Tell a memorable story


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The Beyond Bullet Points paradigm is a proven way to develop a technical "story," produce a White Parer, or write a report

Published in: Technology
  • Ah, the mystery of deep background. I work proposal teams as well as balanced scorecard and other business development processes. This comes from Cliff Atkinson's 'Beyond Bullet Points,' which is a life changing book on how to communicate in writing ideas that are critical to our program performance management processes.
    Cliff's site has templates. His first edition is my favorite.
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  • I like your paradigm. This isn't your usual area. Very nice!
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Tell a memorable story

  1. 1. Introduction Tag Line (a single phrase stating why the reader should continue with this paper), with an introduction that summarizes the whitepaper in a single paragraph. A simple overview of the problem, the proposed solution, and the beneficial outcomes of applying this solution to the problem. This is similar to the elevator pitch approach. By constructing a paragraph that states For The named audience Who The activities this audience participates in The Solution The that addresses their issues (stated in the last row) That The beneficial outcomes of this solution Rather Than Compared to the current situation (restating the problem) The reader can quickly understand the contents of the paper and decide if future reading is necessary Act 1 This is the beginning of the story. It should pull the audience out of the flow of normal thought processes and focus their attention and orient them. The five scenes in Act 1 will answer the clarifying questions that every audience silently asks every presenter:  Where  When  Who  What  Why  How In Act 1, the answers to these questions are shaped in ways that awaken the imagination of the audience, connects with their emotions, and persuades them that they want to participate in the evolving story. Act 1, Scene 1: Establish the Setting – The Setting Answers the question the audience members are silently wondering Where are we, and when is it? This scene says something about the setting that everyone in the room agrees is true. Scene 1 invites everyone to join you at the same location, establishes a common ground, and leaves no doubt about the context for what you are about to say. Act 1, Scene 2: Name the Protagonist – Every story is about somebody Who are we in this setting? The protagonist is the main character - the person who will make a decision to do something or come to believe something by the end of the experience. The protagonist is almost always the audience. Because of this you the presenter becomes the supporting actor. These means the entire presentation is not about "speaker support" but about "audience support." By establishing the protagonist as the audience makes the presentation personal for them. Since they will have direct involvement and a stake in the outcome, they will pay attention. This approach also helps the speaker stay focused on the audience Act 1, Scene 3: Describing the Imbalance – Stories are about how people respond to something that has changed in their environment. Why are we here? When a protagonist experiences a change, an imbalance is created because things are no longer like they used to be. This is called inciting incident that sets the story in motion. Act 1, Scene 4: Aiming for Balance – No one likes to remain in the state of imbalance What do we want to see happen? The imbalance in Scene 3 and now the restoring balance in Scene 4 forms the purpose of the presentation. When the problem is made clear, the purpose of the presentation is made clear as well. Defining the problem for the audience is actually the hardest part of the presentation. Once the problem has been clearly defined, telling them how it will be solved is next. Act 1, Scene 5: Recommending a Solution – A Plot Point is where the action suddenly turns in a particular direction and sets up the development of the next part of the story. Writing a White Paper, Briefing, or Training Materials as a Three–Act Play Tell a Memorable Story
  2. 2. How are we going to get there from here? This is where the protagonist can solve the problem. This is where the answer to the question your audience would probably like to know about their desired state of balance in Scene 4 - How do we get there from here? Scene 5 should describe what the protagonist would do or believe to solve the problem. The final wording of Scene 5 clearly defines the measure of success for your presentation. If the audience accepts your solution by the end of the story, you'll have succeeded Act 2 Act 1 appeals to the primary emotions of the audience. Act 2 appeals to their reason. Act 2 delivers the reasons why people should accept the solution proposed in the last Scene of Act 1. Act 2, Scene 1: Supporting the First Main Point – fleshes out the details to the answers of the question How or Why. These answers come in three flavors:  5 Minute - one simple and concise answer to the question asked by the audience  15 Minute - three detailed sub-answers in support of the first simple and concise answers  45 Minute - three more detailed sub-sub- answers for each of the three detailed sub- answers in support of the simple and concise answer - for a total of 9 + 3 + 1 answers to the Main Point of the presentation Each successive level of detail provides the reasons for the prior answer. Each answer is a statement of why or how the previously answer is true. Act 2, Scenes 2 & 3: Repeating the Process – The supporting points should be made in groups of three (3). The "tell them three times" suggestion of good proposal writing is in effect here. Tell them three times the answer to the question that was asked in Act 1. Each idea introduced to the audience should prompt them to wonder why of how. Each answer provided in Act 2 should answer the question of why or how with immediate answer. This approach creates an action / reaction. Act 2, Scene 4: Creating the Turing Point – The last scene in Act 1 turned the story in a particular direction - with a solution. The last scene in Act 2 needs to turn the story in the direction of Act 3. Act 1 Scene 4 told the audience of the Balance needed to resolve the Imbalance (the problem). Act 2 Scene 4 needs to remind them of this desired balance. This can be done by asking a question that refers to the balance they are seeking. Phrasing the scene as a question indicates that the situation is still unresolved and rekindles the emotional connection made earlier. This turning point signals that Act 2 has concluded and you're about to enter the final phase of tying everything together. Act 3 Everything is tied together in Act 3 and the stage is set for the audience to resolve the situation. Since the audience is the protagonist, they need to resolve the presentation by deciding whether they will accept your recommended solution. Act 3, Scene 1: Restating the Crisis – In Act 1 Scene 3 and Act 1 Scene 4, the central problem was defined. Two important questions were asked  Why are we here?  What do we want to see happen? The answers to these two questions are provided by restating the crisis for the audience. Act 3, Scene 2: Recommending a Solution – Scene 2 repeats the solution exactly as it appeared in Act 1, Scene 5. Repeating the solution refreshes the ideas for your audience, but now the solution means much more, because the first three scenes of Act 2 describing why and how the solution is a good idea. This single statement summarizes all the action that has been developed to this point. Act 3, Scene 3: Setting Up The Climax – The Climax of the presentation is where everything that has been said about the problem (Imbalance) comes together and any concluding remarks are made. Act 3 Scene 3 sets the stage for the final resolution, which reflects the tone and spirit of the overall story - inspiration, danger, challenge, vision, courage, empowerment, or hope. Act 3, Scene 4: Reaching the Resolution – Using the Climax developed in Act 3 Scene 3, action needs to be taken by deciding whether the audience will accept the recommended solution. Before they decide, they will want to discuss the situation, either in an informal dialogue or a formal question and answer session. Scene 4 frames the context for this conversation and the eventual resolution of the presentation by the audience. Conclusion A wrap up the white paper restating the beneficial outcomes for the reader of the described solutions. The conclusion should be one clear and concise paragraph