Tag Archives: martin luther king

What makes a STAR moment shine?

Your audience should always leave your presentation with something they’ll always remember. But, what does it actually take to create a memorable STAR moment?

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In her landmark text on developing persuasive and engaging content, Resonate, Nancy Duarte devotes an entire chapter to what she calls STAR moments, those moments in a presentation when an audience truly achieves shared meaning with a presenter. According to Duarte, a STAR moment should “dramatically drive the big idea home” (Source), and it should be a “significant, sincere, and enlightening” (Source) moment that imprints the audience so much so that they spread and share the big idea long after the presentation ends. In teaching this particular presentation strategy, I’ve found that one can codify and define the types of actions that serve as STAR moments: memorable dramatizations, like Bill Gates releasing mosquitos on a TED conference audience; emotive storytelling, like Jill Bolte Taylor’s dynamic recreation of her massive brain stroke; evocative visuals, like Lisa Kristine’s hauntingly beautiful images of a few of the 28 million people enslaved throughout the world; repeatable sound bites like Martin Luther King, Jr.s “I have a dream…”; and shocking statistics, like Michael Pollan’s revelation that 28 oz of crude oil go into making each and every one of those quarter pounders with cheese sold at McDonalds every day. But, I’ve also learned that one can define a set of qualities that all of these strategies embody.

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So, these are excellent examples of types of STAR moments, but what makes a STAR moment actually memorable? What is it about what these and other great speakers do that leads to that mental hook in the audience? A former student, Elianna Bentz, led a class discussion several months ago that really helped put the qualities of a strong STAR moment into an easily digestible format. A STAR Moment should be Simple, Transferable, Audience-centered, Repeatable, and Meaningful.

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Simple

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The job of the STAR moment is often to take a very complicated problem and break it down to its simplest, most human, most transparent form. Chip and Dan Heath believe simplicity starts by removing superfluous elements and getting to the core of an idea. They compare it to the way a journalist writes an article–the lead comes first, and is not buried by complexities (Source). In the same way, a STAR moment has to be straightforward and evocative. Take for example Benjamin Zander’s STAR moment in the TED talk below. To help the audience understand the technicality of music, he demoes what piano playing is like at different ages and breaks down a prelude by Chopin note by note. But, to help the audience understand just how impacting classical music can be, before he plays the piece a second time, he asks the audience to imagine a lost loved one. The first time I did this, I was in tears. I’ve watched the speech now each month for four years and its impact is never the same unless I succumb to Zander’s request.

Transferable

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A STAR moment cannot exist in the vacuum of the speaker’s own mind and heart; it’s emotional impact has to be transferred to the audience so that they can internalize it. According to Duarte, a STAR moment is “rehearsed and planned to have just the right amount of analytical and emotional appeal to engage both the minds and hearts of an audience” (Source). Bill Gates’ 2009 TED talk contains such a moment. After establishing the problem–malaria is a worldwide problem (200 million are affected), but because the people affected do not have the wealth and resources to stop the problem, not enough is being done. To transfer the impact of this problem to a room full of TEDsters, wealthy folks who cannot necessarily relate to or understand the problem, he releases mosquitos into the audience, stating “there’s no reason only poor people should have the experience” (Source). Brilliant transference!

Audience-centered

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A great STAR moment requires audience-analysis and audience adaptation.Why? Because without audience analysis and adaptation, how can a speaker truly know what will impact his or her target audience, what will push through the wall of bias and resistance present in each audience member, what will be easily understood by the audience? The last day of Professional Communication and Presentation is Ignite presentation day. Two days ago, I witnessed one of the strongest STAR moments. Shayna wanted to communicate to her classmates that while they are all a product of the environments they came from, such a truth does not necessarily mean one has to be a slave to that idea or to what one learned as a result of one’s upbringing. She began her presentation by describing what it means to be a slave; she wore chains around her arms while she described this concept. For the next two minutes of her presentation she established her big idea, used storytelling, statistics, facts, and examples to support her big idea. She then told the story of having lost friends and family to drug abuse and how these experiences led her to act, to break her chains. She then threw the chains wrapped around her arms down. The reaction from her classmates was audible–the air literally went out of the room. By the end of her presentation, she had her audience in tears, fired up and ready to take control of their destinies.

