How to Help Math-Lovers (and Math-Haters) Translate the Numbers That Animate Our World

We live in a world in which our success often depends on our ability to make numbers count.

There are some authors from which I will preorder their book without question. They demonstrate the rare ability to communicate concepts with ease, giving the reader just enough information to satisfy without being overly verbose. They present an intriguing concept, provide in-depth information, and make you wonder, “That’s simply brilliant.” And better yet, they provide solid application – ways to help you translate information into action.

Chip Heath is one of those.

Along with co-author Karla Starr, Heath’s new book Making Numbers Count arrived on my porch yesterday, and I eagerly consumed it overnight.

We lose information when we don’t translate numbers into instinctive human experiences.

Chip Heath & Karla Starr, Making Numbers Count

The subtitle, “The Art of Science of Communicating Numbers” is well-stated. Using four broad categories, the authors proceed to capture readers with stories, examples, and applications of how important numbers are in our everyday lives, and more importantly, how we can use them to communicate clearly to our audience – whether our family or organization-wide.

The categories are:

  • Translate everything, favor user-friendly numbers
  • To help people grasp your numbers, ground them in the familiar, concrete, and human scale
  • Use emotional numbers – surprising and meaningful – to move people to think and act differently
  • Build a scale model

In typical fashion, Heath provides footnotes that satisfy the curious and enough endnotes (31 pages!) to make even the most avid researcher approve.


How much bigger is a billion than a million?

Well, a million seconds is twelve days. A billion seconds is…thirty-two years.

Understanding numbers is essential—but humans aren’t built to understand them. Until very recently, most languages had no words for numbers greater than five—anything from six to infinity was known as “lots.” While the numbers in our world have gotten increasingly complex, our brains are stuck in the past. How can we translate millions and billions and milliseconds and nanometers into things we can comprehend and use?

Author Chip Heath has excelled at teaching others about making ideas stick and here, in Making Numbers Count, he outlines specific principles that reveal how to translate a number into our brain’s language. This book is filled with examples of extreme number makeovers, vivid before-and-after examples that take a dry number and present it in a way that people click in and say “Wow, now I get it!”

You will learn principles such as:

SIMPLE PERSPECTIVE CUES: researchers at Microsoft found that adding one simple comparison sentence doubled how accurately users estimated statistics like population and area of countries.
VIVIDNESS: get perspective on the size of a nucleus by imagining a bee in a cathedral, or a pea in a racetrack, which are easier to envision than “1/100,000th of the size of an atom.”
CONVERT TO A PROCESS: capitalize on our intuitive sense of time (5 gigabytes of music storage turns into “2 months of commutes, without repeating a song”).
EMOTIONAL MEASURING STICKS: frame the number in a way that people already care about (“that medical protocol would save twice as many women as curing breast cancer”).

Whether you’re interested in global problems like climate change, running a tech firm or a farm, or just explaining how many Cokes you’d have to drink if you burned calories like a hummingbird, this book will help math-lovers and math-haters alike translate the numbers that animate our world—allowing us to bring more data, more naturally, into decisions in our schools, our workplaces, and our society.

A clear, practical, first-of-its-kind guide to communicating and understanding numbers and data—from bestselling business author Chip Heath.


We believe in numbers not as background, not as decorations, but as central points, with profound stories to tell. We believe in numbers, deeply. We believe in making them count.

Chip Heath & Karla Starr


Part of a regular series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

During my elementary school years one of the things I looked forward to the most was the delivery of “My Weekly Reader,” a weekly educational magazine designed for children and containing news-based, current events.

It became a regular part of my love for reading, and helped develop my curiosity about the world around us.

Are You REALLY Listening, or Just Waiting to Talk?

How many people do you know that approach a conversation as if it were a competition, going something like this: When I pause, you jump in with your thoughts; when you pause, I jump back in so I can top your story or hijack the conversation back to my side.

It’s a fight for control.

Your conversations will be smoother and more successful if you remember that every sentence in a conversation has a history, and you have to practice deliberate listening skills to understand that history better so you can understand the person behind it better.

