Shaping the Contour of Effective Communication: How to engage your audience by telling a bigger story

Shaping the Contour of Effective Communication: How to engage your audience by telling a bigger story

Have you ever landed on a website and then struggled to figure out what the heck they’re trying to tell you (or sell you) on the site?

So after all of 20 seconds, you’re out of there, never to come back again.

Or you meet someone new and they ask you “What do you do?” And you spend the next 10 minutes yammering and yacking while the poor soul’s eyes glaze over.

Once the person recovers, do you think they’re likely to remember you? Or even consider doing business with you? Not.

So plays out the disease of the “muddy marketing message.” And worse yet, the syndrome of “dopey marketing message delivery.”

It’s a pandemic problem because most entrepreneurs aren’t taught or ever learn how to structure and deliver their marketing communications in a way that captivates and engages their audience — whether it’s an audience of one or one thousand.

But there’s a solution to this problem that’s so simple that you’re going to wonder why no one taught this to you before…

Think Story

Throughout the history of mankind, stories have great power to educate, to inspire, to motivate, to engage, to entertain, and to influence.

The magic of movies lies in their power to evoke emotions and challenge established points of view.

Literature, music, and art do the same by telling stories, just in different formats.

So what do you think might happen if you wove dramatic story structure into your conversations, writing, and presentations?

Inspiring Enthusiasm and Support for Your Vision

In her book, Resonate: Present Visual Stories That Transform Audiences, Nancy Duarte describes how to “inspire enthusiasm and support for your vision” by using the power of visual presentations. The principles she describes apply equally well to written and oral communications. In fact, she draws on examples from music, literature, and the performing arts to illustrate these principles.

Nancy describes a pattern to effective stories, what she calls a “contour of communication”: Of course, great stories have a clear beginning, middle, and end. And, they include two clear “turning points” that draw our interest and attention from the beginning of the story into the middle of it, and from the middle of the story into the dramatic conclusion.

Sadly, most great ideas — even those with the potential to save lives and transform the world — die before fruition because of a weak story behind it; what gets communicated to people frequently lacks clarity, structure, and order. At best, it’s boring. At worst, it’s repulsive. Either way, you can’t bore or confuse anyone into buying from you.

So if you want to grow your business, the place to start is to craft and tell a bigger, more inspiring story.

A “sparkline” is a type of information graphic that allows you to visually “see” the structure and form of a presentation. In Resonate, Nancy Duarte details the sparkline for Martin Luther King’s rousing “I Have A Dream” speech. This sparkline shows you the “contour of communication” that Dr. King used: the timeline for when he was speaking and repeating key phrases, using metaphors and visual words, and referring to familiar songs, scripture, and literature. The sparkline also shows you how and when the audience was responding with different degrees of applause and cheering.

To view an example of a sparkline, click here.

To help you appreciate how the sparkline looks and works, I’ll take you through the key elements of a generic sparkline in the video below.

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Audience Engagement Is the Name of The Game

You can continue to “speak at” your audience. Or you can engage with your audience.

If you want to engage with your audience, if you want to get your audience to rally behind your ideas and vision, then you’ll need to tell stories about who you are and what you stand for. And you must do this in a way that your audience can find where they fit in your story.

Study the “sparkline.” Practice using this presentation form for your next article, your next important conversation, your next teleseminar or webinar.

In his book, Believe Me: A Storytelling Manifesto for Change-Makers and Innovators, my good friend and colleague Michael Margolis says “People don’t really buy your product, solution, or idea, they buy the stories that are attached to it.”

In just 88 pages, Michael deftly describes “why your vision, brand, and leadership need a bigger story” and codifies 15 storytelling axioms for going about crafting it. Michael’s book is a solid resource for learning how to tell a bigger story. I highly recommend it and you can download the digital version for free at:

Storytelling: The Keys to the Kingdom

Being an effective communicator gives you the keys to the kingdom when it comes to thought-leadership, social change and transformation, and successful marketing and selling. It gives you the power to influence, to transform, and to effect change.

