Do More of What You Do Best with 6 Powerful Secrets

Okay, I couldn’t resist calling these “secrets.” Why? Well, they are such as missing practice in ministry today, they functionally behave like secrets. You be the judge:

Secret #1: Ask God for supernatural insight into your “ministry best.”

He already knows what you can do best because he created you to do it. Every other step in this process fails without a spirit of great dependence on God and the full realization that ministry is a stewardship, not derived from you. Peer into your history. Reflect on your identity. Gaze at your strengths. Pray for vision.

Secret #2: Define your “ministry best” with great clarity.

Have you found that amazing place where the right words symbolically yet powerfully capture your “ministry best?” Great leaders usually do and they know it’s worth sacrificing the time for internal wrestling and outside coaching. Clarity isn’t everything but it changes everything. Name your “ministry best.”

Secret #3 Refine your leaders’ understanding of your “ministry best” with great patience.

Be confident in this: Leaders always overestimate how much their team “get’s it.” Check out Jesus’ ministry to strengthen this point. Your tools to create understanding are time and dialogue. Make the time. Tee up the dialogue. Start with your inner circle. When they are clear get every leader in your ministry together and do it again. You are not done this process until everyone responsible for money or people in your ministry is clear.

Secret #4: Communicate your “ministry best” to everyone with  great passion.

Now it’s time to open the flood gates. Weave it into every sermon. Bring it up at each meal. Tell the story at today’s meeting. But remember to increase your passion. How do you do that? Consider what problem your “ministry best” solves. Stir your heart with that problem. Communicate the answer in a way that other’s will really feel it, not just hear it.

Secret #5: Consistently change, modify, or tweak the least effective one-third of what you are doing in light of your “ministry best.”

Does this sound hard? It’s really not when you do the first four practices well. In fact this can be a lot fun, once the leadership team is aligned. To help you identify the “bottom” one-third of your ministry activity, work as a team to place all of your ministries in three buckets, ranked A, B and C. Be courageous.

Secret #6: Reinforce the awareness and appreciation of your “ministry best.”

Pray about it daily. Remind people about it weekly, Celebrate it monthly. If you start doubting it, go back to secret #1. Don’t let the idea of “being best” put pressure on yourself. Remember that the foundation of a “ministry best” is God’s work. He is the power source. He brings the fruit. Stay completely connected to and dependent on Him. If you take these secrets seriously, it will be very important to stay connected to Jesus to keep your success from going to your head.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Will Mancini

Will Mancini

Will Mancini wants you and your ministry to experience the benefits of stunning, God-given clarity. As a pastor turned vision coach, Will has worked with an unprecedented variety of churches from growing megachurches and missional communities, to mainline revitalization and church plants. He is the founder of Auxano, creator of VisionRoom.com and the author of God Dreams and Church Unique.

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Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Storytelling Begins with Passion, People, and Place

When our clients come to us, invariably they arrive with a need for which they require a solution.  Simple enough.  However, if we attempt to deliver a solution without a proper understanding of the problem, we will fail every single time.

At Visioneering Studios, we begin our Envision.Design.Build process by putting down our pens and turning up our ears.   We dare not present any sort of solution until we understand the story of the people for whom we are working and the place they want to create.

Everything begins with the story.

At the core of our team is our identity as storytellers, spatial storytellers.  We are a multi-disciplinary group of professionals bringing years of experience to the table from film, urban planning, architecture, interior design, development, real estate, and writing.  We have learned that to best understand the story we must first assume the roles of cultural anthropologists.  We will search for the three elements that will drive this story; passion, people, and place.

>> PASSION: A NARRATIVE OF REDEMPTION

Most people would agree with the definition of passion as “a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something.”  That’s nice…but that doesn’t quite do it for me.  It’s a little too fluffy, too polished, and nothing like real life.