There’s another way to look at it. The human brain can process somewhere between 350 and 550 words a minute, while most people usually only speak around 120 words a minute. In virtually every exchange of communication, each participating brain has room for 230-375 extra words’ worth of thought to float around. That gives our minds plenty of chance to drift and wander, whether we’re the one speaking or listening.

It’s so easy to slide into the basic communication pitfall of drifting away from the person speaking, often thinking about what we’re going to say next rather than being focused on what we’re communicating or what’s being said to us.

It’s time to challenge your brain to stay in the moment, to be fully present in listening to a conversation, not just preparing how you’re going to respond.

It’s called active listening.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Good Talk by Daniel Stillman

Leadership is the art of designing transformative conversations.

Real change is needed, now, more than ever. This change can’t happen through force, edict or persuasion. The future will be built through conversation – and Good Talk will show you how.

Good Talk is a step-by-step framework to effect change in your personal and professional conversations. With dozens of tools and interactive components, Good Talk is a handbook to navigate the conversations that matter.

What’s Inside:

  • How to see the structure of conversations. Life is built one messy, slippery conversation at a time. While conversations feel hard to hold onto, ebbing and flowing, back and forth and into eventual silence, they each have a structure. The first step to changing your conversations is seeing what’s going on between the silence.
  • What is your Conversation Operating System? Who gets invited to the conversation? Who speaks first? Where does the conversation take place? What happens if someone messes up? In every conversation, there are elements that guide the exchange. The nine elements of the Conversation OS Canvas can help you to shift the direction of your conversations.
  • What is your conversational range? Conversations are more than dialogue. From the conversations in your head to the complex conversation that is your organization, you need to design conversations that matter across a huge range of sizes. Learn to master conversations from the boardroom and beyond.
  • How to design conversations that matter. The world needs fresh, creative conversations that are alive, and that work for all the people involved. How can you design conversations that matter? Leadership means designing the conditions for these conversations to happen. Learn the patterns and principles to make change possible.


A SIMPLE SOLUTION 

According to author Daniel Stillman, when two people are in a conversation, we take turns listening and speaking. 

What do we do with our turns?

Do you listen, or do you just wait to talk? 

Or do you take the role of listener seriously and enjoy your turn as the listener?

In conversation, we “see” speaking, whereas listening looks like “doing nothing.”

How often in conversations have you interrupted (intentionally or accidentally) the conversation, derailing the other person’s train of thought?

In your eagerness to move the conversation forward, to take your turn, you’ve stopped their turn too soon.

When two people are in a conversation, we take turns speaking and listening. Understanding your “turn-taking” patterns can dramatically shift your conversations for the better.

Daniel Stillman

Conversations can look like a sloshing sea of opinions and arguments, but there’s a pattern underlaying the seeming chaos. There are only a few distinct “moves” we can make inside a conversation, diagrammed below.

Are you someone tho prefers to take a turn? Or do you tend to wait and see which way the wind blows? The former is an “initiator” (at the base of the diamond); the latter is someone who “holds” space at waits (at the center).

Once someone has opened their mouth and opened the floor, what happens next? Some of us tend to immediately react, either positively or negatively (at the apex of the diagram). In both reactions, that move is fairly habitual. I’m sure you know someone who always has something nice to say about everything, or maybe you hang out with people who always focus on the negative.

The default reaction of listening deeply before expressing an opinion is a “reflective” response, seen on the right side of the diagram. This individual peels back layers of meaning before adding their own.

The fifth option could be to reframe the conversation. Reframing can look like “glass half full” thinking, or shifting problems into opportunities. Reframing can powerfully shift a conversation, or feel like an unwelcome erasure of a real issue on the table.

Each of these five “moves” steers the ship of the conversation.

Daniel Stillman, Good Talk

A NEXT STEP

Use the following “active listening script” from author Daniel Stillman to frame how you can deepen your connection with people.

