“WHO DID WHAT TO WHOM?” THE LOST ART OF STORYTELLING

In its simplest form storytelling is a connection of cause and effect. A narrative helps us make sense of the world around us. In fact, our informal conversations are dominated by stories; researcher Jeremy Hsu found 65% of our conversations are made up of personal stories and gossip – “who did what to whom?

Great stories surprise us; they have the ability to spark emotions, whether it’s happiness, anger, trust or guilt. They have compelling characters. They make us think and make us feel. They stick in our minds and help us remember ideas and concepts in a way that numbers and text on a slide with a bar graph don’t.  Fundamentally our brains are more engaged when listening to stories and studies show that when information is communicated in this way people will better relate to and remember it.

Story telling has been used successfully in brand advertising for years.  Guinness has come up with some great marketing stories such as their “Empty Chair” ad where a bartender leaves a pint of Guinness at an empty table every night.  No one sits at the table, and the woman shoots a dirty look to anyone she catches eyeing one of the empty chairs.  Without fail, the Guinness is there every night. It’s a powerful image that serves as a sign of hope for the bartender. But we aren’t exactly sure who the beer is for until the very end. Everything comes together when a soldier finally returns home to claim his Guinness.

Lego’s “Let’s Build” ad is another great example of storytelling in advertising. The ad features a father and son bonding over their Lego; it shows the two of them creating fantastic skyscrapers with their enormous Lego collection. For a second you forget that it’s advertising toys because all you see is the perfect home life parents and kids are always dreaming of. And so a story unfolds.

Although storytelling is a timeless human tradition, unfortunately it has become a lost art in many businesses. Instead of taking the time to craft captivating stories, most people in business create dreary Powerpoint presentations; you could say Powerpoint has killed our ability to tell good stories, and this is a habit we need to change.

However, a word of warning! – storytelling works on a spectrum – at one end you have BIG stories – like legends, epics and fairytales – at the other end you have small stories such as examples, recounts and anecdotes.  When starting out in storytelling it’s best not to try too hard – start small with your stories until you get more confident.  And try to build a bank of stories – funnily enough they don’t always pop in your head when you need them.  In the meantime here are a few of our top tips to help you on your way:

 Surprise your audience

When you set out to create your story, it’s always good to start by revealing an important fact or detail that isn’t common knowledge or includes an unexpected turn of events. Try to hook your audience by sharing something that no one would expect because when it comes to storytelling, predictable plots won’t engage anyone.

Get to the point

Although you need to hook people in, it is also really important to get stuck into your messaging as quickly as you can. Stick to relevant details if you want people to listen to your entire story, as most people don’t have the patience or the time to hang around! Choose two or three main points that people will actually care about and focus on those — things like money saved, number of users, growth over the years are all effective examples.

Think about your purpose

What’s the point of your story? Are you informing or teaching your audience, are you trying to sell them something or are you just engaging with them to make them feel inspired to act? Make sure you have a single message that you want them to take from your story.

Be honest

Everyone makes mistakes or does embarrassing things every now and then, but being honest about those less than perfect moments will make you and your message easier to relate to. Share those painful lessons you learned. Even the simplest things like a spelling mistake in a text can show your human side.

Overcome the odds

Talk about a few of the challenges you have overcome, such as rejection or setbacks. Tell your audience what you learned from each challenge, how it motivated you and inspired you to get better.

Don’t forget humour

Using humour will engage your audience and make your story more likely to be remembered and shared. Laugh at yourself or a situation you found yourself in, never at someone else. But do run it by a few friends or colleagues first, just to make sure it is actually funny as well as appropriate.

And finally … Hold something back

As well as the tips above about being honest and open, you shouldn’t reveal everything all at once. Keep people interested and wanting to come back for more by finishing on a cliff-hanger. Make sure all your content can stand alone but getting your audience to think you have something more that they need to hear will keep them hooked.

And on that note, I invite you to join us at our free breakfast seminar “Powerful Persuasion – The Art of Storytelling” on Tuesday 20th March at CitizenM Hotel, Tower Bridge, where the Change-Gear team will share with you their secrets on how to finesse this age-old skill.

To book your ticket please follow this link: ART OF STORYTELLING BREAKFAST SEMINAR

We look forward to seeing you there.