My view of passion is more akin to the one that describes the anguish and suffering that Jesus Christ endured the night before and during his crucifixion.  For me, passion is the amount of pain that one is willing to endure in order to fulfill the mission.  It’s not always a pleasant experience, but it is one driven by a sense of moral and spiritual imperativeness.

Passion is a narrative of redemption.  Redemption is about change or transformation.  Stories grip our heartstrings when they describe a peaceful existence torn apart by insurmountable adversity, and then climax with a heroic victory.

Spatial storytelling must follow the same story arc.

We ask our church partners, what “dead and dry bones” do you want to see new life breathed into?  What marriages do you see as mended?  What parental prayers do you believe will be answered?  What stories will be rewritten?

That’s the passion we are talking about.  This is the story we want to help tell; a narrative of redemption.

>> PEOPLE: THE CAST OF CHARACTERS

Stories simply do not exist without characters.  Each church we work with has a unique calling to a specific people.  These people are possibly made up of different socio-economic statuses, ethnicities, religious beliefs, sexual orientations, and other sub-cultures.  Each of them derives identity and meaning from different things and different places.  Are these understood?

Before you design a solution or deliver a sermon you believe will change lives, listen to them first.  This is called empathy.  One of my favorite quotes about empathy comes from the René Laennec, the French physician/inventor of the stethoscope.  He told his students, “Listen to your patients, they are telling you how to heal them.”

When you understand the context and character of your audience, you will be able to deliver a suitable word, which is fitly spoken “…like apples of gold in pictures of silver.” Empathy makes you a better designer, a better preacher, and a better problem solver.

>> PLACE: A SOIL-SPECIFIC SOLUTION

Not only has God given you a unique passion for a specific people, but He has also called you to a specific place.  This may be defined as a metropolitan area, a city proper, or a specific neighborhood.

In the secular world, there is a growing appreciation for place.  Retailers like Starbucks have adopted the business model of making third places (the place between where you work and play).  Developers are creating mixed-use developments to manufacture cities within cities, and place making is a trending topic aim in the architecture and urbanism circles.

But, where is the Church in this conversation?

Some churches have failed to understand and adopt a proper theology of place, which states that it is God’s desire, plan, and promise to redeem a connection to people and place.  They hold on to an old model of sacred spaces, which separates the sacred from the secular by creating ‘holy huddles’.  They isolate themselves from the community to which they are called to redeem and to bring Shalom.

They fail to connect to connect the theological dots.  When Jesus Christ exhaled His last breath on the cross, not only was His job finished, but also the tabernacle veil was ripped in two.  This veil, which had previously relegated access to God’s presence to one person one time a year, was eternally torn to allow access by all mankind.  This democratization of access was foreshadowed when a Samaritan woman, a cultural and spiritual half-breed, met Jesus, a Jewish rabbi, at a water well and experienced redemption.

Churches today are not only called to be places for redemption, but they called to be places of redemption.  Places where every Average Joe and Plain Jane could encounter redemption in synch with the natural rhythms of their life.  These are the connections between the God’s passion for a people and a place.

So, what does that look like?  Well, that’s where the story making begins.

Read more from Steve.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Steven Chaparro

Steven Chaparro

Steven is a multi-disciplinary storyteller with a background in architecture, real estate development, financial advisory, and church leadership. He is best known as a passionate communicator, a sought-after advisor, and a strategic thinker. He challenges the status quo with his bold leadership and disruptive thinking, yet approaches situations with the heart of a teacher.

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Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Utilizing Storytelling in Promoting Your Ministry Brand

The most effective mass media is the stories we tell and conversations we have with each other. If you don’t believe me, let me prove it to you.

We’ve all seen an endless number of ads for cars, car dealerships, and the like. If I think really hard, I may be able to remember a few of them. Let’s see… I remember the Volkswagen ad with Kid Vader (but mostly because it was so talked-about, not because I thought it was so effective). I remember the Toyota Celica ads in which the senior citizen sees a parked Celica and yells, “Slow down. This is a neighborhood!” If you gave me 10 more minutes, I could probably think of another three to five, but not much more. Considering how many car ads I’ve seen in my lifetime, that’s a pretty low recall rate, and I can assure you that none of them influenced my purchase decisions.

