Categories
communication Presentation public speaking

Being quiet can be a storytelling power move

The power of shhhhhhhh

Perhaps the hardest part of telling a business story is resisting the temptation to finish your story yourself. I call this “The Power of Shhhhh.”

It’s where you stop talking. Be quiet. Let your story and its lessons sink in.

People hate a vacuum, and will often rush to fill it with their own conclusions. When people jump in at the end to tell you what they’ve learned from your story…and then recommend the next steps to take — you’ve told the right story to the right audience, at the right time.

The next time you tell a story, take your moment of silence. Try using the Power of Shhhhh to let your audience finish your story for you.

Being quiet can be a storytelling power move.


Laura Bergells is a professional story finder. She writes, coaches, teaches, and speaks. Check out her online courses at LinkedIn Learning.

If you’re a LinkedIn Premium or Lynda.com member, these courses are free! If you’re not a member, you can either become a member or buy each of these classes à la carte.

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Categories
communication content ideas public speaking storyfinding

4 ways to develop a culture of storytelling at your organization

How can you develop a culture of storytelling at your organization?

Four quick tips:

1. Meetings: get into the habit of starting each meeting with a story. Ask for others to share stories.

2. Contests: you might have an “employee of the month” contest: why not try a “employee story of the month” contest?

3. Channels: if you use Slack or Team, open a channel to capture and collect stories.

4. Conferences: when you go to conferences, go with the intention of collecting industry and other stories you hear.

How else do you develop a culture of storytelling at your organization?


Laura Bergells is a professional story finder. She writes, coaches, teaches, and speaks. Check out her online courses at LinkedIn Learning.

If you’re a LinkedIn Premium or Lynda.com member, these courses are free! If you’re not a member, you can either become a member or buy each of these classes à la carte

Categories
Blogging Education

What if food prep becomes the top tech skill we can’t live without? Sound crazy? Bear with me…

What if we started learning food prep and cooking in elementary school? And I’m not thinking about food prep as an elective course or two. No, my vision is much bolder:

Learning to cook needs to be mandatory. Food prep needs to be integrated into every class you take in school. You must demonstrate ongoing cooking competence to pass classes and graduate.

Think about it. What might change if food preparation was used as the foundation for every STEM course you take in school? How might it change society and the economy?

For example, imagine if the only STEM education we received in school was food preparation. As you learn to cook, you more deeply learn every STEM subject.

Science. Nutrition, health, chemistry, experimental design, and anatomy. 

Technology. Knives, ovens, stoves, sous vide machines, freezers, and refrigerators. 

Engineering. Spacial relations, temperature, land use, processing, and packaging. 

Math. Calculating and charting: temperature and time and portions and servings. 

Gee whiz. A student can learn almost every topic by learning through food and cooking. It’s a solid STEM education, and then some.

Food is social and cultural. It’s finance and budgeting. It’s art and history and drama and presentation and…

…well, food is actually integrated into everything. It is literally fundamental for human survival. It’s the basis for a wide range of metaphors.

So why isn’t cooking used as a foundation for teaching every STEM subject we learn in school? How is it that you can graduate high school without demonstrating you know how to prepare, serve, and fund a month’s worth of nutritional, well-balanced meals? 

Honestly? I suspect one reason food prep isn’t considered worthy for a complete STEM curriculum is because cooking is traditionally viewed as “women’s work” and thus “not science-y or math-y or tech-y or manly enough”.

Maybe someone is thinking, “No, wait, how dare you? I need my STEM to be wrapped up in more important concepts than lowly food prep. My boy has an interest in computers and wants to work in the auto industry, so STEM means computer labs and an auto shop. He can pick up nutritional knowledge in the streets or at home.”

But why can’t a boy take what he learned about food prep and apply it to whatever field he wishes to pursue? Isn’t taking knowledge from one field and applying it to another a key creative and critical thinking skill?

Critical thinking. Creative thinking. You need both of these skills to write decent code.

And before you code one single line? You need to learn to think. And you need to eat. 

Computer programmer, car mechanic, art historian, athlete, teacher, writer — whatever. Every field involves food and nutrition. Because everybody’s gotta eat. It’s timeless.

While students pursue their career fields, they need the wherewithal to keep themselves healthy and financially solvent. Instead of touching a computer screen all day, they can learn to navigate the real world with the tactile sensation of handling food. 

Fingers sliding over glass is not the interface of the future. You need to know how objects interact with each other in a physical world. (That way, you’ll also know to look up from your phone so you don’t get hit by a car. And feel less lonely.)