  1. Paraphrase what you just heard the person say in neutral terms. Start with the phrase, “I’m hearing you say…” You can also use the phrase, “Okay, wait…” to give yourself a second to get centered.
  2. Confirm your summary, asking, “Is that right?” Or “Did I get that?”
  3. If they say yes; ask, “Is there anything I missed?” Go deeper.
  4. Wait. Count to three. If they confirm that there’s more, they’ll say more. If they indicate that you got it wrong, they will correct you if you give them time.
  5. Lather, rinse, repeat. Try step 1 again, or continue with normal turn-taking if you feel comfortable doing so.

Part of a regular series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

During my elementary school years one of the things I looked forward to the most was the delivery of “My Weekly Reader,” a weekly educational magazine designed for children and containing news-based, current events.

It became a regular part of my love for reading, and helped develop my curiosity about the world around us.

Do You Know How to Use Empathetic Listening Skills?

How many people do you know that approach a conversation as if it were a competition, going something like this: When I pause, you jump in with your thoughts; when you pause, I jump back in so I can top your story or hijack the conversation back to my side.

It’s a fight for control.

Your conversations will be smoother and more successful if you remember that every sentence in a conversation has a history, and you have to practice deliberate listening skills to understand that history better so you can understand the person behind it better.

There’s another way to look at it. The human brain can process somewhere between 350 and 550 words a minute, while most people usually only speak around 120 words a minute. In virtually every exchange of communication, each participating brain has room for 230-375 extra words’ worth of thought to float around. That gives our minds plenty of chance to drift and wander, whether we’re the one speaking or listening.

It’s so easy to slide into the basic communication pitfall of drifting away from the person speaking, often thinking about what we’re going to say next rather than being focused on what we’re communicating or what’s being said to us.

It’s time to challenge your brain to stay in the moment, to be fully present in listening to a conversation, not just preparing how you’re going to respond.

It’s called active listening.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – 4 Essential Keys to Effective Communication by Bento C. Leal III

4 Essential Keys to Effective Communication in Love, Life, Work–Anywhere! is an excellent ‘How-To Guide’ for practicing the key skills that will help you identify and overcome communication barriers and achieve relationship success with the important people in your life–your spouse or partner, child or children, parents, siblings, friends, co-workers, customers–everyone!

These skills will help you to:

  • Listen with greater empathy and understanding to what the other person is saying and feeling
  • Avoid listening blocks to effective communication
  • Engage in empathic dialogue to achieve mutual understanding
  • Manage conflicts and disagreements calmly and successfully
  • Nurture your relationships on a consistent basis
  • Experience the power of expressing gratitude and appreciation

An Action Guide at the end of the book will help you practice a particular skill step each day thus growing in confidence and ability as you do.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

According to author Bento Leal, most of us think we are fairly decent listeners. In other words, when another person is speaking, we are listening, and basically understanding what they are saying – end of story.

However, if we are honest, many times in a conversation our minds wander off while the other person is speaking.

Or, when another person is speaking to us, we are thinking about our response to them rather than focusing on what they are saying in the moment.

What about jumping in with your own ideas while the other person is still speaking to you?

The problem with all of the above situations is that we are not really empathizing with the speaker, and trying to understand their meaning from their point of view, particularly on topics that are of importance to them.

The power of Empathic Listening can help make a healthy relationship even better, and it can help a relationship that’s veered off course move back into a positive direction.

Bento C. Leall III

The Empathetic Listening Skill has 5 steps:

  1. Quiet your mind and focus on the other person as they are speaking. As we listen to what the other person is saying, focusing on their underlying feelings about what they’re saying, and try to get “locked in” to their perspective, the peripheral distractions will start to disappear.
  2. Listen fully and openly to what they are saying, in their words and body language, without bias, defensiveness, or thinking about what you’ll say next. Actively listen. As we do so, we’ll likely get the full meaning of what they’re communicating.
  3. Listen “through the words” to the deeper thoughts and feelings that you sense from the speaker. If I only listen to the words you say, and with only my definition of those words, then I might get only a surface understanding of what you’re trying to communicate. 
  4. Don’t interrupt them as they are speaking to you or try to finish their sentences. Just listen! Interrupting other people when they are speaking is a major communication problem, even when people think they are showing empathy by “engaging” the speaker by talking while the speaker is talking or they think this will help speed up the conversation.
  5. Say back to them, in your own words, what they said and their feelings that you sensed from them to make sure you understand them correctly and they feel understood. They may think they explained themselves fully, but by your feedback – saying back in your own words what they said – they will clearly know if it was enough or if they need to explain more.

