Lorie’s List – 9/9/2016

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And I’m back with another addition of Lorie’s List! This one is pretty short and sweet because I wanted to tell you about two new websites I came across this week that you’ve got to know about. One is business related and the other is writing related. If your business is writing then I suppose they’re both business, so I stand corrected. Regardless – on to the websites.Person on computer with smart phone and notebook

  • getrecommended.com – I learned about this site during a freelance usability project I did earlier this week, and I’ll tell you I found something I was really excited about. The site is built to be an virtual word of mouth – a cross between LinkedIn and Facebook – where you talk about the business your do and recommendations from people that have used your products or services. It’s still somewhat early days for Aaron and the team at getrecommended.com, but I see a lot of potential here! After talking to Aaron and hearing about some of the things they’re working on I think this could be huge!woman-865111_960_720
  • Inkitt.com – I stumbled across this a few days ago when I heard they were sponsoring a writing contest. They company helps get authors published, I won’t go into the details, but it’s based on algorithms to determine what’s getting the most hits and what is most likely to sell. Right now they’re sponsoring a novel writing contest that will see three finalists get their books published, a professional cover, and money for marketing. The books will also be presented to bigger companies for additional distribution – which could be huge if one of the companies pick up the book!

I would love to know what you think about both of these sites. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

4 Ideas to Make Storytelling Easier

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I’ve gotten some questions recently about storytelling, and I thought I wold share some of the discussion with everyone. First, let me clarify what I mean about storytelling.

Old Typewriter

Tips for telling your story

To me, storytelling can be anytime you’re telling people something. That could be in the traditional sense like a novel or autobiography, or in a marketing sense like a marketing or social media campaign. Instructional design, script writing and video production as well as content development can all fall under storytelling – you’re trying to share information or persuade someone by telling someone something. I look at all these things as storytelling because it puts you more in the mind of getting your information out in a creative and/or interesting way that is more likely to hold interest and make an impact.

With that out of the way,  let’s look at 4 ideas (and a bonus tip) that will hopefully make storytelling easier for you.

  1. Who cares? I know, everyone should care about what you have to say. Unfortunately, that’s not actually true. So ask yourself, who am I telling this story to? Who is going to care from the first word, and who do I want to make care? Spend a few minutes thinking about the audience the piece is for and what you want them to take away from the story your telling.
    Old photo from New Your Times Newsroom of reporters working, on phone and reading

    These guys might care….

    I know that’s the first step in any kind of writing, but too often I see people trying to tell a story, market something or teach something taking a shotgun approach – spreading the information as thin as you can to try to reach as many people as possible. The majority of the time that only makes the story boring and too diluted to have the impact you want.

  2. Watch your language. It’s no secret that when people write for business they write more formally, it’s what we’ve all been taught. But, that’s not always the best option. You need to look at the audience and the story you’re telling. If you’re talking about profit and loss margins something more formal is probably the best choice. If you’re talking about a client’s theme park or telling people about the time you were having such a run of bad luck that your left shoe fell down a sewer grate and you never saw it again, you probably want to be a little more informal.

    What do I mean by informal? Using contractions for one. A lot of people seem to have issues using contractions in their writing, and that quickly makes everything more formal. Word choice is important too! Using slang can also be a big help in making what you’re writing more approachable. If your writing a young adult (YA) romance novel and say, “Would you like to go spend time at the local shopping complex?” versus, “Do you want to go hang out at the mall?” your reader is going to feel like they’re reading a text book – and chances are if they’re reading a YA romance novel they probably get enough of text books in their daily lives and won’t give your novel the time of day.

  3. Let your Medium guide you. I’m not talking about Madam Elaine, Psychic to the
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    Let your medium Guide you!

    Masses, I’m talking about the medium you’re using to tell the story. Are you telling your story verbally or in writing? Are you doing a slide show presentation or blog post? Consider the length of time or space you have to tell the story. Shorten or expand as necessary.

  4.  Say it out loud! One of the easiest and fastest ways to check on how your story sounds is to read it out loud to yourself. Listen to how it sounds. Does it sound too formal? Not formal enough? Is there a sentence that’s hard to understand when you hear it? Is it something that is easy to understand and hit the notes you’re looking to hit? The answers to questions like these will tell you a lot about the writing style you used for the piece (or your writing style in general) and the how others will hear it – even when they read to themselves most of your audience will be hearing their voice saying the words so in a way they are hearing it out loud.