Recently I watched a six-minute video in which a young man, who happens to be too young to drive, tells a story that takes place in a Honda CR-V. His story nearly brought me to tears, then [spoiler alert] had me rejoicing at the end. I was smiling ear to ear, and immediately shared on every social network I could. If you haven’t heard Noah St. John’s story, you should now.

THE POWER OF STORY

I own a Ford Escape now and love it. Though I had searched for an SUV, a Honda CR-V never entered my consideration set. It just didn’t seem to be a fit for me.

But I find myself thinking of Noah and his family’s CR-V lately. My mileage is about to exceed 50,000, and I wonder where I’ll be at 100,000, and I think of Noah’s story. When my wife and I were at Babies“R”Us this past weekend to register for her shower, we looked at car seats, and I thought of it again. I wondered what kinds of practices I’d bring my child to. I wondered if my Escape would be as cherished as his CR-V. Granted, the video is fresh in my mind, but I watched a lot of TV yesterday and I couldn’t tell you five commercials I saw.

Stories are so powerful because they move us emotionally (which ads also can but rarely do). We may not remember the story forever, but we certainly remember it longer than we do that $4 million Times Square Billboard or Super Bowl ad.

THE BEST ADS AREN’T ADS

At the end of last year, our company put together a list of the best ads of 2012, and go figure, the best ads of 2012 weren’t ads. I’ll argue that Noah’s story is going to be Honda’s best CR-V ad of 2013—one the company didn’t pay a single dime for, and one that isn’t even an ad. It’s a story.

If the non-ad does come out on top, it will be no surprise. The most shareable media is most often owned or earned, and that’s because effective advertising isn’t about exposure. It’s about conversations. Since 99.99 percent of the time, the conversations people have with one another are not about your ad (or anyone else’s), only the most relevant, entertaining and informative content will be remembered and shared.

HONDA’S REACTION

I’m actually surprised by Honda’s reaction. If I were Honda, I’d be embracing Noah’s performance in a bear hug. But other than earning a passing mention on Honda’s Facebook page, Noah’s story (which has received nearly half a million views) was practically ignored by the brand. Granted, it’s still early. Honda may have larger plans. Maybe it’ll record his performance in a real studio and use it as a long-form ad. Or maybe it’s distancing itself from the story because it features a two-mother (and no-father) household. I don’t know.

Unfortunately, there’s not much a brand can do to create stories like this one. That’s what makes them so effective—their authenticity. But brands have to implement ways to find customer stories like Noah’s and embrace them in a way that will amplify the message and allow it to be more searchable and shareable. It also requires a certain commitment to quality. If the CR-V constantly broke down and was unreliable, they may have never it might never have made it to 100K.

LEAN FORWARD

Whatever the case may be, Noah’s story is 100 percent authentic. It’s from Noah, not from a brand. That allows audiences to uncross their arms and lean forward, accepting the story into their lives even if it contains a brand, because the story isn’t from the brand.

Most people don’t have 30-seconds to be interrupted by a commercial or held hostage by a pre-roll ad, but nearly a half-million people had six minutes to hear Noah’s story. Heck, I had 90-minutes to blog about it.

The greatest brand stories are the ones told by the brand’s fans.

Read more from Jon here.

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Jon Thomas

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Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

When the Light Comes On: Creatively Using the Power of Story for Your Church’s Worship

Stories move us. They engage us. They inspire us. Stories give us examples of how to act – and how not to act. The best ones stay with us forever.