 

LET THE MUSIC PLAY…….

Ok.. who can name the singer of this blog title? Of course, it is the incomparable Barry White!  So, why have I chosen to write about a 70’s Love God? Well, it’s more about the part that music and lyrics play in our learning of new skills in both business and life. From creating memories, to taking us back to past times, to providing the backdrop to our lives; music can have a significant part to play.

Certain songs have the ability to transport me to specific times and places and relive a moment in glorious technicolour detail. I cannot hear a brass band without being jettisoned back to my childhood and the memory of my Grandad playing the big bass drum with the Langley Prize Band outside our house every Christmas Eve. I am a blubbering wreck at the sight and sound of a trombone or cornet!

As a designer of learning events, my challenge is to create multi-sensory environments to appeal to all participants’ learning preferences. Using visual tools/cues and physical movement are a few ways I can achieve a rich learning tapestry for attendees, but could using music help or hinder a learner’s experience?

There is certainly a weighty body of evidence which demonstrates that music can have a positive impact in education and treatment of illnesses such as Dementia. Music has been found to light up parts of the brain like a firework display and reconnect people to memories and abilities that may have been thought lost. Studies have demonstrated that music enhances the memory of dementia patients, and has shown that scores on memory tests improved when they listened to classical music. Chris Brewer, founder of LifeSounds Educational Services and author of the book Soundtracks for Learning, explains that music can help to hold our attention, evoke emotions, and stimulate visual images. “Students of all ages—that includes adults— generally find that music helps them focus more clearly on the task at hand and puts them in a better mood for learning,” says Brewer.

Many of the research studies suggest that playing music when engaged in a learning activity has an impact on “positive mood management” and that various styles of music are appropriate for different types of activities. For example, upbeat popular music to motivate learning, especially songs with lyrics that encourage positive thinking. However, when engaged in more reflective learning such as writing, or reading, instrumental music can help to sustain concentration. Classical music of the Baroque era, such as Vivaldi, Handel, Bach with musical pulses between 50 to 80 beats per minute helps to stabilise mental, physical and emotional rhythms. Music has been found to affect the neuro plasticity of the brain and slower baroques can create mentally stimulating environments for creativity and new innovations.

The case is certainly strong for incorporating music into a learning event, however perhaps a word of caution before facilitators and trainers rush to build their playlists into sessions. Tests on retention and transfer of knowledge and skills have also shown that irrelevant background music can lead to poorer student performance and can create a distraction for learners if it generates a negative emotional reaction. Just as we would with any piece of design work, if we intend to use music in our sessions, then we need to think about the needs of the audience and choose music that resonates rather than alienates and most importantly seek permission from the learners before launching our chosen tracks.

As I prepare to head to Edinburgh for a week of self-development, I am starting to think about my musical choices. As I do my evening homework, I want to create neural pathways that help me in the future to access the resources I have developed during the day – so to that end I am most definitely going to “Let the Music Play!”

If you would like to find out more about any of our development programmes please contact us at hello@change-gear.com or call us on 07714 793669 we’d love to chat with you and maybe even hear about your favourite learning tunes.

OUT WITH THE OLD IN WITH NEW – (REALLY!!!)

It’s that time of year again where most of us are thinking about shaking off the past 12 months and setting ourselves up for a great one to follow.  I am most certainly guilty of an unashamed enthusiasm in January for any new regime and feeling positive that “this is going to be the year where I actually stick to the healthy eating and fitness regime, get more sleep, read more, do a digital detox etc. etc.” You know the drill.

So as the 1st of January came upon me, I sat down to write my goals in my new journal and started to think about what might make this a really different year for me.  Having unexpectedly lost someone very close to me at the end of last month I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to close the door on the year completely – or have it a little ajar to keep the memory of them alive for me.  That then got me thinking that perhaps the “new broom sweeps clean” mentality may not necessarily always be the best one.  Perhaps it is about holding on to what’s good from our pasts, letting go of what’s held us back and making space for learning how to improve what we need to, not what we feel we have to.