Bento C. Leal III, 4 Essential Keys to Effective Communication

A NEXT STEP 

Set aside time in a future meeting to practice the five steps listed above.

Prior to the meeting, copy and distribute this to all of your team members. Ask them to read it in preparation for a team exercise. Also ask them to come prepared to discuss a personal or work situation that they are stuck on, and need advice.

Divide your teams in groups of two; if you have an odd number on your team, have one group consist of three members.

Set a timer for seven minutes. Ask one individual to share his problem, and ask the other individual to listen. When the time is up, ask the group to switch roles.

When the second timer is up, set aside ten minutes, and ask each group member to take no more than five minutes each.  Go through the five steps above, and have each member discuss how their partner did or did not adequately use empathic listening as described in the step.

At the end of this ten-minute period, call the entire group together, and spend 10-15 minutes discussing how this exercise can be used in their personal and team settings to be a better listener, and therefore, a better leader.

By consensus, determine the one step that the team needs to work on, by determination of how it was used in the group exercise. At each team meeting for the next month, use three minutes as a reminder to strengthen this step, and ask for one “celebration” story each month of how a team member successfully used it.


Part of a regular series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

During my elementary school years one of the things I looked forward to the most was the delivery of “My Weekly Reader,” a weekly educational magazine designed for children and containing news-based, current events.

It became a regular part of my love for reading, and helped develop my curiosity about the world around us.

How to Practice the Art of Active Listening

How many people do you know that approach a conversation as if it were a competition, going something like this: When I pause, you jump in with your thoughts; when you pause, I jump back in so I can top your story or hijack the conversation back to my side.

It’s a fight for control.

Your conversations will be smoother and more successful if you remember that every sentence in a conversation has a history, and you have to practice deliberate listening skills to understand that history better so you can understand the person behind it better.

There’s another way to look at it. The human brain can process somewhere between 350 and 550 words a minute, while most people usually only speak around 120 words a minute. In virtually every exchange of communication, each participating brain has room for 230-375 extra words’ worth of thought to float around. That gives our minds plenty of chance to drift and wander, whether we’re the one speaking or listening.

It’s so easy to slide into the basic communication pitfall of drifting away from the person speaking, often thinking about what we’re going to say next rather than being focused on what we’re communicating or what’s being said to us.

It’s time to challenge your brain to stay in the moment, to be fully present in listening to a conversation, not just preparing how you’re going to respond.

It’s called active listening.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Communication Skills Training by James W. Williams

Have you ever been misunderstood and misinterpreted? Do you sometimes misunderstand or misinterpret the signals you are receiving?

These situations indicate the inability to communicate appropriately, and it can prove to be detrimental in life and your career. You might be surprised at how many opportunities you could be missing out on. Likewise, a lot of relationships have been ruined because people do not know how to send out the right signals or receive them properly.

What if I told you that “communicating” is not only simple and straightforward but also easy to master?

However, with so much false information taught by the “gurus,” it is sometimes hard to cut through the noise. That’s where this book comes in.

This book will give you everything you need to become a better and more effective communicator.

The book Communication Skills Training: How to Talk to Anyone, Connect Effortlessly, Develop Charisma, and Become a People Person provides a comprehensive guide on how you can quickly move through conversations, and express yourself in a manner that is conducive to relationship-building and productivity.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

According to author James Williams, many people do not fully realize the impact successful, two-way conversations have on our daily lives.

While most of us feel comfortable at some level speaking to others, many people do not understand the importance of “listening” in a conversation.

You might be surprised to find out that the ability to process information being directed at you is just as important as clearly conveying your thoughts and ideas. 

But listening is not enough. You also have to do it in an empathetic and attentive manner in order to carry on a conversation.

Surprisingly, one of the most important tools that you need to develop in your communication skills is not your mouth. It is those two things on either side of your head.

