Tag Archives: story

Story differentiates your body of work

In today’s world of work, which is characterized by abundance, instability, and ingenuity, professionals have to find ways to differentiate themselves from the many others out there who possess the same or similar skills. How does one rise to the top of a mountain of great communicators, strong work ethics, and innovative, effective, responsible workers (these words all come from LinkedIn’s top ten most overused buzzwords of 2013)?

In oder to differentiate yourself and maximize your competitive advantage, you have to tell your story. Pamela Slim, author of Body of Work: Finding the thread that ties your story together, uses story herself to illustrate the resonance an engaging story can have. She tells the story of her father and John Legend among others, and shares her advice via stories of her own experiences as a career coach.  What story does is place your body of work:”…everything you create, contribute, affect, and impact. For individuals, it is the personal legacy you leave at the end of your life, including all the tangible and intangible things you have created” (Source) into a unique context.

Slim’s book is a great starting point for discovering how to tell your story, but you can also draw much inspiration from the remarkable examples of professional stories on Slideshare.net. One such story is Matt Henshaw’s “How to Rock the Perfect LinkedIn Profile”:

Henshaw’s deck is of course a beautiful example of clean, minimalist design. It’s also one of the best examples of a professional story I’ve seen since David Crandall’s “Anti-Resume Manifesto.” Henshaw tells the story of being “this close” to achieving his dream–being a professional musician–losing a major record contract, redefining himself as a college graduate and computer science sustainability research assistant (phew!), finding his way back to his passion, and articulating a successful plan to pursue this passion as career.

It’s so difficult to tell our own stories at times, especially through a visual medium. Finding the right way to begin a story that for us has very fuzzy beginnings can stop most of us from sharing that story with others (no one tells you to think about how working at a local grocery store is the start of you becoming a teacher 20 years later). Matt’s deck is both inspirational and useful. It shows us that a story can compel viewers, contextualize “failure”, and that careful attention to every version of your story on the web can make a difference. If you want to maximize your competitive advantage, create a body of work and then tell your story.

 

 

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Slideshare of the Day: Storytelling

Slideshareoftheday.001

Yesterday, Alex Rister shared one of decks we now use in the online iteration of Professional Communication and Presentation, and today I’d like to pass that knowledge along. “Storytelling: Using the Most Powerful Information Delivery Tool” lays down a few basic principles and ideas about this very sticky method of communication. Storytelling is a cornerstone of the human experience. What a statistic cannot communicate alone, a story can bring to life. The deck begins by explaining the difference between report, whose purpose is to inform, and story, whose purpose is to entertain. A presentation happily lives in the middle of these two and can really help bridge the divide between informing and entertaining. But, it’s the use of story IN the presentation (and not just the slapping of a story in at the beginning or end of a speech) that really makes it so powerful.

As Nancy Duarte discusses below and Alex reiterates in the deck, we should work to layer story into an informative or persuasive speech as one layers a cake (a little info, a little story, repeat).

The deck goes on to explain what makes an effective story (conflict, characters, details, clear theme) as well as comparing story structure to presentation structure. In terms of design, Alex follows the SIMPLE method by keeping her theme unified (one typeface, Ostrich Sans, used in two weights; two contrasting colors used for emphasis, a repeated use of shape), focusing on one idea per slide, and applying the picture superiority effect consistently.

 

 

Do you incorporate story into your presentations? What types of stories do you find resonate with your audiences? Do personal stories work best?

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Colbert and Stewart Simplify PACs

I tout the phrases keep it simple, simple isn’t easy, and simple is best often in my discussion of design. But one area in which I could devote more time to these axioms is content. I think teaching for 8 hours at one time tends to make one want to pack as much information as possible into a session. The anxiety of so much time can lead to information overload (which often happens during the persuasion mega-double). In an effort to tweak my focus and narrow down my lecture time to essentials only (and make way for application), I turn to inspiration from the communicators I trust.

In Friday’s Decker Blog, Ben Decker discusses how Stephen Colbert has consistently taken the very complex issue of Political Action Committees and campaign finance and simplified it through the use of SHARPs (Stories, Humor, Analogies, References & Quotes, Pictures & Visuals). Decker refers specifically to the use of skits with fellow comedian turned social commentator Jon Stewart. The use of satire, impacting visuals, and dynamic delivery to communicate a complex idea in a simple way resonates with audiences, makes a convoluted and mystifying political practice accessible to the average viewer.

I wonder how much one of these would cost...LOVE!

Check out this infographic from the Huffington Post, which chronicles Colbert’s ongoing campaign against PACs.

For another perspective, check out this infographic from iWatch:

The stark difference between our current president and the current Republican frontrunner, Mitt Romney is particularly interesting.

What do you do to keep it simple for your audience? In what areas could you simplify and streamline?

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