    Bonus TIP! Reverse it! If you’re worried that your writing style or speaking style is too formal and you want to work on that, start verbally rather than in writing. This especially works well if you’re telling your life stories. Record yourself telling the story verbally before you start to write. Listen to it carefully. What do you notice about how you tell the story? Is your word choice different than when you write? Are your sentences shorter? Do you use a storytelling voice that is warm and approachable? Keep these things in mind when you start to write and see the difference it can make in the final product!

I would love to hear from you! Drop me a note and let me know what you think of the post and what tips or ideas you have to make storytelling easier!

Miss Communication: Selling is a Two Way Street

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I was catching up with a friend recently and heard a story about a painful proposal meeting with a client. Her team was on top of their game — they were prepared, practiced and professional. Too bad the same couldn’t be said about the client — they were late because someone on their team sent out the wrong room number, people took calls during the presentation and two of the people came to the meeting knew nothing about changes the technical supervisor requested and spent the first part of the meeting getting them up to speed. My friend was proud of how her team handled the situation, but she wasn’t sure if she wanted the client to accept the proposal. If this is how they handled a meeting they asked for, how are they going to handle requests for information and deadlines?

Business woman on the phone

Is this the right time to be on the phone? Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Whether you’re in a proposal meeting, a job interview or sales call it’s important to remember that communication is a two-way street. Obviously the one doing the selling, proposing or being interviewed is the person in the hot seat, but it doesn’t mean that everyone else is off the hook.

Put yourself in my friend’s place. Getting more business is a high priority, but so is being able to successfully deliver on what they promise on time and within budget. In the interactions she had with the potential client, she could already see where there was a high likelihood for problems and a low likelihood for success. After some discussion with senior staff, they were considering withdrawing their proposal.

Think about job interviews where you’re grilled about your background and qualifications, but aren’t offered much information about the mission, team or work environment of the potential employer. You may spend an hour or two selling yourself but may not be sold that this is the organization where you belong.

Even when you’re selling a website redesign, you can go into the meeting with a great design and an awesome pitch but if the client is rude and seems difficult to work with you may just walk away.

Just like how you are communicating when you aren’t speaking, you’re selling yourself even when you’re the client. All the verbal and non-verbal communication cues you give off do as much to sell you and your business or product as any presentation or product. And if you aren’t careful about what you’re communicating (or not communicating) you could be the one loosing out on important business opportunities.

It’s good to remember that just because you’re in a “Power Position” it doesn’t mean that you’re the only one with any power. Sales, job interviews and proposals are two-way streets. You need to give people a reason to want to work with you. Communicating clearly and professionally will go a long way in making sure that happens.

Is Social Media Changing How We Tell Stories?

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I read this post and it got me thinking. Obviously social media is changing the way we tell stories. We can now share what’s happening to us, as it’s happening, with video and/picture proof. There’s no planning ahead. There’s no deep thought on the best way to share a story, or looking forward to telling it the next time you see someone. With a couple of clicks of your smartphone, tablet or the old school laptop and everyone who knows you knows exactly what happened.

There’s no saving a story for the next family get together – they read all about it on Facebook. There’s no go to anecdote for parties – they saw it on Twitter and retweeted. They re-pinned the picture we took of the dog and pinned on Pinterest. They saw the crazy cat video you posted on YouTube.

Where are the stories we save and savor telling our friends or family? Where are the great icebreaker stories that we prepare for awkward social encounters (fulling willing to admit, this may just be me)? What do we have to talk about at dinner tonight when our every move is posted, pinned, tweeted and shared as it happens?

I’m curious. Has social media, and the instant gratification that it brings, changed the way you tell stories? Do you still relate the stories of your day when your out with friends or sitting around the dinner table with your family? Has social media helped you start conversations because people see what you posted and prompt you for the full story?

Answer the poll and share your thoughts below.

Step Away from the Keyboard

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I’ve talked about it a little bit before, but I wanted to bring it up again. Sometimes you have to step away from the computer, the smart phones and those handy-dandy tablets get engrossed in real life. I know, I know…I’m taking a real leap here, but let me tell you why.

