Articles

  • Conflict or Curiosity: What drives a story forward?

  • Posted on January 20, 2014
  • Does a story need conflict? We’re taught that the standard story structure is Situation – Conflict – Resolution. And Hollywood has made good use of this story format.

    But it’s not the only story format, and indeed, conflict is not even a necessary component. For example, I love this commercial, which I discovered over the Christmas holidays in Canada. It’s a good example of storytelling, not because it has conflict, but because it has curiosity.

    Curiosity means raising a question for the audience and keeping them hooked: “Will these two people ever get together?”

    Conflict doesn’t necessarily hook the audience. The Seattle Seahawks pounding the Denver Broncos 43-8 in the 2014 Super Bowl has conflict. But it doesn’t have much curiosity. We know how this story will end – the Hawks will win the game. And so it doesn’t hold our attention to the end.

    Curiosity drives many stories, more so than conflict. Think about the great Hollywood movies of our time and you will see they are driven forward by an overall question:

    Rocky: Will Rocky beat Apollo Creed?
    Castaway: Will Tom Hanks ever get off the island?
    Life of Pi: Will Pi and the tiger learn to get along, and eventually be rescued?
    Bridges of Madison County: Will Francesca leave her husband?

    We hear a lot about conflict in storytelling. Conflict is just a way to spark curiosity. But it’s not the only way to drive curiosity.

    The Twilight Zone television series is a good example of how a story can be spurred forward by curiosity. Think of the typical Twilight Zone story: a man wakes up and finds his entire town deserted. Where did everyone go? Are they coming back? What’s happening? Not conflict, but curiosity.

    Watch the first minute of this video. Are you hooked, even though there’s no conflict? What question is raised in your mind?

    So keep that in mind as you’re building a story. What question will keep the audience hooked and drive the story forward to its ultimate conclusion?

    About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

     

  • Graph Answers the Question: Do Christians Divorce More than Average?

  • Posted on January 6, 2014
  • In 2008, the Barna Group released some troubling statistics: 33% of Christians are divorced versus 30% of atheists/agnostics. This caused some teeth-gnashing among religious leaders as they sought to understand and explain these numbers.

    In theory, Christian marriages should last longer. The bible says “God hates divorce” (Malachi 2:16) and teaches husbands and wives to live together in “mutual submission” (Ephesians 5:21), loving, sacrificing and forgiving one another as God does for us.

    So is it true? Do Christians divorce at the same rate as non-Christians?

    Well, no. Because that same research also shows that Christians marry more often than atheists and agnostics. 84% of Christians are married, or have been married, versus only 65% of atheists/agnostics. So when comparing marriage rates and divorce rates, you can see that only 40% of Christians who marry also divorce, versus 46% of atheists.

    Research by the National Opinion Research Center confirms this: 42% of Christian marriages end in divorce vs 50% of non-Christian marriages.

    Even this doesn’t tell the whole story. According to the Oklahoma Marriage Study, among those who are still married, Christians say they are more committed to their spouse, more satisfied with their marriage and less likely to discuss divorce.

    The moral: percentages only tell half the story. To understand the full story, ask “what makes up the rest of the 100%”? That may uncover more interesting stories, and the full truth.

    About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

  • Great Example of Making a Message “Stick” Using Analogy

  • Posted on December 18, 2013
  • Whenever you find your ideas are not landing, the problem is probably because they are not concrete enough. That is, people cannot imagine what your ideas look like.

    The answer to this problem: analogy.

    Here’s a great example I just discovered recently. What if you’re talking to a group and want them to understand the difference between sympathy and empathy? You could explain it verbally using this description from Dictionary.com:

    Sympathy is literally ‘feeling with’ – compassion for or commiseration with another person. Empathy, by contrast, is literally ‘feeling into’ – the ability to project one’s personality into another person and more fully understand that person. You feel empathy when you’ve “been there”, and sympathy when you haven’t.

    Not that helpful, actually. But put that idea into visuals, using an analogy, and the idea comes to life. In general, whenever you find your ideas aren’t “sticking”, an analogy is probably the solution.

     

    About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

  • The Greatest Storyteller of all Time

  • Posted on November 28, 2013
  • It’s Thanksgiving and what better way to celebrate than to recognize the greatest storyteller of all time. No, it’s not Steve Jobs or Martin Luther King Jr. It’s Jesus Christ.

    Consider this story, told in Matthew 25:31-40. Jesus is speaking to his assembled people and thanking them for the kindness they’ve shown to him.

     “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

    “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

    “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

    Notice how Jesus uses an analogy – serving the needy is the same as serving him. Analogies are a form of storytelling that are proven to make an audience more likely to agree with you. Jesus uses analogies throughout the Bible, and very effectively.

    I’m off to serve meals to the homeless in downtown Seattle. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

    About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

  • How to Make Your Slides Not Look Like PowerPoint

  • Posted on November 14, 2013
  • I’ve heard a lot of advice on how to make your slides look more professional. But one of the best pieces of advice is this: try to make your PowerPoint slides not look like PowerPoint slides.

    One of the easiest ways to do this is to choose a different font. By default, PowerPoint will offer you Calibri. And by default, your slides will look like every other PowerPoint slide. Yaawn.

     

    But you can make a better impression on clients, colleagues and students if you’ll choose a different font. I like to use Rockwell for the titles and Segoe UI for the body. You can change the font in the slide master.

    Oh, by the way. You may be wondering about that lovely slide background. What is that? It’s simply this photograph on Flickr, shared via a Creative Commons License from the photographer Brinzei. I had to adjust the transparency to mute the image a bit, then crop out the trees at the bottom. Changing your background to a textured background is another great tip for making your slides not look like PowerPoint. I’ve created this video showing you how to make textured backgrounds.

    About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

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