December, 2010 | Published by Anecdote - Putting Stories to Work.
Seasons greetings from all the team at Anecdote. It has been a big year for Anecdote.
We have delivered our Storytelling for Business Leaders program over 25 times for a huge diversity of clients including: aspiring principals, university lecturers and staff, leadership teams in government, private sector and not-for-profit organisations.
We have helped many large organisations turn their strategies into concrete, understandable and memorable stories and trained leaders to communicate those stories effectively.
We continue to deliver our leadership development program and have completed projects in areas such as mentoring, retaining knowledge and building more collaborative workplaces. Excitingly, we have been developing Zahmoo, a web 2.0 'story bank'.
Kevin Bishop joined us in November after relocating his family from the UK. He has hit the ground running and is already delivering projects. We moved into new offices in West Melbourne and look forward to welcoming people for a cup of coffee.
So, welcome to our final newsletter for 2010.
In this edition, we have:
Book Review – Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences
Breaking News – Public Workshop Return, Shawn Coming to London and Zahmoo
We hope that you enjoy reading Anecdotally. Feel free to pass this email on to your colleagues and friends if you think that they would enjoy it too.
Please contact us with your comments, suggestion and ideas.
Resonate: Present Visual Stories That Transform Audiences
– by Nancy Duarte
It’s still true, most presentations are rubbish. We’re still being subjected to slides full of dot points, presenters who insist on reading their dots points to us and the total omission of anything resembling a story. I was even once subjected to the presenter making us read his dot points out loud as if we were all in church reciting a psalm.
My presentation style has been heavily influenced by Garr Reynolds the author of Presentation Zen, especially his emphasis on big pictures, large fonts and a using a sprinkling of words on a slide. In this way you use your slides to create a mood, or to create an artefact to talk about, rather than have your slides do the heavy lifting. Nancy Duarte has also written a book on this topic called Slideology, but I haven’t had a chance to read it yet. It’s on my list.
Duarte’s latest book, Resonate takes me one step further to being a better presenter by showing me how to use a simple story-influenced structure for constructing the content of a presentation. Her main point is that we all love and respond to contrast and especially the contrast between “what is” and “what could be.”
Duarte makes a strong case for her approach. There are lots of examples from speeches and movies and plenty of references to the hero’s journey plot structure and ideas proposed by screenwriter coach to the stars Robert McKee. Duarte’s basic premise is simply, if good movies inspire and engage an audience, what can we learn from screenwriters that we can apply to presentations?
Interestingly Duarte’s presentation structure seems to only borrow lightly from the classic story structures reviewed in the book, which I was thankful for because I think conceiving a presentation as screenplay is unnecessarily complex. Her detailed description of the hero’s journey, for example, give the impression that all those elements are necessary for the presentation but as you keep reading you realise Duarte is advocating a much simpler and more useful approach.
Resonate is focussed on the overall structure of your presentation. It gives little insight, however, into how to use anecdotes throughout a presentation to bring moments to life. You can tell Duarte is a big believer in anecdotes yet they were merely a sideshow in this work. Perhaps that’s something I will need to write.
Of course the proof is in the pudding so I put the structure to the test this week. It worked a treat. You could see the audience enjoying and responding to the contrasts I built for them and most importantly Duarte’s structure helps you really think about the ending. People remember the ending more than anything else. I made sure I had practical things everyone could do as next steps and painted a picture of how the world could be if we succeeded.
This is a beautiful book that I highly recommend. Imagine, if we could only get 10% of the leaders in our organisations to create inspiring presentations how much good could be created. And for me if we could inject even more stories into the workplace we would also be bringing a hunk more humanity into our lives.
A strategy that people don’t believe in, can’t remember or can’t understand is of little value. We are getting lots of pull for the development and implementation of strategic stories, where we work with clients to turn strategy in a story that all staff can understand and recall.
We recently completed Anecdote’s strategic story and are working with a range of clients to develop theirs. We are working across all sectors on this with clients ranging from IBM to Greenpeace to government departments such as QLD Transport and Main Roads.
One of the key aspects is in finding and tackling the ’anti-stories’ in organisations that work against the strategy. You can’t fight a story with a fact, only with another story.
Other Anecdote projects currently underway:
Developing the leadership and communication skills of front line managers for a utilities company. Check out this 2 minute You Tube clip of Tom Peters making the case for the importance of selecting and developing front-line leaders
Exploring the importance and impact of fires roles for a government department
Diversity and building your brand as a woman in an international company
Storytelling and communications skills for principals and aspiring principals
Ongoing project helping a consortium of local government organisations collaborate more effectively around sustainability
One of the tools I have found incredibly useful since joining Anecdote, has been Yammer
Yammer is a microblogging or activity stream application, which allows you to post messages and respond to your colleagues’ messages in a manner very similar to Twitter, the main difference being that Yammer is for internal use only.
On Yammer you can start a conversation, read posts, and collaborate in real-time. You can also create a private dialog with one or multiple co-workers, upload and share documents and it allows ’one-to-many’ broadcasting. Each conversation is also archived and fully searchable so allowing you to build your organisations knowledge base at the same time.
It seems to be a less formal channel of communication and here at Anecdote we use it to communicate and collaborate over a whole range of things. It is great for sharing great blog posts or websites we have found, asking quick questions of the entire team, knowing which part of the world everyone in the team is in today, and providing a little bit of inspiration or motivation by sharing great stories or quotes we have come across. It’s even been used in the last week to recommend the best hotel to stay if you have an early morning flight out of Sydney!