How can you use the power of story for your church’s worship? Here are two powerful examples: the simplicity of a verbal  story and the imagery of a visual story. Enjoy – and learn.         – Vision Room Curator

 

When the Light Comes On

My oldest daughter isn’t sleeping well. It’s the dark. From fear of what might be under her bed, to who might be looking through her window, she has her reasons for preferring the lights on.

In fact, she has started a new nightly routine. After the house is settled and her parents are quiet, presumably asleep, she secretly slips out of her room to flip on the nearby hallway light and then returns to bed. Somehow she finds a measure of comfort from the crease of light between the floor and the bottom of her door.

But she shouldn’t be doing this. The rule is to stay in bed. And a few nights ago I caught her red-handed.

I was standing quietly in the dark hall and heard her scurrying around behind her door. She didn’t know I was there, and I suspected she was going to pull the hall light stunt. Sure enough, the door slowly cracked open. I have her, I thought. But she didn’t move. She didn’t come turn on the light. She was frozen. There, inside the frame of her door, she peered in silence at me, a black silhouette of a stranger for all she knew. Then she started to cry. I quickly flipped the light switch. “Sweetie, it’s me,” I said, picking her up in my arms. And just like that, she was fine. The light was on. She saw who I was. I hugged her with love.

The whole scene transformed when the light came on. That light uncovered my identity. Once blinded by darkness, she soon discovered that the figure in the hallway, appearing bigger and stronger than her, was actually her dad who loves her and would spend his every conceivable resource to protect her.

Revelation was the key. She had to see who I was.

God in the Dark

Do you remember what it is like to be in the dark with God?

So much of our lives — and the entire lives of some — are spent hauntingly aware of some strange presence down a pitch-black hallway. We know he is there. We recognize some silhouette of deity. We see some figure of a being our conscience says is bigger and stronger. But we don’t truly know him. And we won’t truly know him unless he turns on the light. Unless he reveals himself.

The prophets of Baal know what it’s like to be in the dark. In one of the saddest scenes in all of Scripture, 1 Kings 18:28–29, hundreds of these prophets gathered to see their god. It was a historic showdown between Elijah, the Lord’s prophet, and 450 “spokesmen” for the false god Baal. The petition was simple: send fire from heaven. Whoever answers is the true God (1 Kings 18:24). And so the prophets of Baal stepped up to the plate.

And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no one answered. (1 Kings 18:26)

That’s not a good start. So they tried harder. The Bible tells us that they cried aloud and cut themselves with swords and lances until the blood gushed out (1 Kings 18:28). Until the middle of the day, they limped around bleeding and crying out for their god to hear them, to say something. Imagine that scene: 450 wounded, weeping prophets sliced up their flesh in hopes of receiving the slightest gesture from their god.

“But there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention” (1 Kings 18:29).

They were stuck in the dark. There was nothing to see. There is no light to reveal a no-god. The abiding darkness answers itself.

We Have a Different Story

But there’s no such darkness between the Christian and his Lord. That’s not our story. In fact, it’s the reverse. Rather than 450 prophets with wounds all over their bodies and their blood gushing out, we see our God hanging on a cross with wounds all over his body, his blood gushing out. Rather than the horrific scene of fools seeking to hear from a false god, we see the most preeminent display of love when the real God spoke to a world of fools.

We were in the dark. We deserved nothing more. And then, in unspeakable grace, the sovereign God of the universe reached up to turn on the light — “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

His voice intruded the defeated darkness. He reached down and picked us up in his arms. “It’s me,” he said. And then we learn that this God, bigger and stronger than we could ever imagine, hasn’t spared his greatest resource to not only protect us but ensure our everlasting joy (Romans 8:32).

The light is on. We see who he is. We don’t have to be afraid.

Read more from Jonathan here.

 

Elevation Creative: Elijah on Mount Carmel

During our series IN•FIN•8, we’re looking back at eight of the greatest stories forever told. To introduce each week’s sermon, our Creative Team retells one of these stories from a different perspective, in an attempt to recapture the power and impact of hearing for the first time. For part three, we combined spoken word with step-dancing to tell the story of Elijah on Mount Carmel in a dramatic new way.