I started to think about a conversation I’d had with a friend at the weekend.  When I asked her whether she had any resolutions for 2018 she said “to drink less water” – I thought she was crazy until she added on “from plastic bottles”.  I immediately wanted to steal it.  I’m sure many of you have been watching David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II – as well as continuing to show us the beauty of the natural world it comes with an urgent message which we can no longer afford to ignore – the cost of global warming and pollution.  The programme raises a critical awareness of the immediate threats facing our oceans and underscores how much humans and the planet stand to lose if we fail to recognise and acknowledge the negative impact we are having on them.  It’s not a new message for us – but it’s such an important one.

Moving on to the plastic plague that is upon us, Greenpeace recently revealed that Coca-Cola unbelievably increased its production of throwaway plastic bottles last year by well over a billion. (As if you needed another good reason to stop buying fizzy drinks!).  Extreme environmentalists are urging companies to stop selling drinks in plastic bottles altogether whereas the more pragmatic are suggesting we make it easier for customers to use fewer plastic bottles.  A firm favourite of the Change Gear team is forward thinking Pret a Manger.  Pret have been fighting the “waste” battle for many years.  30 years ago, they started donating their unsold food to the homeless and today their initiatives include offering customers a 25p discount on hot drinks if they bring in a reusable cup. At the end of last year Pret introduced a trial in their three Veggie Pret shops selling reusable glass bottles alongside plastic bottles with filtered water stations enabling customers to refill their glass bottles.

Elsewhere, London’s Borough Market is to introduce free drinking water fountains as part of a new pledge to phase out sales of all single-use plastic bottles over the next six months. Selfridges stopped the sale of single-use plastic water bottles back in 2015.

The issue is gaining traction in the political sphere, with Defra Secretary Michael Gove confirming he will work with businesses to see how a drinks container deposit return scheme could work in England. Similar schemes have proved highly successful in Scandinavian countries such as Denmark, where recycling rates of containers are now above 90%.

My friend’s resolution was whirring round in my head.  When I got home I emptied my recycle bin to take a good hard look at what was in there – I was horrified by the amount of plastic bottles and food tubs I found.  I knew this was going to be my more important mantra for the year ahead – Use less plastic.  So how do you turn the mantra into action.  As usual making things a habit so that they stick (thank you Gretchen Rubin for your insights here) is a must.  Here are a few simple things I will be doing:

  • Carrying a reusable water bottle wherever I go
  • Taking my own coffee cup
  • Bringing reusable shopping bags to the supermarket
  • Carrying a fold up reusable shopping bag or two in my handbag at all times
  • Getting rid of all reusable cutlery and straws from my kitchen
  • Buying my fruit and veg from our local shop to avoid supermarket plastic trays

And of course, encouraging my friends and family to do the same.

I would love to hear from any of you out there reading this blog on your thoughts on the subject or to hear what you are personally doing to take action to help save our planet.  Let’s share this message urgently.

In the meantime, I wish you all a very happy, healthy and renewable 2018.

IN DEFENCE OF SNOWFLAKES

“Snow is falling all around us ……” well, it certainly has this weekend for most of the country. As I threw the curtains open yesterday morning I was greeted by a beautiful sight – thick snow on the ground and the park opposite my house looking like a set from “The Chronicles of Narnia.” Watching the falling snow my thoughts turned to a different type of snowflake; one that has generated a huge amount of column inches in the press recently – not the soft, white fluffy stuff but the human variety.

Much has been written in the press recently about the “Snowflake Generation” – the group of millennials who are often described as over-sensitive, work shy and possessors of an over inflated sense of entitlement. The term “Snowflake Generation” is thought to originate with US author Chuck Palahniuk’s 1996 book, Fight Club, which contains the line “You are not special. You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake”.

While young adults in particular appear to take offence to the ‘snowflake’ label, the majority of adults also agree that the term is unfair and unhelpful and overlooks the significant stresses that our young people now face. Research by insurance firm Aviva found that 72 percent of 16-24 year-olds think the term is unfairly applied, while 74 percent think it could have a negative effect on young people’s mental health. The research also found that young people are more likely to have experienced stress, anxiety and depression in the last year.

We work with many different generations but one of my favourite groups to work with are the 16–24 age group and recent experiences have encouraged me to stand up to the critics and challenge the judgements and stereotypes peddled by the press. At the end of the Summer we facilitated a conference for nearly seventy new apprentices and we were blown away by their energy, positive attitude, thirst for learning and commitment to their new organisation and careers. Likewise, at the last set of employability workshops we delivered for the University of Essex, every student took a responsible, strategic approach to their work placement, setting specific goals to grow and enhance their already considerable skills.