James W. Williams

The most basic explanation of active listening is that it is the kind of listening that involves the use of one’s full concentration. The goal of this type of listening is to understand the person delivering the message.

Active listening is a skill which you have to develop over time. To do this, here are some steps to help you make yourself an active and effective listener.

  1. Eye Contact

When you talk to a person and you try your best to avoid meeting their eyes, this is a telltale sign that you are not giving the conversation your full attention. When a person is speaking to you, stay focused on your gaze to lock your attention to the conversation at hand.

2. Relax

There is a difference between making eye contact and staring fixedly at the person. The goal is to maintain focus while tuning out all distractions.

3. An Open Mind

Indulging in mental criticisms in the middle of a conversation will impede your ability to effectively listen to the other person. You must listen without making any hasty conclusions.

4. Visualize

The best way to retain and process information in your brain is to convert that information into a “mental image” of sorts. This could be a sequence of abstract things forming a narrative or even an actual mental picture.

5. Avoid Interjections

When you interrupt a person, you convey messages of self-importance or pressing time. What you have to understand is that people think and feel at very different paces.

6. Wait for the Stop

A stop in a conversation happens when a person does not add anything else after a second or so of not talking. Once the stop has occurred, you can then present your response.

7. Maintain Course

The things that we say right after a person is done talking have, more often than not, nothing to do with the topic, but it is easy to derail an entire conversation this way.

8. Step in Their Shoes

Learn to synchronize your emotions with that of the speaker’s. Make your reactions visible through the words you say and the expressions you show.

9. Give Feedback

It is not enough that you see things from that person’s perspective or understand what they are feeling. You also have to visibly confirm to the speaker that you are listening.

10. Pay Attention to What Isn’t Said

Most of the direct forms of communication you will regularly encounter are non-verbal. It is up to you to know how to pick up on non-verbal clues.

James W. Williams, Communication Skills Training

A NEXT STEP

Set aside an hour of time to use the list above as a “self-check” on your active listening skills.

First, review the list above to make sure you have a good understanding of what the author is trying to convey in defining the characteristic of listening.

Next, write each phrase down the left side of a chart tablet for use during the rest of this exercise.

Next, thinking back over the past week, briefly write words or a phrase that demonstrates when you DID or DID NOT use this characteristic in a conversation. Your goal should be to have at least one example (positive or negative) for each of the ten characteristics.

Next, review the list, and circle up to three characteristics that you DID NOT practice. Choose one, and brainstorm how you will improve in this area in your conversations over the next week. At the end of the week, reflect on how you have done. 

Repeat this last step for the next two weeks if you listed any characteristics that needed improving.

This exercise can also be easily adapted for use in your team meetings.


Part of a regular series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

During my elementary school years one of the things I looked forward to the most was the delivery of “My Weekly Reader,” a weekly educational magazine designed for children and containing news-based, current events.

It became a regular part of my love for reading, and helped develop my curiosity about the world around us.

Along with early and ongoing encouragement from my parents – especially my father – reading was established as a passion in my life that I was happy to continually learn from, share with my children, and watch them share with their children.

How to Transform Your Communication Using Data Stories

Most church leaders, especially the senior pastor or teaching pastor, rightfully view their skills as a communicator to be one of the most important aspects of their position. From the weekly sermon to regular leadership meetings to training and development presentations to special, one off events, the spoken word is of paramount importance to church leaders.

With all the information in data form available to you, how do you communicate it?

To be the most effective communicators we can be, leaders must learn to use the data we need to communicate as a powerful narrative – a narrative that others will recall and retell.

 

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Data Story, by Nancy Duarte

Scientists have proven that stories make the brain light up in ways no other form of communication does. Using story frameworks as a communication device for data will help make your recommendations stick and be acted on.

Organizations use data to identify problems or opportunities. The actions others may need to take today from your insights in data could reverse or improve the trajectory of your future data. So, communicating data well drives very important outcomes.

Even though most roles depend on data, communicating well is the top skill gap in roles using data. The essential skill for today’s leaders (and aspiring leaders) is shaping data into narratives that make a clear recommendation and inspire others to act. 