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jonathan Parnell

Jonathan Parnell (@jonathanparnell) is a content strategist at Desiring God. He lives in the Twin Cities with his wife, Melissa, and their three children: Elizabeth, Hannah, and Micah.

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Clarity Process

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Brand Storytelling: The Technology of Storytelling

JOE SABIA—THE TECHNOLOGY OF STORYTELLING

In less than four minutes, iPad storyteller Joe Sabia introduces the audience to Lothar Meggendorfer and explains how Lothar’s invention of the pop-up book is helping us tell stories today. He also makes me realize that I’m underutilizing my iPad.

What brands can learn from this talk

“The art of storytelling has remained unchanged…but the way in which humans tell the stories has always evolved, with pure consistent novelty,” Sabia says. Emerging technology has allowed brands to tell stories in many ways. Consider all the storytelling options available to your brand. You aren’t required to embrace and be present on all channels, but don’t limit yourself to traditional mediums because that’s all you know. There are so many tools available that are more effective and less expensive than traditional, interruptive means, and inevitably there will be even newer tools that have yet to be imagined.

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Jon Thomas

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Clarity Process

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Brand Storytelling: The Danger of a Single Story

Novelist and storyteller Chimamanda Adichie, a native of eastern Nigeria, has learned firsthand how listening to only one story can lead to critical misunderstandings. She tells of how her U.S. professor felt that her portrayal of Africans in a novel wasn’t authentic, because they were well-fed and driving cars; and of her own guilt when on a visit to Mexico, she realized that her belief in the story of Mexicans sneaking across the border and fleecing the U.S. health-care system was far from accurate. Stories are powerful, but they can create untruths when they become the only story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What brands can learn from this talk
Stories can and often will define a brand, for better or worse. While it is important for a brand to unearth its story platform—the story at the heart of the brand—and tell it in ways that inform and excite, hearing only one such story can cause misunderstanding—even if it’s a good story. Audiences hearing a single negative story can receive an even more destructive message.

If you believed the single story of energy drinks as a category, you’d believe that all brands are selling a glorified concoction of caffeine and sugar. But Red Bull has a vise-like grip on its brand story—about living life to the fullest—thus propelling them to social success and incredible brand affinity.

As a brand marketer, you must ensure that your audience hears a variety of relevant stories and forming ideas and opinions about those that come from the brand itself. That means you’ll have to not only create content but actively engage with audiences, particularly negative ones, to steer all conversations toward the truth.

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Jon Thomas

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Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

The Science of Storytelling

In 1748, the British politician and aristocrat John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich used a lot of his free time for playing cards. One of the problems he had was that he greatly enjoyed eating a snack, whilst still keeping one hand free for the cards.

So he came up with the idea to eat beef between slices of toast, which would allow him to finally eat and play cards at the same time. Eating his newly invented “sandwich”, the name for 2 slices of bread with meat in between, became one of the most popular meal inventions in the western world.

What’s interesting about this, is that you are very likely to never forget the story of who invented the sandwich ever again. Or at least, much less likely to do so, if it would have been presented to us in bullet points or other purely information based form.

For over 27,000 years, since the first cave paintings were discovered, telling stories has been one of our most fundamental communication methods. Since recently a good friend of mine, gave me an introduction to the power of storytelling, I wanted to learn more.

Here is the science around storytelling and how we can use it to make better decisions every day:

Our brain on stories: How our brains become more active when we tell stories

We all enjoy a good story, whether it’s a novel, a movie or simply something one of our friends is explaining to us that they’ve experienced. But why do we feel so much more engaged when we hear a narrative about events?

It’s in fact quite simple. If we listen to a powerpoint presentation with boring bullet points, a certain part in the brain gets activated. Scientists call this Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area. Overall, it hits our language processing parts in the brain, where we decode words into meaning. And that’s it, nothing else happens.