Repeatable and Meaningful

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Finally, a STAR moment (if it embodies the first three qualities) must be easily repeatable/describable and also meaningful enough that the audience must repeat it. According to Duarte, “a carefully crafted sound bite can work as a STAR moment–not only for those who attend your presentation, but also for those who encounter it second hand” (Source). One of the most beautiful, repeatable, and meaningful STAR moments of our time is the repetition in Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream.” Dr. King, who spoke this portion of the speech extemporaneously and without a pre-written set of points (Clarence Jones describes the moment when King pushed his speech aside and spoke from the heart in this NPR interview). What made it repeatable was the simplicity of the phrase; what made it meaningful is that he was vocalizing America’s collective dream of the future. In order to help the audience visualize a positive future, motivate them to action, inspire their waning spirits, and tie the dream of desegregation to the long line of America’s dream, King repeats the phrase and follows it with what Nancy Duarte calls “new bliss,” a visualization of the world with his idea in place. This phrase has become part of our cultural consciousness in the United States and it helped reinvigorate the hearts and minds of King’s followers.

So, by choosing a type of STAR moment and then ensuring it meets the qualities above, you too can create a moment that shines on long after you say “Thank you for your time. Any questions?”

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Beyond Rhetoric: What MLK Day means to me

In Professional Communication and Presentation, we devote a class to studying the rhetorical strategies Martin Luther King uses in his landmark “I Have a Dream” speech, but it’s also important to recognize that while the speech is well constructed, what creates true impact is the shared vision Dr. King so eloquently expressed to all Americans. King’s speech was not about racial equality and justice–to him these were givens that our country had the potential and responsibility to live up to–King’s speech was about the dream of all citizens working together to further the cause of creating a thriving future for our children and grandchildren.

I’ve been working on the following infographic for several months now and still have several more weeks of design before it is complete, but considering King’s vision has helped me push past a creative block I’ve been dealing with.

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Because my focus is on emphasizing the rhetorical mastery of the speech (and it’s definitely masterful), I’ve been missing the words and visuals to truly communicate the impact of this speech on the American psyche. The bottom third of the infographic will include rhetorical analysis, but I plan on devoting the majority of that design space to translating and communicating the lasting effects of Dr. King’s work as embodied by this speech. As Americans, we have a responsibility to “work together, to pray together, to struggle together…to stand up for freedom together” (Source). It’s this legacy of unified service that we must remember just as much as the way the idea was communicated.

Today is MLK Day also known as the MLK Day of Service. There’s no better way to commemorate one of our greatest humans than by honoring his legacy through service. Make a commitment to serving someone other than yourself today, whether it’s through an act or an encouraging word.

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The Golden Circle: Simon Sinek’s Start with Why

Each first day of class, I share Simon Sinek’s TEDxPugetSound talk with students as a starting point for a discussion of what it actually takes to persuade, convince, or resonate with an audience.

In his talk and his book Start With Why, Sinek proposes that great leaders–Martin Luther King, Steve Jobs, the Wright Brothers–all communicate with a purpose, they communicate (think and act) from the inside out. Most of us, Sinek believes, communicate from the outside in. It is a clear sense of why–a mission, a purpose, a calling, a big idea–that allows great leaders to gain followers, to inspire others to take on their ideas and act on them. In preparation for my first day of class in two weeks, I’ve prepared a brief introduction to Sinek’s The Golden Circle.

Do you Start with Why? What is the Why that drives your decisions?

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Michael Fassbender makes everything better

So, in tweaking my slides for tomorrow, I sought out a strong representation of Kenneth Burke’s concept of identification that was not about Hitler or Martin Luther King. I hit upon the example of Magneto of X-Men, which of course gave me an excellent chance to search for an image of Magneto, and who better to choose than Michael Fassbender (sorry, Sir Ian McKellen..I really really like Fassbender), who most recently portrayed the complicated leader o’ rogue mutants and owner of all things metallic. Magneto uses identification, the seeking out of similarities between a speaker and audience (even when such similarities are unknown or denied), to gain the trust and allegiance of mutants like Mystique. He works to differentiate the mutant, the superior, from the human or inferior. It is this acknowledgement of common superiority that leads to the rift between Magneto and Professor X. I take this slide below as a lovely end to my night of tweaks to tomorrow’s session on rhetoric and persuasion.

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