“But…but…technology. It means computers…coding…”

What if we kill that concept? What if the tech skills you learn in school today aren’t the tech skills you need in the future? (Hint: they won’t be.)

We’ve been picking up our nutrition in the streets. It hasn’t been working out so well. So let’s flip it around.

Learn to cook in school.

Learn to code in the streets.

Teach people to cook, and you’re teaching them to think. You’re giving them a useful skill and a shared language. You’re giving them metaphors along with nutrition. You’re also exposing students to a broad range of educational and cultural topics.

Who’s with me? Let’s all get fired up about learning to cook!

———————————

Laura Bergells writes, coaches, and teaches. Check out her online courses at LinkedIn Learning.  You can also find Laura on Twitter and at YouTube.

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Categories
fun video

What if you didn’t own a car anymore?

I own a car. When it dies, I may not buy another. In fact, I may never own another car again in my lifetime.

I don’t want to be careless. I’d rather be carless.

This is a shocking statement for a middle-aged Michigan suburbanite to make. For a time, I worked in the auto industry. Almost everyone I know here is dependent on cars for their livelihood. Many even derive their identity and social status from the type of car they own.

A car isn’t what people drive: it’s who they are. 

So how could I say “I’m not buying another car” — and still expect to have friends? Will I ever be invited to parties again?

Sure. From time to time, I say things that upset my friends. We all do.

But when I announce that I’ve had it with car ownership, my friends and colleagues regard me with amusement. They react as if I’ve told them a joke. 

But I’m not kidding. Here’s my reality:

I bought a brand new car in 2003: cash, no note. It’s still in good shape. Today, I mostly bop around town in it. 

I pay $700.50/year in annual car insurance. Between oil changes, repairs, licensing fees, and fuel: that’s another $1K. So I’ll round up and say I have operating costs of around $2K/year.

(Notice how I’m not even counting original costs, depreciation, loss of interest, parking, or storage. If I did, that would be another $2K a year.)

Many would characterize my car situation as “dirt cheap”. But today, I consider my car ownership a luxury. I needed a car in the ’00’s – but do I really need it anymore?

What I’m really paying for is convenience. If I have a whim to go somewhere at any time, I can indulge it.

I don’t have to think or plan. I’m paying for the privilege of being mindless: for the illusion of being able to go wherever I want, whenever I want.

But $2-4K a year? It seems excessive.

I work out of my home office. Most of what I do and where I go is within 2 miles of my home. I walk almost everywhere. Further, technological advances are changing the way I think about car ownership.

For most client work, I use online tools. We meet using Skype and Hangouts: or Zoom and BlueJeans. That’s a giant change from 2003, where most client meetings and work needed to be in person.

I avoided renting a car for business travel this year. Not once so far! (Fingers crossed.)

For some meetings and events, I still need to be physically present. For example, I can drive to and from one client’s office in 22 minutes. A bike takes 40 minutes. The bus? 84 minutes — but only when it’s on time. (The bus is almost never on time in my home town of Grand Rapids.)

Further, I can only take the bike or bus on mild days. I can’t show up to client meetings covered in rain, snow, or sweat. Getting to the airport for out-of-town work? It requires a car service: taxi, limo, Lyft, etc. 

While I use my car for some trips — I find myself using it less over time. In 2016, I drove it a total of 3,104 miles. In 2017? I drove 2,604 miles. 

So if you’re like me and would prefer not to own another car: let’s do a thought experiment. What would happen if my reliable old car stopped working today?

I wouldn’t buy another. Rather, I’d bike more. I’d walk even more than I already do. I’d use ride services like Lyft more. 

I’d probably invest in an electric bicycle, to give me an assist as I go up more hills. Until autonomous ride-hailing becomes reality, I’d rent cars for out-of-town business trips. I’d also use public transportation more. 

Without a car, I’d be less thoughtless and spontaneous. I’d be more thoughtful about planning my time and trips. 

I’d probably have to buy more goods online. This means saying bye-bye to monthly trips to Costco. (This popular online warehouse is a 26 minute round trip drive from my home, but it’s 2+ hour trip by bus. Over an hour of that bus trip involves walking to bus stops. With heavy parcels? Costco’s free snacks are nice, but a big warehouse in the middle-of-nowhere-with-a-huge-parking-lot? That model’s not gonna work in my near future.)

Socially, I know some friends would be upset by my lack of car. My curtailed spontaneity will be inconvenient for them.

Other friends are supportive. In a small town in Michigan in 2018, I suspect “going carless” would generate some gossip.

But in a short time, gossip will stop. And soon, going carless will be seen as normal. Everyone will be doing it. 