When we are being told a story though, things change dramatically found researchers in Spain. Not only are the language processing parts in our brain activated, but any other area in our brain, that we would use when experiencing the events of the story are too.

If someone tells us about how delicious certain foods were, our sensory cortex lights up, if it’s about motion, our motor cortex gets active:

“Metaphors like “The singer had a velvet voice” and “He had leathery hands” roused the sensory cortex. […] Then, the brains of participants were scanned as they read sentences like “John grasped the object” and “Pablo kicked the ball.” The scans revealed activity in the motor cortex, which coordinates the body’s movements.”

A story can put your whole brain to work. And yet, it gets better:

When we tell stories to others that have really helped us shape our thinking and way of life, we can have the same effect on them too. The brains of the person telling a story and listening to it, can synchronize, says Uri Hasson from Princeton:

“When the woman spoke English, the volunteers understood her story, and their brains synchronized.  When she had activity in her insula, an emotional brain region, the listeners did too.  When her frontal cortex lit up, so did theirs. By simply telling a story, the woman could plant ideas, thoughts and emotions into the listeners’ brains.”

Anything you’ve experienced, you can get others to experience the same. Or at least, get their brain areas that you’ve activated that way, active too:

Evolution has wired our brains for storytelling – how to make use of it

Now all this is interesting. We know that we can activate our brains better if we listen to stories. The still unanswered question is: Why is that? Why does the format of a story, where events unfold one after the other have such a profound impact on our learning?

The simple answer is this: We are wired that way. A story, if broken down into the simplest form is a connection of cause and effect. And that is exactly how we think.

We think in narratives all day long, no matter if it is about buying groceries, whether we think about work or our spouse at home. We make up (short) stories in our heads for every action and conversation. In fact, Jeremy Hsu found:

“Personal stories and gossip make up 65% of our conversations.”

Now, whenever we hear a story, we want to relate it to one of our existing experiences. That’s why metaphors work so well with us. Whilst we are busy searching for a similar experience in our brains, we activate a part called insula, which helps us relate to that same experience of pain, joy, disgust or else.

The following graphic probably describes it best:

In a great experiment, John Bargh at Yale found the following:

“Volunteers would meet one of the experimenters, believing that they would be starting the experiment shortly. In reality, the experiment began when the experimenter, seemingly struggling with an armful of folders, asks the volunteer to briefly hold their coffee. As the key experimental manipulation, the coffee was either hot or iced. Subjects then read a description of some individual, and those who had held the warmer cup tended to rate the individual as having a warmer personality, with no change in ratings of other attributes.”

We link up metaphors and literal happenings automatically. Everything in our brain is looking for the cause and effect relationship of something we’ve previously experienced.

3 Awesome ways to use storytelling in every day life

  • Make others come up with your idea: Exchange telling suggestions for telling stories: 

Do you know the feeling, when a good friend tells you a story and then two weeks later, you mention the same story to him, as if it was your idea? This is totally normal and at the same time, one of the most powerful ways to get people on board with your ideas and thoughts. According to Uri Hasson from Princeton, a story is the only way to activate parts in the brain so that a listener turns the story into their own idea and experience.

The next time you struggle with getting people on board with your projects and ideas, simply tell them a story, where the outcome is that doing what you had in mind, is the best thing to do. According to Princeton researcher Hasson, storytelling is the only way to plant ideas into other people’s minds.

  • Write more persuasively – bring in stories from yourself or an expert: 

This is something that took me a long time to understand. If you start out writing, it’s only natural to think “I don’t have a lot of experience with this, how can I make my post believable if I use personal stories?”. The best way to get around this is by simply exchanging stories to those of experts. When this blog used to be a social media blog, I would ask for quotes from the top folks in the industry or simply find great passages they had written online. It’s a great way to add credibility and at the same time, tell a story.