When you incorporate the power of story into your conversations, written material, and visual presentations, you connect and engage with your intended audience in meaningful, lasting ways.

Let’s face it: On top of all the other things you need to handle and master as an entrepreneur, adding one more important thing to your plate is about the last thing you need right now. Yet, mastering the art and science of visual storytelling is a skill and asset that pays dividends in all aspects of your personal and professional life.

And there’s no better time to start telling a new story than right now!

The Invisible Forces That Bind Us

The Invisible Forces That Bind Us

Have you ever worked hard on a project or marketing campaign, one with great promise, one where it seems that everything is aligned, all the right things are place, and still, things aren’t turning out even close to its anticipated potential? The project grinds to a screeching halt. The marketing campaign fizzles out. The opportunity fades away.

And you wonder why? What happened? What went wrong?

In contrast, there are situations that seem so incomprehensibly dire, yet things turn out when they don’t seem like they should turn out well at all! Take one of a myriad of grim circumstances that befell Louie Zamperini, 1936 Olympic sprinter, World War II veteran, and POW survivor.

Louie Zamperini was a bombardier during World War II. On a search and rescue mission, the B-24 bomber he was aboard lost power in two engines and was forced to ditch into the ocean. Of the 11 crew members aboard, only two other crewmen survived the crash: pilot Russell Phillips and tailgunner Francis McNamara.

Louie and his crewmates drifted at sea with nothing more than a few pints of water and six survival chocolate bars. On the 27th day of this ordeal, a plane passed overhead; overjoyed, the men fired emergency flares. The plane passed them by, but then circled back.

As the plane suddenly opened fire upon them, it became apparent that the plane was a Japanese bomber. Amazingly, none of the men were hit. The plane circled back for another pass. Though bullets pelted the waters around them, yet again, no men were hit. The plane circled back yet again; this time, the men watched helplessly as the bomb doors opened. A mine was released, but failed to detonate once it hit the water.

After 30-45 minutes of strafing and a failed mine drop, the Japanese bomber disappeared. The two rafts that kept them afloat in the open water and thinly separated them from circling sharks were riddled with bullet holes. Miraculously, Louie and his two fellow crewman had survived without a single bullet wound.

The rest of Louie’s incredible story is told in Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand. And it’s a book brimming with inspiration and adventure; I highly recommend that you read the book to get the rest of Louie’s story, because there a lot more amazing, incredible experiences you’ll learn about.

In the meantime, what can we take away from this particular story?

Just like electricity, there’s a flow of energy that is normally invisible to us. Yet, we are immersed in it. When things aren’t working out for you in the tangible, physical world, there’s a good chance that this invisible energy is blocked somewhere along the line.

Especially if you’ve done everything you can think of to move an initiative or endeavor to fruition, and progress is still stalled, that’s the time to critically consider the invisible forces at play.

From our limited perspective of ourselves, the world, and life itself, things are not always what they seem. We don’t always see or understand what leads to success. Or what blocks it.

Perhaps the blockage has to do with your beliefs or your fears. Maybe it’s an undelivered communication about a sensitive situation. Maybe it’s dealing with something important that you’ve been avoiding.

In all likelihood, you’re not dealing with circumstances as desperate as those that Louie Zamperini and all the other POW’s faced during WWII. But the same principles of surviving, and ultimately, thriving apply.

The next time you’re facing a difficult situation and can’t seem to break free, remember three practices that kept Louie Zamperini going:

  1. Remain optimistic.
  2. Pursue your passions and give it all you’ve got.
  3. Remain open to allowing the power of the invisible forces that bind us to serve and guide us.
Final Call and What’s Next (Update on the Value Pricing for Prosperity Resource Kit and Training Program)

Final Call and What’s Next (Update on the Value Pricing for Prosperity Resource Kit and Training Program)

Hi there…

No, I didn’t disappear. I just spent the past week with my brother and sisters for a family reunion of sorts. We drove up to Vancouver, BC, and ended up at Grouse Mountain (, where we “zip-lined” high above the tree tops, rivers, and valleys.

