Anecdotally -July 2006
Date Published: 28-Jul-06
Welcome to the July newsletter from Anecdote.
- A short article on storytelling
- A link to our most read blog post (26,000 hits this month)
- We are hiring
- Upcoming workshops
** Telling stories for a living **
Everyone can benefit from finding and telling better stories. Don't be confused in thinking, however, that telling stories means regaling an audience with your latest adventure tale. In business it doesn't need to be so grand. Telling stories is simply about conveying your ideas, values, intentions by retelling something that happened which illustrates your points. Let me give you an example. When I joined IBM in 1999, my first job was to organise a seminar on knowledge management. After some searching, I discovered Dave Snowden was a colleague in the UK. Dave had a reputation as an entertaining speaker with a radical and refreshing perspective on KM. As luck would have it, he was planning to visit Australia in February so we held the seminar in Old Parliament House in Canberra. It was a tremendous success. It was my first exposure to narrative techniques and complexity theory and it started me on a new and exciting career path. This story of how I met Dave is an example of how you can introduce yourself using a simple anecdote rather than list your interests and achievements. One short anecdote can be more effective than retelling your entire life history. My anecdote has a number of features worth noting. - There is a main character, me, who is on a journey. I'm seeking a speaker, I find a speaker, he speaks and it sets me off on a new career path. The journey transforms me. People like to hear about someone else's journey. It's how we learn without having to experience something first-hand. - I tell the listener from the outset when this event happened. A clear date helps the listener identify that I'm telling a story and the precise dates indicate that it is likely to be true. The story loses its impact if it started by saying, "A few years back, when I joined IBM, my first job ..." - It's conversational. This is how I would tell it if someone asked, "So, how did you get into storytelling?" Conversational stories tend to be simple without embellishment telling the listener what happened. There are many ways to use stories to communicate more effectively. The first step is to become aware of the anecdotes all around you and think, "how might these stories be improved?" This first step is knowing the message you wish to convey. Then you need to find relevant anecdotes.
* Finding stories *
Our minds are filled with stories but our memories are poles apart from library catalogues waiting to be searched. Rather our memories need stimulation to remember the stories we know. Here are three ways to help remember stories.
- Convene an anecdote circle because hearing other people's stories instantly conjures our own tales. An anecdote circle is a group of people who meet for an hour or so to discuss a topic of interest. Instead of everyone providing their opinions the group concentrates on retelling illustrative examples, anecdotes and experiences (if you want to learn how to run anecdote circles go here: http://www.anecdote.com.au/anecdotecircles). You'll be amazed at how many of your own stories you will remember. Don't forget to write them down.
- Draw a timeline on a whiteboard and mark the important events. This works best when you're with a small group of people who have experienced that time together. Simply start a conversation about the events recounting what people remember happening. To be effective people must retell specific and detailed accounts using real names, real places, real dates, otherwise the result will be abstract generalisations that are difficult to translate into effective stories for retelling.
- Learn to ask anecdote-eliciting questions like, "Tell me when you've felt great about your work? What happened?" Avoid story phobic questions such as, "Why do we do things this way?" or "What is the best approach to this problem?" These types of questions result in people justifying their actions using analysis, facts and logic-no stories. Anecdotes will flow when we help people remember a time where they can picture a situation. 'When' and 'where' questions are most effective.
* Presenting your stories *
Regardless of the number of people listening to your story, you should present it conversationally as if you were speaking to a single person. Avoid announcing that you have a great story to tell. Simply launch into the retelling with, perhaps, an introductory remark like, "that reminds me of when ..." or "this example illustrates that point." Better still when someone asks a question like, "How did you get into storytelling Shawn?" immediately recount your anecdote, "When I joined IBM in 1999 ..." At the completion of the story avoid telling the listener what they should have gleaned from the story. Avoid saying things like, "the moral of the story then is ..." or "the key points I want you to take away from that story are ..." The power of storytelling comes from the story being told twice, once by the storyteller and once by the story listener. If you tell the story listener what they should have heard, you steal away their opportunity to recreate the story for themselves. It's this story re-creation that inspires people to take action, change behaviour and self reflect. Our storytelling workshop in September will cover these ideas and more. See below.
** Our most read blog post **
I wrote this post a few month's ago about a technique called Most Significant Change and it is by far the most read post on our site. Here's the link: http://www.anecdote.com.au/archives/2006/04/evaluating_the.html Another bit of web-site trivia: we had over 700,000 hits on our site this month.
** We are hiring **
Yes, we've decided it's time to expand our team. Here is the description of the position: http://www.anecdote.com.au/archives/2006/07/join_anecdote_a.html
** Upcoming workshops **
- Storytelling workshop in September - We all need better ways to persuade, share what we know and help those around us make sense of the complex world we live in. Developing our innate storytelling skills helps build confidence, convey ideas clearly and effectively, and probably most importantly, present to our colleagues our humanity. This workshop is for anyone wanting to improve their ability to find and tell their own stories within a business context. http://www.anecdote.com.au/coursedisplay.php?cid=12
- Improv techniques and narrative - Andrew is organising workshops with the world famous improv practitioner, Izzy Gesell. Keep an eye on our courses page to find out about this exciting opportunity http://www.anecdote.com.au/courses.php
Anecdote Pty Ltd
Shawn Callahan Founding Director
tel: +61 3 8300 0747
fax: +61 3 9383 6274
mobile: +61 410 346 343
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