Archives For communication

We are all compelled by a good story and when we wish to communicate with our friends, colleagues, or those we just want to influence the best way to do that is with a well crafted story. Nancy Duarte argues that an idea is the single most powerful idea and everything we see around us started as an idea in someone’s mind and that they communicated it in a way that became reality. She also warns us that leaders must communicate ideas in a way that compels action or the idea will die.

So how do we communicate in a way that make our ideas come alive?

Whenever I explore an idea or pursue and answer to this type of question I will watch countless youtube videos and read as many books as I can find on the topic and then try to narrow down my search to the best resources that I can use. The following are some of the best videos and books that will help you craft your message in a compelling way and make your ideas come alive:

Nancy Duarte is one of the leaders in visual communications and the following videos and books are your best starting point:

Nancy Duarte: How to Tell a Story

Nancy Duarte: How to Create Better Visual Presentations

Duarte Design’s Five Rules for Presentations by Nancy Duarte

Can creating a compelling message be as simple as following these 5 rules? YES!

  1. Treat your audience as king
  2. Spread your ideas and move people
  3. Help them see what you are saying
  4. Practice design not decoration
  5. Cultivate healthy relationships

Nancy Duartes’s book Resonate is one of the best resources you can find to help you create compelling stories and I have a well worn copy in my library. You an also view the book online at!page0

Nancy’s TED talk TEDxEast – Nancy Duarte uncovers common structure of greatest is another great summary of the ideas presented in the book Resonate:

Just confirm that I have looked at more then just Duarte’s work you can also find the following resources useful:

Garr Reynolds book Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery is another well work book on visual communication that I have in my library.

How Presentation Zen Fixed My Bad PowerPoints

How to avoid death By PowerPoint | David JP Phillips | TEDxStockholmSalon

A list of resources on effective communication would be incomplete if it didn’t include or reference work of Edward Tufte. He has several books that are worth the read but at minimum one should explore Beautiful Evidence and The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Pitching Out Corrupts Within.

  1. Words communicate 7%
  2. Voice tone communicate 38%
  3. Body language communicates 55%
  4. Lasered compelling message
  5. Conversation NOT a presentation or worse a performance
  6. Includes: visual, auditory, auditory digital kinaesthetic communication
  7. Authentic passion



Source: Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes: Homicidal Psycho Jungle Cat

In Why Academics Stink at Writing Steven Pinker, professor of psychology at Harvard University and chair of the usage panel of the American Heritage Dictionary points to Watterson’s Calvin to provide a summary for why academics stink at writing:

“…the purpose of writing is to inflate weak ideas, obscure poor reasoning, and inhibit clarity. With a little practice, writing can be an intimidating and impenetrable fog!”

In addition to this wonderful humour Pinker offers the following explanations for why so many academics write so poorly:

  • Metadiscourse — Verbiage about verbiage or the unnecessary attempt to guide your read through your writing.
  • Professional narcissism — The unnecessary description of their federation rather than what the audience wants to know.
  • Apologizing — The over explanation of ideas that are difficult, complicated and controversial.
  • Shudder quotes — Many academics have a nose-holding disdain for idiomatic English.
  • Hedging — Academics often fear criticisms and cushion their prose with wads of fluff to give them a way out from making a firm commitment to an idea.
  • Metaconcepts and nominalizations — Because academics spend so much time thinking about issues and ideas they write at that abstract level. This also contributes to their tendency use Zombie Nouns. They do this by turning a verb into a:

“lifeless noun by adding a suffix like –ance, –ment, or –ation. Instead of affirming an idea, you effect its affirmation; rather than postponing something, you implement a postponement.”

Pinker expands on all these ideas throughout his long article but his final reason for shoddy academic writing is:

“There are few incentives for writing well.”

Since few graduate programs teach writing, few academic journals stipulate clarity as a submission criteria and few reviewers and editor enforce it there is little professional motivation to engage in self improvement.

That is until now…

In this blog post The sophistication of truth Seth Godin argues that these common forms of complexity are the sophistication of fear.

“Long words when short ones will do. Fancy clothes to keep the riffraff out and to give us a costume to hide behind. Most of all, the sneer of, “you don’t understand” or, “you don’t know the people I know…”

“It’s complicated,” we say, even when it isn’t.

We invent these facades because they provide safety. Safety from the unknown, from being questioned, from being called out as a fraud. These facades lead to bad writing, lousy communication and a refuge from the things we fear.”

He encourages us to be fearless and reminds us that our work doesn’t have to be obtuse to be important or brave. I agree with Godin since I have spent that last 20+ years in academia I too have fallen into the traps of

“scientific sophistication, hoping to bamboozle [my] audiences with highfalutin gobbledygook.”

To be fearless Godin suggest that we need to start with:

“This is, “here it is, I made this, I know you can understand it, does it work for you?”

Perhaps the easiest way to do this is to stop writing in the conventional way and simply state what we need to state in the simplest terms. I subscribe to and read Godin’s posts on a daily basis because they are short, simple and to the point.

Or when it is appropriate we need to stop writing all together and use other forms of communication. The following video is a the best example of this sophistication in simplicity:

Do you prattle on with words when a video, infographic, illustation or other form of media is the right tool to use?

digital age has shaped communication management

Source: LifeHack
Original Source: USC’s Online Communication Program