So, instead of using derogatory terms about our young people, let’s celebrate what is good about this generation, who in my experience are overwhelmingly kind, humorous, creative, thoughtful and hardworking; who navigate their path through the minefield that is social media – something our generation never had to worry about. Personally, I can’t wait for my own “Snowflake” to come home for Christmas from her year-long placement with Jaguar Land Rover and have some down time; she’s achieved so much this year, it’s time to be spoiled by Mum – as long as she keeps her room tidy that is!!!

If you would like to hear about the work we do with Early Years Careers, please get in touch at hello@change-gear.com – we would love to hear from you.

ON TOP OF THE WORLD

Greetings from Dubai!

Once again my offspring are appearing in my blog. Trying not to make a habit of it, but given that I’m travelling with my 15 year old daughter (sorry, she would most definitely correct me by saying “16 in 31 days actually”) it’s a bit unavoidable.

So, at the age of “almost 16” my super lucky daughter was given the opportunity by a very generous friend to gain some invaluable work experience in Dubai. To say she’s had a blast would be an understatement. I am so grateful that she has been so well looked after and has learned so much in such a short space of time. If only more businesses could follow suit and give our emerging young talent this type of invaluable life experience – I am positive that young people would be so much better equipped to start out in the workplace.

When the opportunity was first discussed over 6 months ago, both of us were very excited. A trip to Dubai, working for a very well-known lingerie and beauty retailer (exceptionally popular with ladies, young and older, around the world). Maddie has been the envy of many friends – having said that, she’s had a busy week with a real marketing project to do as well. I’m sure this experience will stay with her for many years.

So, she needed a chaperone and here I was to be that person. It sounded like a ball… Maddie busy at work and mum could sit by the pool… maybe not! Firstly, it’s not entirely in my nature to watch my daughter go to work while I indulge in “me time”.  Secondly, I wanted to make the most of this great opportunity to network in the UAE and take some uninterrupted time to focus on doing some business development.

So, five days in I’ve started to realise a few things. Firstly, sending your daughter off at 8am in the morning whilst you’re cooped up in a hotel is nothing but odd! I found myself a little lost and wondering whether I was supposed to relax or get straight onto my work. I settled for working while she was working and then chilling out with her when she had finished. Secondly, the challenge of working remotely from an unknown hotel in the UAE was harder than expected. My normal routine had gone out of the window. I wanted to eat well, work out, swim, get some sun and be productive = it was all too much. So what did I learn and how did I cope? I needed a few strategies to keep me focused.

Here’s 5 top tips that might help if you’re planning something similar:

Internet – Have a plan for your Internet connection. When you’re travelling internationally, you can’t always rely on the corner Starbucks. If you’ve griped about the WiFi speed at the coffee shop in the UK, the connection can be even more frustrating abroad. Do your research before you travel and find out what WiFi provision is in your destination, and have a back-up plan, whether it’s purchasing an Internet SIM card or securing a spot in a co-working space.

Old-school rules – Carry around a notebook and pen. There will come a day when you can’t connect to WiFi and you’ll be grateful you have this.

Time after time – Be mindful of the time differences. Keep track of time zones so you don’t end up calling a potential client or another important contact at 3am without realising it! Most smartphones allow you to set a clock for another time zone, or you can download an app to keep track.

Be realistic – The days are shorter than you think. Don’t over-estimate what you can do. And plan some down-time. You’ll feel more productive as a consequence.

Be culture savvy – Every country has its own specific customs and traditions. Although immersing yourself in a culture is the best way to learn what is appropriate and what is not, try to research and avoid any major faux-pas before you pack for your destination. I’ve only worn 10% of the wardrobe I brought with me so far as everything else is either inappropriate or unacceptable.

And so today it’s my official day off with my gorgeous daughter – a well-deserved trip to the Burj Khalifa – and I can’t think of a better person to be on top of the world with!

 

 

#employabilityskills #luckymum #pricelessmoments #fabworkexperience #workingmums #beautifuldaughters #worklifebalance #verygrateful

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