It is a very easy to use, and seems to both work for a small company the size of Anecdote as well as larger organisations. I read a story about its use in Deloitte Australia. Digital CEO Peter Williams posted a message on the Deloitte Yammer network for a new ad campaign. Over the next 24 hours, employees submitted over 1,500 taglines. As a result, Deloitte Australia utilised an employee-submitted tagline in its advertising instead of hiring an advertising agency to develop the campaign. This not only reduced costs but also increased employee engagement.
I'm sitting in a cafe thinking about what makes a great listener. I can see a few. They're leaning forward, nodding, smiling, asking questions. You can tell they want to be there and that they care about the person they are listening to. They're not glancing at their watch, their phones and there're no computer screens to distract them.
They take turns telling their stories and sharing their thoughts but when they're listening they're engrossed in what the other person is saying and they're not interrupting.
It's impossible for me to say for sure but I'm imagining that when they're listening they're not working out the next thing they're going to say to impress their friend, to knock down their argument, to win the point. It's a natural flow, improvisation style.
Most of know how to listen but why does it seem to evaporate in the workplace?
I suspect we've created workplace cultures that emphasise problem solving and getting the job done quickly and getting through the work. When someone asks a question people are clamouring to answer it and show that they are the fixer, the can-do person. Or they enter into interrogation mode to get the information so they can fix the problem.
And there are distractions galore. Phone beeping, computers beeping, colleagues bleating, all competing for our attention.
Yet there are many important times when deep listening is essential. One particular type of conversation which is top of mind for me at the moment is mentoring. When someone you're mentoring pops into your office and says, "I'd really appreciate your thoughts on this thing I'm grappling with," then it's time to go into deep listening mode. Can you be like the people in the cafe?
A couple of ideas. First, remove distractions. Put your mobile out of site, put your phone on silent and if your computer screen is on a swivel arm move it so it's also out of sight. Better still come around the to the other side of your desk and sit next to them with your distractions out of eye shot. I have one client who has to put his back to the glass wall of his office so he can't see the stream of people who wander past and want to speak with him.
Second, ask good questions. You want them to open up and explore the issue. Hopefully they will get a new perspective and some possible options. So you need to listen carefully to ask good questions. As a general rule, 'why' questions will get to the bigger purpose. 'How' and 'what' questions will get the detail of how things work and what might be done. And my favourites, 'when' and 'where' questions often get you stories.
Third, tell stories. You would think that listening is about just shutting up but it would be pretty weird to sit quietly and not say a peep. So to avoid just solving their problem, a strong urge for Type A's, recount some of your experiences to get them thinking of what's possible without telling them what to do.
Fourth, show that you are listening. How you look, how you respond, what you say, all indicate whether you really care and are listening. I'm not a big fan of summarising everything someone says in the form "so what I'm hearing you say is ..." I reckon that's distracting and merely a rote response.
A better way is to try and predict a consequence of what they are saying and test it. "Wow, that must have been hard to take?" This way you are adding to the conversation.
Body language is the other way to show you're listening. You know what to do. I find it fascinating to watch body language in our workshops. When we are sharing opinions people lean back and have that "prove it to me" look on their faces, but when are sharing stories everyone leans forward.
I'd love to know more about how to help people be better listeners. Any thoughts would be welcomed. One great source on the web is my friend Jill Chivers who has a business called I'm Listening. She has a video-based program you can take and learn to be a better listener. Note to self: must go on it.
In late 2008 we decided to stop running our public workshops to concentrate on delivering our projects and running workshops internally for clients. If the number of requests to resume running public workshops is any indication, there is significant demand out there. So, we have decided to resume our public workshop series in 2011.
We will announce dates and locations for the workshops in early 2011. If you want to register interest drop us a line
Shawn Coming to London
Shawn will be in London in February to deliver a Business Storytelling for Leaders Workshop on Wednesday, 16th February.
As he said in his recent blog post advertising the event "Last year when I ran this workshop in London two participants, Kevin and Greg, moved their families to Australia and Kevin is now working for Anecdote. Such is the power of storytelling."
Seats are limited and last year we sold out quickly.
Over the years, we have collected thousands of stories in text, audio and video formats. They became increasingly hard to manage; increasingly hard to find. They were spread across spreadsheets, word documents and in video and audio folders.
We needed a 'story bank' and have been developing Zahmoo as a Web 2.0 application to meet this need. It is fantastic to have a single place where we can store, search, tag, rate and comment on stories.
We developed Zahmoo with the idea that if it worked for us, then it might also work for our clients. And indeed that appears to be the case. Clients are taking up Zahmoo to ensure they don't lose stories, to maximise return on the investment in collecting stories, to capture knowledge (in the form of stories) from retiring workers, to create a place where anyone in an organisation can add a story (such as in bringing values to life) and many other uses. We also had something of an epiphany in late November when Shawn and I were having a beer at King O'Malley's pub in Canberra. Zahmoo is ideally suited to capturing and storing the stories of every family. I know that when my Dad died in 1995, many of the stories he told growing up died with him. I would love to have captured them is Zahmoo - accessible to everyone in my extended family.
We have deliberately priced Zahmoo to make it a no-brainer for clients and families to adopt. Check out this short video from Shawn giving a sneak preview of Zahmoo.