  • The simple story is more successful than the complicated one: 

When we think of stories, it is often easy to convince ourselves that they have to be complex and detailed to be interesting. The truth is however, that the simpler a story, the more likely it will stick. Using simple language as well as a low complexity is the best way to activate the brain regions that make us truly relate to the situation and happenings in the story. This is a similar reason to why multitasking is so hard for us. Try for example to reduce the number adjectives or complicated nouns in a presentation or article and exchange them with more simple, yet heartfelt language.

 

Quick last fact: Our brain learns to ignore certain overused words and phrases that used to make stories awesome

Oh and one last thing. Scientists, in the midst of researching the topic of storytelling have also discovered, that certain words and phrases have lost all storytelling power:

“Some scientists have contended that figures of speech like “a rough day” are so familiar that they are treated simply as words and no more.”

This means, that the frontal cortex – the area of your brain responsible to experience emotions, can’t be activated with these phrases. It’s something that might be worth remembering when crafting your next story.

Storytelling is one of the most powerful techniques we have as humans to communicate and motivate. What are your best tips for telling stories? Have you had similar experiences with telling stories?

Read more from Leo here.

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Leo Widrich

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Peter Romero — 12/23/12 4:14 pm

I have enjoyed telling stories to my high school students. Stories that have a point or moral carry more weight. Stories, where the location is visually described with as many of the senses as possible is another key. Finally, when telling a story it is important that it identifies as close to the audience's age or experience. There are more keys to storytelling, thank you for allowing me these few.

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Clarity Process

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5 Elements of Powerful Stories

Here are five elements that you will help you tell more powerful stories:

  1. Powerful stories resonate within us. A good story connects in your soul. We’ve all read or been told stories where the actions of the characters have stirred something inside of us. We identify with the heroes and the villains, because we all have those tendencies inside of us. Look for ways where your story shares a common thread with the story of humanity.
  2. Powerful stories show the light and the dark. Whether you are telling a personal story, or a fictional one, it’s tempting to make the hero invincible and the villain the very definition of evil. But this is rarely the case, and something people cannot relate to. When something goes right in our life, it’s easy to celebrate. When something goes wrong, and we make a mistake, it is crucial to be honest and work toward making the wrong right. In most cases, people will forgive the mistakes they are made aware of but are furious when even little things are covered up or ignored.
  3. Powerful stories point to a greater cause. In the movie Gladiator, the dying emperor Marcus Aurelius, asks Maximus, Marcus: “Why are we here?
    Maximus: “For the glory of Rome”
    Marcus: “What is Rome, Maximus?”
    Maximus: “I have seen much of the world, and it is cold, and dark. Rome is the light”
    Marcus: “Yet you have never been there!
    Maximus believed in the glory and purpose of Rome, despite having never seen it. What purpose do you live and work for, despite it only being a whisper in your soul?
    Your company, and your life, is not about you! This can be the hardest lesson we ever learn. Our lives must point to a purpose greater than our own well-being. People will rarely align with your self-interest, but they will align for a common goal.

 

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Matt Ragland

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What Storytelling Means for Your Brand

 What does Cinderella have in common with Fight Club?

Lots, according to Jon King, Story Worldwide’s Chief Storyteller. During the ‘Storytelling for Brands’ session at our London office last   week, part of Social Media Week London, we shared Story’s brand-centred approach to narrative content.

 

We draw our inspiration from the most important study of storytelling ever done, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, by Joseph Campbell.   Campbell’s insights have influenced and guided the approach, which he called the hero’s journey and which is used in all forms of narrative, including classic films from Cinderella to Fight Club.

The Hero’s Journey is a model story format—honed by the knowledge contained in myriad cultures and history—which follows remarkably consistent rules that reflect profound human needs. It explains the narrative structure found in the great myths, timeless fairy tales and modern action films. Here’s how Cinderella’s story maps directly onto the Hero’s Journey:

And, surprisingly, Fight Club can be mapped to exactly the same pattern (spoiler alert!!):

SO WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR BRANDS?