At the top of the mountain, there’s a brand new wind turbine. We went up into the attached view pod, about 200 feet in the air. Part of the floor is glass, so can you imagine the feeling of standing on the glass floor, looking past your feet at the ground, far, far below?!? Yikes!!!

Back to business. If you’ve been following my recent posts, you know I have a lot of stuff on pricing. It’s really important. So I asked you if there was interest in me creating a free Value Pricing Resource Kit.

And there was interest.

Now I want to update you on the Value Pricing for Prosperity Resource Kit and Training Program AND I want to take a step “back to the future” and invite you to be a more direct co-creator of what’s next for all of us:

The Final Call: Value Pricing for Prosperity Resource Kit

Recently, I sent out an e-mail asking if anyone was interested in a complimentary “Value Pricing for Prosperity Resource Kit” that I am THINKING about creating.

I didn’t want to make this thing, if you didn’t want it… so I first wanted to see if people were interested.

A number of you expressed interest, and as a result, starting tomorrow, only people on the “Value Pricing for Prosperity Interest List” will receive insider information on my upcoming Value Pricing for Prosperity Training Program and…they will also receive the free Resource Kit.

(Not everyone on my list is interested in pricing and business financial management strategies, and I want to be considerate of them and make sure they don’t get bombarded with information they don’t want or need, so only those who are interested will get the emails).

If you want to get the Resource Kit that’s coming shortly and all the good stuff I’ve got coming your way, I invite you to join the “Value Pricing for Prosperity Interest List” below now:

What’s Next for All of Us?

I feel very passionate about pricing and helping people who are not charging what they are worth. But not everyone needs — or is ready — to deal with how they price their programs, products, and services.

A lot of high-minded, big-hearted, service-oriented professionals are struggling out there, but not for lack of commitment and effort. Over and over again, I’ve seen on-going frustration with people’s businesses because they People aren’t even coming close to fulfilling on emerging possibilities.

Though I’ve been fortunate enough to have success multiple times in my life and to help others create it for themselves, I’m troubled by what I’m seeing happening all around me. Over and over again, I’ve seen on-going frustration with people’s businesses. People not even coming close to fulfilling on emerging possibilities. Down economy or not, I think it’s unfortunate that failure rates are as high as they are. There are so many people out there wanting to change, but aren’t getting it. And Especially motivated by the down economy and global social unrest, I think believe something needs to be done about this.

So here’s the thing:
I’m really enthusiastic about creating something for you, to build whatever it is you want. And this time, I’m NOT picking the topic. This is not about me, but instead, coming from a place of total service.

I want to make a free product for you guys, one that’s totally going to serve you.

However, I’ve noticed lately there are so many free products out there that are really nothing more than disguised marketing materials that don’t actually help you accomplish something or produce a specific outcome. What I have in mind is creating something that is going to truly help you out. And that means it’s got to have real “teeth” to it. This isn’t going to be me marketing for something bigger that you then have to pay for. It’ll be something with substance to it that will provide you with meaningful results.

This is what I’m wondering: If I do this, is this something you’re willing to invest back in, not in terms of money: I’m giving this away for free. This is going to be something that you’re actually going to be able to use, learn and apply.

I’m wondering if you’d be willing to help co-create this free product.

Look, we all have our hang ups, our fears, our doubts, and our concerns. We each have limiting beliefs, mistaken views of the world, and ineffective habits that hold us back. I know from my own experience, and from the work I’ve done with my own clients, that you can get past these issues and focus your efforts on things that really demand your particular skills, experience, and wisdom.

I don’t like standing around, waiting for something to happen, so I’m willing to invest my time and energy into making good things happen.

Would anyone be interested if I put time and energy into this? I just need to hear from you: What is it that you need to know? What do you need help with? What’s in the way of you becoming a solid success? So just let me know what it is by leaving comments below.

Based on the comments you leave, I’ll sort through the topics and we’ll “vote” on what to build first.

Together, we can make changes that will help you get the results you – and others — want. And that’s good for all of us, to help each other to thrive, prosper, and share our gifts. I’m willing to do my part here.

Are you up for it?

To freedom, contribution, and prosperity,