When more people stop buying cars, neighborhoods change. Public transportation improves. Communities plan infrastructure with walking and biking in mind.

People will say “hi” more. Health improves as people bike and walk more in fresher air. Small neighborhood businesses spring up and thrive on popular walking/biking routes.

Am I wrong about some of these positive aspects of giving up on car ownership? Am I dreaming?

Will we soon see significant social, economic, and environmental changes brought about by the decline of car culture? Or do people love the idea of cars too much to give them up, no matter what the costs?

I dunno. I still can’t figure out what we’ll all do with all our empty garages and parking lots. Build the next great technology, I guess. Or start a grunge band. I like to tinker and experiment, so maybe I’ll do more of that. 

How do you feel about the mere idea of giving up your car…for good? Does it fill you with thoughts of dread and anger? Or do you have a more sunny view of your carless future?


Laura Bergells writes, coaches, and teaches. Check out her online courses at LinkedIn Learning.  You can also find Laura on Twitter and at YouTube.

Signup for LinkedIn Learning

Categories
communication design

Do we need business cards any more? Really?

I’m going to save a tree. I’ll stop handing out business cards.

Do we really need business cards anymore?

I find that when I go out to meet people, I’m more inclined to exchange LinkedIn information. Other people I know exchange electronic contact info to stay in touch. 

When someone tries to hand me a business card, I usually try to ward them off. I know I’m only going to throw it away later. It seems like a waste.

My compromise solution for next year is to only order a few cards. If someone demands one and I deem it necessary, I can hand one out. I’ll keep an eye on how many I hand out, and try to whittle it down to zero.

I’m thinking business cards may just be a bad habit that I need to break for the new year. Business cards seem like a holdover habit from a bygone era.

Or is there a compelling case for business cards that I’m not grasping?


Laura Bergells is a professional story finder. She writes, coaches, teaches, and speaks. Check out her online courses at LinkedIn Learning.

If you’re a LinkedIn Premium or Lynda.com member, these courses are free! If you’re not a member, you can either become a member or buy each of these classes à la carte.

Categories
Presentation

VIDEO: the importance of both focus and unfocus

In my workshop for content writers, I talk about the importance of being both focused and unfocused.

We need to be focused to be productive. And that’s why we do things like set deadlines and write outlines. So that we can be productive and stay focused.

But I also talk about the importance of being unfocused, so that we can be creative. And one of the ways that I like to stay unfocused while I’m writing is to go out and take a walk.

So I do try to balance the being focused and being unfocused. Focused for productivity, and unfocused for creativity.

How do you strike that balance between focused and unfocused and productive and creative throughout your writing day?

Let me know your techniques. Pop me a line at YouTube or Twitter

Categories
Presentation

Write the way your best customers talk to their friends.

OK Google. Cortana. Siri. Alexa.

We’re all using voice and audio interfaces right now. 

If you’re interested in voice search optimization and writing content for your brand’s voice — go ahead. Do a search for some how-to articles on writing for voice and voice optimization.

After you’ve completed your search…I have three questions for you:

  1. Did you use your fingers or voice to complete your search?
  2. Did you try both?
  3. If you did both, did you use different words for each type of search?

What differences did you notice? And even with the differences in the words you used — did your voice search yield different results from your finger-based search?

If you’ve read a few articles, you’ll note that almost all of them told you this piece of advice:

“Write more conversationally.”

Using your own voice to write more conversational content is a great idea. But also listen carefully to how your own audience talks.

In particular: what words and phrases do your best customers use when they use their voices? Do they talk differently to their phones than they do to their friends and colleagues? (Hint: they usually do.)

How I might talk to a friend or colleague
How I might talk to my phone

To make a stronger emotional connection, honor the word choices and syntax of your best customers.  Listen to the way they talk to people they like: but also listen to the way they talk to their phones or devices. 

Note the differences. When you reflect the word choices of your audience, you can subtly make a stronger brand and emotional connection if you mirror the way they talk to their friends, not their devices.


Laura Bergells writes, coaches, and teaches. Check out her online courses at LinkedIn Learning.  You can also find Laura on Twitter and at YouTube.

Signup for LinkedIn Learning

Categories
Coaching content ideas public speaking

Walk and Talk: give it a try

I went for a walk in the park. As I walked, I talked.

I attached an $11.99 lapel mic to my phone, and talked for four minutes straight. With Google Docs Voice Typing on my phone, my words were instantly transcribed into a document.

When I got back to the studio, I had a 552 word first draft. And only one error.

Basically, I talked my way through an idea I had been wrestling with in the office. The idea was going nowhere, so I took a walk. 

