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5 Communication Skills That Tell The Story

  
  
  
  
  

Leslie Dickson, VoicePro, Communication SkillsPosted By Leslie Dickson

 

5 things Robert Krulwich can teach you about storytelling.

VoicePro, Storytelling, Communication Skills,

Wow.  That’s all I can say.  If you haven’t seen science reporter Robert Krulwichs commencement address at the Berkeley Journalism School, you’ll want to get to the Discover Magazine blog by Ed Yong to read it.  I think it’s likely to show up in VoicePro’s Persuasive PowerPoint, one of our presentation skills workshops, as an example of bringing storytelling’s power into PowerPoint presentations. 

You may recognize Mr. Krulwich’s name from Radiolab, the nationally syndicated science program he co-hosts from New York’s WNYC.  Or from his reports on ABC News, or his NPR blog, or a number of other publications and programs.

The speech is a wonderful inspiration to Berkeley’s journalism students entering a career that’s been turned upside down in a digital age when people get news of world revolution by watching a Twitter feed.  More than that, it’s a handbook on how to make your own luck in the world if you’re passionate.  And more than that, it’s great storytelling – the kind of storytelling that’s made him a sought-after journalist, writer and speaker. 

Mr. Krulwich’s Berkley address is a case study -- and a lesson plan -- in great storytelling.  Here are just 5 of the insights he so beautifully illustrates.

  1. Start with the audience.  You need to know who you’re talking to, what their main concerns are, what their frame of reference is.  Mr. Krulwich taps right into an issue that’s top of mind: how do I get a job in a field drenched in chaos.  More than that, Krulwich worked to close the gap between a 50-ish icon and an audience of 20-something hopefuls.  He told a story! He brought them into his geeky, naïve beginnings making a video in his living room, hoping to get it on an underground local cable TV show. 

  2. Have heroes and villains.  In other words, be sure there’s drama.   A story that just recounts an event like a fourth grade book report is lifeless.  Who’s the hero?  Who (or what) are the villains to be overcome.  In Mr. Krulwich’s story, his mentor Charles Kuralt (another iconic storyteller) had to battle CBS News’ change of focus from strong content to glitzy showbiz.

  3. Details paint a picture.  I’ve never been in the newsroom of the CBS network, or forged credentials to a national presidential convention, or raced to the scene of a plane crash in New York.  Yet Krulwich took me there with details about the sunset through an office window, double-laminating his false press pass, the wild motorcycle ride to the crash scene.  What are the details that make your story real and memorable?

  4. Humor has its place – when it has a point.  Only the gravest situations call for unrelenting seriousness.  An appropriate bit of humor can ease tension, set a stage, get the audience on your side, or instantly flip a switch to a new point of view. And remember, humor doesn’t mean “a joke.”   It should illuminate your point.  In Krulwich’s case, he uses humor to set the stage for a group of people worrying about the future:   

    “So how do you taste more of what you tasted [in college], which (if I can presume) includes the thrill of occasionally writing a good sentence, of asking exactly the right question at the right moment, of making two pieces of tape fit perfectly together, of getting to meet new people, go new places, see things unfold… these little satisfactions of journalism… how can you have more of that? That’s all you’re asking, right? That’s all you want. That, and a salary.”

  5. Tell people what you want them to do.  Here’s the best part about a well-told story.  It creates the memorable treasure box that gives the message emotional staying power.  It helps people want to remember, feel the need, and have the internal drive to put the message of the story into action.  So, as they say in baseball, that’s the wind-up.  Don’t forget the pitch.  Remember to make clear what you want the result to be.  It can be specific action, but stories can be even more powerful setting up a paradigm shift in attitude, point of view or approach to certain issues. That’s why stories are so valuable in change management.  Krulwich exemplified that in his final words to the Berkeley grads. “Fall in love, with the work, with people you work with, with your dreams and their dreams.”

Next time you’re preparing for a presentation, ask the question:  what’s the story?

Learn to tell great stories with our  SpeakPresentInfluence seminar!

Facts vs. Assumptions: A Communication Skills Audio Clip

  
  
  
  
  

Greg DicksonPosted by Greg Dickson

In this VoicePro® audio clip, Luanne talks a little about the challenge of fact vs. assumption, and the possible ramification of their misidentification. Have a listen and let us know what you think. 

Luanne Paynick is Director of Creative Design, and a professional development coach at VoicePro Inc.

Truth Lies and Good Communication Skills

  
  
  
  
  

Communication SkillsPosted By Leslie Dickson 

 

Raise your right hand and solemnly swear…     

VoicePro, Communication Skills
It seems like building a strong team would be easier if everyone had to take that pledge when they walked in the office door each morning.  It seems like effectiveness would be higher.  It seems like more work would get done more quickly.

Yes, it seems like a good idea.  But apparently it’s not.  According to Dana Theus, almost half of the 155 respondents to her unscientific survey said telling the truth to a boss wasn’t necessarily good for a career.  Eight in 10 believe they’ve suffered career retaliation at least once for truth-telling to a superior. 

Yes, I know.  What one person may consider truth may be simply faulty opinion to another.  And, truth that’s told out of cruelty instead of concern can do more harm than good.  Still, as a leader, you need to foster open and honest exchanges upon which to make decisions.  In fact, Theus notes a study by the Corporate Executive Board that found organizations with closed cultures had a more than 5% lower total shareholder return.

It’s easy to hear truth when it matches your own opinion but what if it doesn’t?  If you’re angry and upset, you’re likely to miss something important – whether it’s a crucial fact you’ve overlooked, a tiny nugget of truth wrapped in misguided opinion, or simply the misguided mindset of a team member. 

Here’s how to get the most from the situation:

  • First, stop and breathe.  That will help you settle yourself, cap your anger and irritation, and truly listen.
  • Show respect for the other person.  A dismissive response or losing your temper doesn’t serve either of you nor your organization.
  • Probe for the facts with an open mind.  You’re not looking to refute the message, just gathering as much information as possible.
  • Acknowledge truth-tellers’ efforts and thank them. If you’re not ready to respond, for reasons of time or emotion, set another time to do so.

Of course, the conversation itself isn’t the only risk for the team member sharing a negative viewpoint.  After the fact, be certain you honestly consider the message.  Consider the strength of you own data, examine your position, seek out additional data.  And, of course, be open to changing your mind. 

What if, after careful review, you judge that the “truth” isn’t?  You owe it to your organization and team member to talk things through, explain your reasoning and work for understanding and harmony.  Try resolving the problems through Dialogue, not argument.  This step-by-step process of collaboration can help resolve issues based on inquiry, listening, the respectful interchange of ideas, and designing ways to test competing viewpoints.

Hearing critical – even hurtful – information from colleagues may not be pleasant.  But if it’s handled positively and professionally, it’s good for everyone…to tell the truth. 

We can teach you all of this and more through our Leading Relationships seminar!

Image by  Karrierebibel.de

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