A Short Guide To Using The Force Like A Motivational Speaker

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So I went to a motivational speaker thing-y a little while ago and I really hated it.

First of all, I want to make it clear that I don’t think there was anything wrong with the speaker or what he was saying. But after about fifteen minutes, I felt like I was stuck in a room full of despairing souls having their brains happily tenderized by a mallet of charisma. Now, that’s not necessarily what was going on. There were probably plenty of folks in that audience having a perfectly good time, experiencing perfectly legit ‘ah hah’ moments. People weren’t being abused or manipulated.

But I realized later on that I was reacting strongly to the experience because I grew up attending churches like this. So I feel defensive—a just a tad bit cynical—when I find myself in crowds of people being whipped up by an admired leader-figure.

Anyway, in order to deal with my discomfort, I went into full-on analytical mode. I started taking down notes about the techniques this speaker had incorporated (consciously or instinctively) into his oratorical approach. I figured I might as well generate a ‘how to be a motivational speaker’ list while I was writhing inwardly in my business casual attire.

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February 20, 2015

In Medias Res: For Marketing Communicators And Dorks Alike

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I am a big fan of using story when we are advocating for our businesses, brands, or big ideas. I believe that story is the royal road to understandable and engaging communication. It’s a time-saver, actually. Art: enhancing efficiency. Who would have thought?

In my own business, I offer story-based communications services, which means different things at different times. The ‘story’ in ‘story-based communication’ is anything that helps a reader or a listener to effortlessly imagine a concrete situation, rather than struggle to comprehend abstract ideas. That might mean I’m only using a briefly described scenario, example, or analogy, depending on the communications piece. But whenever it is appropriate or effective, I will include a fleshier, more traditionally story-like narrative. And when I do that, I get to use dorky literary devices. Why not? These devices exist to make the stories we read ‘for pleasure’ more interesting, compelling, and artful, and they function exactly the same way when we use them in business storytelling.

‘In medias res’ (from the Latin for ‘in the midst of things’) is a storytelling technique that builds intrigue quickly by starting the narrative from the middle of the action rather than the beginning. So in order to understand the significance of the scenario they have wandered into, the reader or viewer has to keep paying attention. They have to hang around to hear the ‘backstory’.

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December 23, 2014

How To Put An Actual Human Soul Into Your LinkedIn Summary

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I have an idea for a killer new app. I’m thinking of calling it ‘Impressivizer’. You load it up with all your favourite industry buzzwords and it spits out a LinkedIn summary that you can simply copy and paste to your profile. Everyone is going to use this thing! I mean, imagine: Impressivizer will shave tens of minutes from everybody’s busy schedules, tens of minutes that were previously devoted to creating LinkedIn profiles. An inhuman generator to do the work of millions of sleepy, unfocused professionals fitting in tasks in between answering emails and checking Facebook.

The Average LinkedIn Summary Is A Massive Wasted Opportunity 

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December 10, 2014

‘Be The Change Room’: 3 Novel Ideas For Beating Presentation Anxiety

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As a truly spazzy stage fright sufferer, I deeply emphasize with nervous clients who are about to make presentations or go on-camera. In the tenth grade, all music and drama students at my school were forced to try out for a production of Annie by singing ‘Tomorrow’ in front of the teacher and a few student adjudicators. My audition ended in wracking on-stage sobs after a mere one or two shaky bars. I was crying so hard that my sniffles and choke-sounds were reverberating in the Suddenly Most Uncomfortable Auditorium In The World. That’s me.

I can travel from 0 to 100 on the anxiety-meter in less than 10 seconds.

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November 28, 2014

An Argument For Story-Based Communications (Part Three): Intimacy From A Distance

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[Read Part One of this post here.

[Read Part Two of this post here.] 

One evening a few years ago, I suddenly found myself part of a surging formation of women dressed in business casual and haute couture. We were blocking traffic all around Vancouver’s Rogers Arena as we funnelled into the stadium in a slow-moving column. Once inside, the energy in that cavernous, low-lit space was so high it felt nearly hysterical, all echoing chatter and the squeaking of retractable seats.

A friend of mine was treating me to this event, and she sat beside me with shining eyes. I was tired and foggy because I’d spent the better part of the afternoon drinking in the ravine behind my house. I was enduring a marital breakdown, white-knuckling my way through an interminable grief process, and most of my days were bad days.

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October 29, 2014