What action do you want them to take? Details are important. Data and evidence and logical flow are important. But we must not lose sight of what is really important and what is not. Often, talks take people down a path of great detail and loads of information, most of which is completely forgotten if it was ever understood in the first place after the talk is finished. The more details that you include and the more complex your talk, the more you must be very clear on what it is you want your audience to hear, understand, and remember.
If the audience only remembers one thing, what should it be? Write it down and stick it on the wall so it's never out of your sight. This applies to the content of your talk and also to the visuals you use if any. It may be true that it's all important, but when you have only ten minutes or an hour, you have to make hard choices of inclusion and exclusion.
This is something professional storytellers know very well. What is included must be included for a good reason. I'm quite fond of the advice by the legendary writer Anton Chekhov : "Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off.
If it's not going to be fired, it shouldn't be hanging there. The fantastic filmmaker Billy Wilder said we must "Grab 'em by the throat and never let 'em go. Don't waste time at the beginning with formalities or filler talk. Start with a bang. Get their attention and then sustain that interest with variety and unexpectedness, built upon structure that is taking them some place.
Audiences usually remember the beginning and the ending the most—don't waste those important opening minutes. Too many presenters—and writers for that matter—get bogged down in back stories or details about minor—or even irrelevant—points at the beginning and momentum dies as audience members begin scratching their heads in confusion or boredom. No conflict, no story. Not every presentation topic is about a problem that needs to be dealt with, but many are.
And we can certainly improve almost any talk by being mindful of what is at stake and what the obstacles are to overcome.
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It may not apply directly to every kind of talk you give, but many examples that we give or experiences that we share to illustrate a point will be about a problem that needed to be dealt with. Make things clear, engaging, and memorable by illustrating the struggle. Affecting a change is a necessary condition of an effective speech.
Presentations and talks are usually a mix of information, inspiration, and motivation. Anytime we get on a stage to speak we are talking about change. You can think of change in two ways. First, the content of every good presentation or story addresses a change of some kind. Second, an effective presentation or a story told well will create a change in the audience. Sometimes this can be a big change and sometimes it is quite small.
Too often, though, the only change the presenter creates in the audience is the change from wakefulness to sleep. When we are surprised—when the unexpected happens—we are fully in the moment and engaged. In classical storytelling, reversals are an important technique. Do the opposite of what the audience expects their expectations were based on your earlier setup. Your surprises do not have to be overly dramatic ones.
Often the best way is more subtle. Make the audience aware that they have a gap in their knowledge and then fill that gap with the answers to the puzzle or guide them to the answers. Take people on a journey of discovery. And this journey is filled with bits of the unexpected.
This is what keeps the journey moving forward. Storytellers—filmmakers, novelists, etc. Yes, facts, events, structure are important, but what people remember—and what is more likely to push them to act—is the way the narrative made them feel. In the live presentation I mistakenly said that vulnerability was the formula for authenticity.
I misspoke. What I meant to say was a willingness to take a risk and be vulnerable was a necessary condition for authenticity. There are no formulas. Vulnerability is what makes us human. We are attracted to characters like Woody Toy Story because we see ourselves in their fragility. Even superheroes are interesting only when we know that they have weakness, including the perceived weakness of self-doubt.
What made Robin Williams such a remarkable and beloved entertainer was his humanity and his authenticity. This is not something you can fake. Faking authenticity is like faking good health. Sooner or later its all going to come crashing down. Authenticity is built on honesty and a willingness to be vulnerable.
It is risky, which is why authenticity is relatively rare, but so appreciated when it is found.
Wired for story We are a storytelling animal. We are not a bullet-point-memorizing animal. We are wired to be attracted to story and to learn from them and to spread them. Everything depends on the context of the presentation, but in most cases a good presentation is a mix of logic, data, emotion, and inspiration. We are usually OK with the logic and data part, but fail on the emotional and inspirational end.
Certainly leaders and educators need to infuse a bit of wonder into their talks that inspire people to make a change. A good presentation should not end when the speaker sits down or the class comes to an end. We will not impact everyone in even our greatest presentations. But if we can get enough people talking about the content in the hours or days after our time on stage, then that may be enough.
That's something. That's a small victory. Maybe we have lit a spark or motivated someone just a little to explore our message more deeply in future. That is change. It may not be a big change, but it is a change And that is worth getting out of bed for. Posted at PM Permalink Comments 2. Bill Murray is a wonderful storyteller. In this radio interview, Murray said the key to being funny was being able to tell stories. How, then, does one become a good storyteller, Stern asked. You have to hear stories and you have to live stories.
You have to have a bunch of experiences and be able to say 'Here's something that happened to me yesterday So that's what I learned in improv People often ask great storytellers—writers, producers, directors, authors, etc. This is why I always say you have to live a life to tell a life. I believe this is what Murray is saying above when he says it's important to have a "bunch of experiences" from which to draw.
The experiences—good and bad but especially bad —are like a persona library of history and insights for the storyteller. The video above is a nice example of a simple, short story that Murray tells, seemingly impromptu, to a question from the press during a panel interview for the film The Monuments Men. Most people may think nothing of this tale from his life, but it's a great example of the everyday kind of real-life memory from one's past which holds a lesson or a gem of wisdom.
