Looking forward to some time off this summer? While you’re relaxing at the beach or enjoying an early start to the weekend with Summer Fridays, make time to sharpen your skills. Each of these books listed below will help you become a more effective communicator and leader.
Inclusion: Diversity, the New Workplace and the Will to Change, Jennifer Brown
This book could not be more timely. Every successful business must ensure that all employees experience a welcoming work environment where they can perform at their best and are challenged to grow. Jennifer shares best practices and business cases that inclusion is an opportunity to make your business better. Share the book with peers at your business and start a conversation.
Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to your Biggest Challenges, Amy Cuddy
You may know Amy from her viral TED Talk where she contends that adopting a power pose, like Wonder Woman, can actually make feel more confident. Her book expands on this premise with practical tips for anyone who has to pitch themselves or their ideas. If you think of a witty retort after the moment passes, this book is for you.
Slide:ology: The Art and Science of Great Presentations, Nancy Duarte
Raise your hand if you’ve sat through presentations that include 50+ slides. For years I wrapped this book up as a holiday gift to clients, hoping they would read it and realize you don’t have to put paragraphs on slides. Nancy Duarte has carved out a unique niche as a presentation expert. If that doesn’t seem very exciting, consider that within corporations, presentations are the most used channel for delivering information. This book will help you strategize the story, content, and flow to impact and influence your audience.
Sell with a Story, Paul Smith
We can all agree that storytelling is a powerful communications tool. But it takes practice to create stories that instruct, inspire and ignite action. Smith provides fascinating examples on you can take even the most technical, data-driven content and fashion a memorable story.
That’s the refrain of business leaders when employee performance doesn’t match expectations, or when a new initiative is greeted with a collective yawn. Employees must be too busy, disengaged or distracted to understand why this is important, right?
It’s a common predicament. Perhaps it’s not the audience, but the message.
There’s a far better way to engage internal audiences, and it doesn’t include handing out T-shirts and coffee mugs. Use storytelling to make an emotional connection.
We’ve been taught that “correct” business communications isvery detailed, data driven and cost/benefit oriented. It’s a proven formula. However, when the goal is to inspire action, introduce change, or persuade, storytelling is more effective. It helps ideas stick.
You know this is true. It’s how myths and legends are born. It’s why we share the same stories around the table at Thanksgiving or at reunions with old friends. It’s why the business origin stories for Coca Cola or Spanx are fascinating.
Engaging employees through storytelling binds them together in a shared experience. It’s a method anyone can use. Here are four tips to help you get started:
Start with the end in mind. What do you want your team to believe and do after they hear the story? Identify the objective and build the story around it.
Set the scene. A strong introduction is the key to a solid story. Engage the audience with a personal experience, a struggle or make an employee the hero.
Simplify. Twitter has taught us that we can make a point in 140 characters. A strong story, just like a good joke, adds just enough details to advance the story. Too much detail and you’ve lost them.
Be authentic. Use conversational language. Share something about you. The power to persuade is lost if the story sounds like it’s lifted from a user’s manual.
Has this ever happened to you? You’ve got an important message or a new program to share at an employee meeting. You know it will be revolutionary, empowering team members to grow and drive performance. Yet the magic is somehow lost in translation. You look out over a sea of disinterested—or worse—bored faces.
Now imagine what happens when you begin this way:
“Once upon a time…”
Did their ears perk up? Did they maybe even lean in? Just a little?
There’s a reason for that.
From the beginning of human time, stories have been the most effective way to pass on traditions, history, values and culture. To influence, persuade, rally, and pretty much get people to listen to and retain your message. And it’s about more than just being entertained.
Neuroscientists have discovered that there are chemical changes that occur in the human brain when we experience a good story. Oxytocin, that feel-good chemical that subtly and powerfully influences people to not only pay attention but to WANT to cooperate is released when we are emotionally engaged by the power of stories.
You don’t have to be Stephen Spielberg to tell a good story.
Stories have these elements in common:
A character we care about or relate to who wants something dear to him
Something or someone who gets in the way of what he wants
A breathless moment during which we’re very afraid our hero won’t get what he wants, and then, “Ah…” A turning point
Our hero either gets what he wants or doesn’t. But either way, he is changed forever and life settles into a new normal.
How can you achieve your business objectives with stories that engage, persuade, and move people to action? For starters, learn to see your communications in terms of:
Characters (team members, leaders, and customers)
Desires (objectives you & your audiences want to achieve such as a better working environment, a more engaged workforce, a more effective performance management plan)
Obstacles to achieving those desires (not enough money, inadequate systems and processes, the wiles of human nature)
Now go tell the story of how your hero climbed that mountain and planted his flag and be specific about how he did it. Your audience will want to climb that mountain with you.
Need help telling your stories? You’re in luck because that’s what we do here at Insight Strategic Communications. We help businesses tell their stories and get what they want, whether that’s buy-in for a new training platform or accelerating performance or engaging employees. Contact us today and let’s talk about how we can help with storytelling in internal communications (firstname.lastname@example.org).
I’ve recently rediscovered an element of my life that was an essential part of my day from the ages of 9 to 14. It’s a comic strip that I’ve come to realize is as enduring a piece of art as I’ve ever known. Its impact is just as powerful today at my age of 27 as it was when I was 9 (albeit in a different way). And for that, I’d like to thank Bill Watterson for creating a boy named Calvin and his stuffed tiger/loyal companion, Hobbes.
I remember my first time meeting Calvin and Hobbes. It was 1996, I was in 3rd grade, and the whole school was excited because the Scholastic Book Fair was going on all week in the library. Usually, I would just browse the sports posters, picking out the coolest looking Atlanta Braves or Falcons stuff. But a certain Calvin and Hobbes book, “There’s Treasure Everywhere,” caught my eye. After flipping through just a couple pages, I knew I had to bring it home. Not only could I understand it, it was funny. I mean, what kid doesn’t relate to Calvin? I haven’t met one.
I spent years with Calvin and Hobbes. I started collecting all of Watterson’s books, reading and rereading each and every one. Calvin, Hobbes and I had all kinds of adventures — sledding down treacherous hills, pelting the girl (ick!) next door with snowballs, and even transmogrifying ourselves. It was all great fun. And I’m happily realizing that it still is.
Examining Watterson’s comics can teach us some key lessons for any kind of writing we do:
People remember stories. I’ve always loved sports, especially as a kid during my peak with Calvin and Hobbes. That said, I couldn’t tell you how many games the Braves won in 1996. But I can tell you about when Calvin turned his Transmorgrifier into a Duplicator.
Marry your content with the medium. Watterson could’ve written books for a living. He could have had art pieces hanging respected galleries. Instead, he chose comic strips, despite being mocked by critics as a “low art,” because it’s the best way he could bring his characters to life.
Shine through in your content. Despite the fact that Bill Watterson hasn’t made a public appearance in more than a decade, his content is still very personable. Writing for business doesn’t mean spewing corporate jargon. Readers are comforted when they feel a human connection with the author.
These three tips are a sure-fire way to help you engage your readers, making the content all the more valuable and memorable. It’s the reason why Calvin and Hobbes still resonates with so many people, no matter their age or reading level.