I’ve had to break through a fair bit of resistance lately, to create a video and write a magazine article. Both of these are good things to do to communicate with my current and potential clients, but I felt a HUGE amount of resistance to doing both of them.
The thing that helped me break through and get these jobs ticked off my list was a really simple structure outlined in ‘Houston We Have a Narrative: Why Science Needs Story’, by Randy Olson.
I wanted to record a video about my work with asset managers … I had a script that worked in written form but when I tried recording it I realised it was way too detailed. I reduced it to its core using the ‘and, but, therefore’ (ABT) story structure recommended by Randy Olson and suddenly I could say what I needed to say, and even ad lib from the base content. You can see the difference between the written and verbal forms of the same message here.
AND the magazine article
Co-authoring a conference paper led to an opportunity to write an article for a magazine. It was a great opportunity so of course I said yes, but then it weighed heavily on my mind. I wanted to do it well, but I had no idea how.
I knew I was at high risk of getting lost in the details, and of boring anyone who wasn’t deeply interested in the potential conflicts between a number of New Zealand’s national policy statements in relation to stormwater management. Hmm!
Reducing screeds of information into a core message ended up being much easier than I expected, using the ABT structure.
This isn’t something just for writers, or just for people trying to promote their business.
Randy Olson wrote the book for scientists who need to share their complex information with lay audiences, and who are often frustrated by their audiences’ lack of comprehension and even boredom with the important findings they need to share.
Have you ever needed to introduce a report to your councillors, and struggled to give that summary in a concise, compelling way? I sure have. Sometimes it’s really hard to get inside the content and wrestle it into the shape of a story that people both relate to and remember.
Next time you need to engage with an audience about some aspect of your council work, try to create a simple message using the ABT structure.
Another great advantage of this structure is it seems to speed up the writing process, allowing you to tick that presentation or written document off your list far more quickly than you might imagine.