winning magazine" will win you a few bonus points at the office.

I'm looking forward to seeing the new out-of-office messages that work better for you.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Tommaso Galli)

Don't get caught unprepared, speechless, or without a message, but do catch me on Twitter, on Google+, and on the don't get caught page on Facebook--all great places to add your comments to the discussion. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Speakers & Communicators, to make sure you don't miss a thing on my blogs and get the first news about new workshops and projects.