And you know what happens when you take a walk. It’s like taking a shower. A new idea hits you while you’re walking. Instead of letting the idea go, I captured it with my voice.

In only 4 easy minutes, I had captured 552 words. It ate up only 13.79 MB of data. And Google Docs Voice Typing? It made only one mistake, and this mistake was entirely justifiable. 

The mistake? I walked across a wooden pedestrian bridge. It had been raining, so the bridge was slick. I unexpectedly slid for about 3 feet.

I made a bit of a screech as I slid. Google interpreted my unintelligible utterance as the word “seat”.

Even with my insane outburst: I logged 552 words, with one 1 error, in 4 minutes. Can your fingers do that? I don’t know about yours, but mine can’t. 

If it has been a few years since you’ve tried voice typing, try again. It’s come a long way in the past few years.

Did I look insane as I walked and talked? Probably. But no more crazy than someone who walks and talks on their cell phone. Because that’s literally what I was doing.

The guy throwing Frisbees to his black Labrador didn’t even seem to notice me. Neither did the dog.

How do you feel about walk and talks? Too crazy? Or something you think you might want to try?


Laura Bergells writes, coaches, and teaches. Check out her online courses at LinkedIn Learning.  You can also find Laura on Twitter and at YouTube.

Signup for LinkedIn Learning

Categories
Coaching communication crisis Education video

Don’t let cold hands stop you from writing: try Voice Typing

Sometimes, voice typing can come in handy for really unexpected reasons!

It’s October 1, and it’s freezing. My poor fingers are now cramped from typing in a cold room all morning.

Google Voice Typing to the rescue! I’ll open up Google Docs, activate voice typing, and talk through a first draft. 

Google Voice Typing within Google Docs comes to the rescue of cold, cramped hands!

I can always go back in and edit this first draft with my fingers later. But for right now, I’ve got deadlines to meet. I can’t let cold hands stop me from writing!

There are three other great reasons to use voice typing instead of finger typing for a first draft:

  1. You talk faster than you type. With voice typing, you can increase your total word count.
  2. You shut off your internal editor. When you talk, you resist the temptation to edit yourself as you’re talking.
  3. You reduce distractions. You’re not goofing around on social media or opening up another tab on your browser. You’re talking.

I find myself using voice typing a lot now. I get 97% accuracy with no special equipment. I just use the mic that comes with my $320 laptop.

No big whoop. In the olden days, you needed a special microphone and pricey software. Now, you can probably just use equipment you have on hand.

Voice recognition is getting better all the time. It makes sense.

Think about how many of those Google Home devices have been in use over the past year. Or how many times people use their Android devices to say “OK, Google” — then use their voices to issue a command.

Google is drawing on an enormous amount of data to be able to understand a wide variety of voices. I expect Google’s accuracy will only get better over time.

Cortana and Alexa and Siri? If they work for you, great. But they don’t work for me.

In my experience, Cortana, Alexa, and Siri are far slower and less accurate than Google. And this makes sense: these services aren’t drawing from the vast amount of voice data that Google continues to collect.

If you haven’t checked out voice typing in a while, give it another try. You may find that it works better than you ever expected!

(And as the weather gets colder, I’ll probably use voice typing even more.)

Are you a voice typing fan? Why or why not?


Laura Bergells is a writer and instructor. Check out her online courses at LinkedIn Learning.  You can also find Laura on Twitter and at YouTube.

Laura Bergells writes, coaches, and teaches. Check out her online courses at LinkedIn Learning.  You can also find Laura on Twitter and at YouTube.

Signup for LinkedIn Learning

Categories
Coaching Presentation public speaking video

Hey, you used to ❤ Show & Tell. What happened?

Hey remember third grade? You got up and you did show-and-tell and  you loved it. ❤

You didn’t feel nervous or anxious. So what changed?

What made you thrilled about public speaking when you were eight… and anxious about it as an adult?

Three things:

One: you’re more inhibited as an adult. You now know you stand the risk of ridicule or humiliation.

Two: you tell yourself the stakes have changed. What you’re doing now is just so much more important than when you were eight!

And three, you stopped practicing. In school, you did book reports oral reports plays and sports… and you did it on the regular.

One, two, & three?

They all add up to one diagnosis: you are living in your head. That is what’s making you anxious about public speaking.

So, get out of your head. Get up. Find opportunities to speak in front of people.

Do it today. When you practice regularly, you’ll feel way less anxious & way more confident.

Anxious Public Speaking V. Third Grade Show-n-Tell

Laura Bergells writes, coaches, and teaches. Check out her online courses at LinkedIn Learning.  You can also find Laura on Twitter and at YouTube.

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