His recollection is a kind of "man-in-hole" story. Right from the beginning, we hear of a traumatic failing that sends Murray out onto the streets of Chicago for a long walk. He's at his lowest, and things look like they will get worse. He continues to walk, not feeling especially hopeful, until he stumbles upon the Art Institute of Chicago.
There, expecting nothing, he is moved by a piece of art. His day went from one of his worst to one with hope and a new perspective, in part because of being exposed to The Song of The Lark , an painting by Jules Adolphe Breton. Posted at PM Permalink Comments 3.
Part of the aim of this project, as stated on the Pixar-in-a-Box website is to show how "The subjects you learn in school — math, science, computer science, and humanities — are used every day to create amazing movies at Pixar. Pixar may be the best at the technical side of animation, but what really made them successful is their understanding of story and storytelling.
In this interview regarding Pixar's success , Steve Jobs said this: "Even though Pixar is the most technologically advanced studio in the world, John Lasseter has a saying which has really stuck: No amount of technology will turn a bad story into a good story. The new Art of Storytelling series is great news for educators who want to bring the principles of storytelling into the classroom and help their students understand the art of story.
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Yet this is also useful for anyone who wants to become a masterful storyteller in business or in any other endeavor. Here's the introduction video for the Storytelling series. The storytelling series will cover six main parts that take you from the formation of your rough idea to actually creating storyboards. Each lesson features videos and activities, so this is something you can do on your own or as part of a class. Here are the six sections to be covered as outlined in the introductory video in lesson 1: 1 We are all Storytellers 2 Character 3 Structure 4 Visual language 5 Filmmaking grammar 6 Storyboarding Currently, all six lessons are available.
Even if you do not desire to make an animated film, the lessons — especially those related to structure and visual language — will help you create better presentations in all their myriad forms or incorporate storytelling into other aspects of your work and life. If you have not heard of Pixar in a Box, here is a video presentation that explains the concept. And in the true spirit of Pixar, the video introduction is done with great clarity and humor.
Here are two good books on Pixar I read recently. The first one is Creativity, Inc. Both give great insights into the workings of Pixar and also the story making process. The Zen Master of data visualization has died. I am sorry to have to report that Dr. Hans Rosling passed away today in Uppsala, Sweden. He was just A profoundly mournful day for anyone who knew Professor Rosling, obviously. Rosling's work was seen by millions and will continue to be seen by millions worldwide. It is incalculable just how many professionals Hans inspired over the years.
His presentations, always delivered with honesty, integrity, and clarity, were aided by clear visuals of both the digital and analog variety. He was a master statistician, physician, and academic, but also a superb presenter and storyteller. Almost eleven years ago, just after TED began experimenting with putting some of their talks on the web, I wrote this post called "If your idea is worth spreading, then presentation matters.
Rosling from his TED Talk:. If you want to know how he did all those graphics, go to gapminder. It's all there. Hans is saying the problem is not the data. The data is there. But it's not accessible to most people for three reasons: 1 For researchers and journalists, teachers, etc. His solution is to make the data free, let it evoke and provoke an 'aha' experience, or a 'wow! I loved the way he got involved with the data, virtually throwing himself into the screen. He got his point across, no question about it. From that point on, I watched virtually every talk he made and featured him in every book I wrote on presentation.
I saw the professor in person at TED and was a fellow presenter with him at Tableau in Seattle where he, as usual, had the crowd of data geeks in the palm of his hand. Hans Rosling is that master. His contributions are immense, and he will be missed deeply. Below is Dr. Rosling's debut at TED It's as good now as it was then. Hans Rosling presented at TED ten times, more than any other presenter.
Below are links to a selection of other posts from presentationzen. Rosling's presentations over the years. I'll continue to do whatever I can to spread his teachings in future. His work will continue to inspire and educate. We need his message of a fact-based worldview now more than ever. Here is part of today's announcement by Anna R. Across the world, millions of people use our tools and share our vision of a fact-based worldview that everyone can understand.
We know that many will be saddened by this message. Hans is no longer alive, but he will always be with us and his dream of a fact-based worldview, we will never let die! Let us all remember Professor's Rosling's contributions and continue to keep the dream of a more fact-based, rational worldview alive. Posted at PM Permalink Comments 0. Edward Tufte is a leading expert in the data analysis and data visualization space. His books are classics and required reading for anyone interested in understanding how best to display quantitative information.
I read his books just after I left Apple in to become a college professor in Japan. His books are foundational. I've talked about Tufte in my own books and on this website going back to at least this post in I have not seen him speak recently, so I was happy to see this minute presentation by Dr. Microsoft's David Smith introduced Dr. Tufte at the mark. Video and transcript also available on the Microsoft website. Highlights In his talk, Tufte warns against confirmation bias and massaging the data to arrive at findings that are desirable or somehow in your interest.
He paraphrases one of Daniel Patrick Moynihan's famous lines: "Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts. To do this he recommends specifying your analysis first before you collect the data. I think this is the future of confirmatory data analysis. We can learn from it. We can run it through powerful exploratory things. Melody Templeton. Content Strategy.
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