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Why is all the travel time, rich food, lack of exercise and not-your-own-bed annoyance of going to conferences worth the effort? For me, it is because the speakers usually bring life to information that, while interesting in its own right, might not otherwise strike me or inspire real change/forward-motion. Good speakers do this because they know they must use stories to quickly persuade us their ideas are worth our time and attention.

Here's an example from my time last week at The Vine Conference:
The author Dave Eggers was discussing the organization that he and some friends started to tutor inner-city grade schoolers in English/writing, called 826 Valencia. He could have listed something like the following to describe its "success":
- how many kids it has served in how many places across the country since its inception.
- how many books the effort has inspired, by traditional authors as well as the students.
- how much money they've been able to raise and some of the names of the big donors.
- flow chart of the organizational structure and the 10-year plan for development.
And.. so on.
However, he -- like all the other speakers, but perhaps even more powerfully -- just told its story. He reported to us on how the idea came about, the funny moments along the way in securing space for the locations and the ideas for the storefronts that would attract kids, a few examples of kids who had been helped, slides of the storefronts, examples of the books they'd published and (especially touching) the blurbs the kids themselves wrote on their own books... eg: "Tony Hawk says this is the best book ever." (For those of you who don't recognize the name, Tony Hawk is the godfather of skateboarding.)
The people in the audience did not get a recitation of dead information bullet points, but they got the "umph" of the incredible undertaking that is 826 Valencia and how engaging and compelling English tutoring might be. I'm guessing Dave's story persuaded a lot more people that volunteering could be fun and extremely effective at a very base, local level. It was the above, beyond and around the facts (or dead information) that sold the concept to those of us listening.
Of course, nonprofits have a wealth of moving tales to tell in their coffers -- usually starting with their reason for being -- BUT the same holds true for a lot of businesses, I firmly believe. Could you, for example, take the facts you might list on an annual report or year-end summary and pull out a few stories to better express the truths of the great things your brand has accomplished?
I propose that companies might attempt to enforce a dead information ban for even a few months, and see what they come up with and how telling stories might change their connections with customers for the good.
Why am I so hot on storytelling these days?
Partially because I've been preparing for my "Marketing Through Stories" virtual seminar , and thoroughly enjoying all the great ideas and examples I am digging up in the process. If you are interested in joining the fun, which will be March 22nd at noon eastern time, I'd love to "see" you there. Please feel free to email me with any questions/specific issues in advance, so I can be ready to address them.
Repeat after me: Ban Dead Information!

Continue reading "Storytelling: Real Life from Dead Data" ... Read the full article

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image of Andrea Learned
Andrea Learned is a noted author, blogger, and expert on gender-based consumer behavior. Her current focus is on sustainability from both the consumer and the organizational perspectives. Andrea contributes to the Huffington Post and provides sustainability-focused commentary for Vermont Public Radio.