As awesome as social media is, and fulfilling it is as to have followers and friends and people in circles hanging on your every word, there are real live people that we can see and touch and love waiting for us in the real world. People you have legal and moral obligations to see, often living in the same building and desperate for your attention.

Some of them are people that like to remind you that they married you for better or worse, not Twitter and Facebook. Sometimes they are very small people that want to snuggle against you and tell you stories about what happened as school even though you have no idea what they’re talking about after about 30 seconds. Some of them are not in fact people, but small furry creatures that always look happy to see you when you look up from your screen. All of them very real and much more important than your Klout score.

So over the Thanksgiving Holiday here in the US I unplugged and spent time with my people. Alright I didn’t completely unplug – I had to check email and do a little Christmas ordering – but I did stay off of social media. Why? Because the people I needed to socialize with most the last few days live just down the hall, not around the world.

Electronic communication is a wonderful thing. It’s changed the way we live our lives. We just need to remember to go out and live those lives. Go fight the crowds at the mall at least once this holiday season. Take a walk with someone special. Help little hands hang ornaments or light a candle. Step away from your keyboard and reconnect with the flesh-and-blood people around you. You’ll be glad you did.

Storytelling and Instructional Design

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I believe that storytelling is a big part of learning. Just think back to the best teachers and professors you’ve had and chances are they made the content you were learning come alive for you. There’s also a very good chance that it’s because they used some sort of story to ties the pieces together or make your care about what you were learning. Even your earliest teachers – your parents, grandparents and other family members – used stories to help you learn the culture, morals and behaviors of your family and your community. Storytelling was used as an instructional tool long before the written word.

So why is it that so many instructional designers seem to focus on the pushing content out to learners and spend so little time focusing on telling a story that will help the learner become involved and remember the content? I’ve actually had people tell me that it was bad idea to try to tell a story with serious content intended for an adult learner.

I was thrilled to read Connie Malamed’s post on The e-Learning Coach talking about a conference she attended that included a session on storytelling. She used some of the ideas from the session to create 10 reasons why storytelling needs to be part of learning. It’s a great list and Connie makes some great points. I urge you to read the post whether you work in learning or not. The points she makes can be applied to marketing, branding and many of the other categories people put communication into.

It boils down to this. If you want people understand, relate to, and walk away with the message you’re sharing with them, you need to share it with them in a way that is interesting. A way that is memorable. A way that makes them care about the message and want to remember it. Help them connect the dots and give them a reason to want to take that message to heart. It worked when you were in school, why wouldn’t it work for the people you’re communicating with today?

Miss Communication – Keep an Open Mind

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How often have you taken a position on a topic, clearly communicate your opinion, and never seem to reach an agreement? It happens all the time. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how well you communicate an idea or opinion. Sometimes the message just can’t get through because the person your communicating with are so focused on their opinion that they can’t truly hear what you’re trying to say.

We’ve all dealt with people whose mind was made up. If you’re honest with yourself I bet you’d say that, on rare occasion, you’ve been that person. I know I have. The problem is when you’re so focused on being right, and convincing someone else that you’re right, you can’t communicate.

You can talk. You can receive the messages that are sent to you, but you can’t understand them and process them without an open mind. If both people aren’t approaching the subject with a willingness to accept and consider the other person’s opinion the messages will always miss the mark. It’s like trying to teach a pig to sing – it wastes your time and annoys the pig.

A pot bellied pig at Lisbon Zoo that doesn't want to sing

Doe he look like he wants to sing?

Not being open-minded and being unwilling to even hear the other person’s opinion is a huge pet peeve for me. I admit that there are people I avoid discussing certain topics with because there is no discussion. It turns into a one-sided explanation why the person is right and nothing I say or do will ever be considered. It’s not really a discussion if both sides aren’t free to support their side of the argument. I could have scientific proof, sworn testimony and expert opinion, but the other person will not accept any of it because they aren’t being open-minded.

I’ve learned the hard way that sometimes the best thing to do is walk away or try again later. I’m all for teaching the arts, but if that pig isn’t ready to sing there is no way I can teach it anything.

The next time you’re in a situation where you’re communicating and getting nowhere, ask yourself if you’re being open-minded. Are you willing and able to receive the messages you are being sent? Keep an open mind and really listen to what people are telling you. If not, you might be the one wasting someone’s time and getting annoyed.