Brands are stories, effectively. At their most successful, these stories powerfully narrate the relationship between the brands and their audience(s). The most powerful brand stories, like the most engaging fairy tales, speak to fulfilling deep, unmet emotional desires.

Humans are psychologically hardwired to respond to meta-narratives that have been informed by human culture and history: the long journey home, marrying outside your tribe, the quest…It’s a search for meaning that defines what we are and want to be.

Through digital and social media, using maturing social-listening and search techniques, we can uncover and understand meta-conversations across cultures in a way that was not possible even five years ago. Tapping into these conversations reveals the current mind-sets of different audience segments and reveals their deeper unsatisfied emotional needs, providing a rich seam of consumer insight that brands can use to learn the best way to position and promote their stories to create value for themselves as well as their consumers.

Once marketers understand which aspect of the brand consumers really identify and engage with, the next step is to plan and shape the conversation between brand and audience over time. This content plan’s sole purpose is to bring the brand’s story to life across every touchpoint between consumer and brand, in the real and digital worlds.

In the Social Media Week session, we shared some of our latest thinking on the social multiplier effect (Kirk Cheyfitz will be publishing more on this topic soon)—which is the process of using digital to leverage a brand’s fans so they make the brand story genuinely contagious, delivering exponential return for the brand and lowering media spend dramatically.

According to Nielsen, recommendations are roughly twice as trusted as advertising. Add to this Forrester Research’s recent studies of how social fans share brand stories through their networks, and you’ll see the beginnings of the compound multiplier effect. But greater trust and greater reach are totally dependent on how interesting, credible, useful and, most of all, contagious the content is as well as where it’s shared and promoted.

THE ROLE OF TRADITIONAL ADVERTISING

This is not to say that we should dismiss years of established traditional advertising knowledge and practice. Traditional advertising still has a role to play, as has been proven by one or two stunningly effective long-term brand campaigns—Sainsbury’s ‘Try Something New Today’ being a perfect case in point. A few years ago, Sainsbury’s deployed a simple but rich ‘big idea’ to impressive effect across its brand ecosystem, extending it across everything from integrated comms to internal staff engagement. The campaign makes an eloquent case for the age-old marketing practice of delving deep into a brand to uncover an idea so broad and powerful that people, consumers and staff, can’t help but listen and act.

But brand work like this, despite London’s prominent place in the global advertising industry, is the exception rather than the rule. It is noteworthy precisely because it is rare and because it depends heavily on constant support by large amounts of paid media.

So think how valuable, for both brand and consumers, a rich and satisfying brand story can be, and how powerful its impact can be as it is spread across the media ecosystem by brand advocates who share with their far-flung social networks using the latest developments in social and mobile. Such contagious brand stories spread on their own as a matter of routine, gaining currency by tapping into ongoing conversations and multiplying across social networks at extremely low cost. That is the present and, increasingly, the future of the new advertising. And that is a story every brand will find well worth telling.

So what’s your story?

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Jon Thomas

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The 22 Rules of Storytelling According to Pixar

On Twitter, Pixar storyboard artist Emma Coats has compiled nuggets of narrative wisdom she’s received working for the animation studio over the years. It’s some sage stuff, although there’s nothing here about defending yourself from your childhood toys when they inevitably come to life with murder in their hearts. A truly glaring omission.

#1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.

#2: You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be very different.

#3: Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.

#4: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

#5: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.

#6: What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?

#7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.

#8: Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.

#9: When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.

#10: Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.

#11: Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.

#12: Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.

#13: Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.

#14: Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.

#15: If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.

#16: What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.

#17: No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on – it’ll come back around to be useful later.

#18: You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.

#19: Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.

#20: Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How do you rearrange them into what you DO like?

#21: You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?

#22: What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.

Read more from Emma here.

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Emma Coats

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Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.