Almost every role today uses data for decision-making. As you grow in your career, you can become a strategic advisor and ultimately a leader using data to shape a future where humanity and organizations flourish.

Duarte and her team have culled through thousands of data slides of her clients in technology, finance, healthcare, and consumer products, to decode how the highest performing brands communicate with data.

Data Story teaches you the most effective ways to turn your data into narratives that blend the power of language, numbers, and graphics. This book is not about visualizing data; there are plenty of books covering that. Instead, you’ll learn how to transform numbers into narratives to drive action.

  • It will help you communicate data in a way that creates outcomes both inside and outside your own organization.
  • It will help you earn a reputation as a trusted advisor, which will advance your career.
  • It will help your organization make faster decisions and inspire others to act on them!

Nancy Duarte is one of the preeminent storytellers in American business and the acclaimed author of Slide:ologyResonate, and the HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations comes this book that will help you transform numbers into narratives.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Author Nancy Duarte poses this interesting question in her book, Data Story: “What if you sliced data and found a huge problem or opportunity?”

She goes on, saying, “Data did its job, but now it needs a storyteller. How insights are communicated could reverse or improve the trajectory of data. The actions you ask others to take today change your future data.”

The best communicators make data concise and clearly structured while telling a convincing and memorable story.

Data doesn’t speak for itself; it needs a storyteller.

With prolific digital devices and technological advancements, every person, place, thing, or idea can be measured and tracked in some way. But without identifying the story emerging from the data, it’s of little to no value. 

Why is storytelling so important? Because the human brain is wired to process stories. By transforming your data into vivid scenes and structuring your delivery in the shape of a story, you will make your audience care about what your data says.

Story is the primary method used to engage hearts and spur action. Storytelling makes the brain light up in a way no other form of communication does. Story has the ability to help the listener embrace how they may need to change, because the message transfers into their heart and mind.

Stories engage our senses

When we find ourselves hooked to a particular storyline, that resonance begins in our brains. This is the first trigger to enabling a physical and emotional response.

Stories bring us closer together

If you’ve ever felt a wave of emotion while listening to a story, that’s because our brains are naturally activated and eager to physically process the emotion associated with oral description.

Stories move us to feel

Giving your audience a vicarious thrill puts them at the center of your story, making them feel like they are the hero themselves.

Stories move us to act

Stories that capture our attention cause us toe emotionally connect with others and feel motivated to embark on a course of action.

Nancy Duarte, Data Story

A NEXT STEP 

Author Nancy Duarte suggests the following ideas to help transform numbers into narratives. Try these out the next time you have to communicate data to your audience.

Attach the data to something relatable. To help your audience understand the magnitude of the data, compare it to things that are familiar to them.

Develop a sense of scale. While data must always be precise, trying to help others understand it doesn’t have to be. Approximations help convey the scale of the number quickly.

Connect data to relatable size. Common measures of length, area, and volume can be compared to relatable objects in our lives.

Connect data to relatable time. Time and speed, because of their familiar use in our lives, are a good source of comparison.

Compare data to relatable things. Along with size, time, and speed to understand a number, compare various nouns to one another to comprehend quantity and scale.

Express how you feel about the data. Let your emotions about outcomes show.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 133-2, December 2019.


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<

Connect Better by Fast-Focusing on Listening

Many, if not most, leaders consider themselves good speakers. The basics are simple: leaders speak, their audience listens, and then they act on what was said.

Leaders also know that rarely happens, and that there’s really much more to it than that. While it may be easy to speak to groups of all sizes and on many diverse topics, one critical question remains: “Are we connecting with our audience?”

To fully connect with an audience, leaders need to understand “empathy.” While you may not equate the word empathy with excellent communication skills, it actually is the secret to connecting with your audience. 

When you are able to put yourself in another person’s shoes, and try to see things from their point of view, their world, and their perspective, you will have a greater chance at both reaching and connecting with them.

THE QUICK SUMMARY

You made a great point — but did anybody hear it?

Probably not, warns high-stakes communication expert Paul Hellman. The average attention span has dropped to 8 seconds.

So whether you’re presenting to a large audience, meeting one-on-one, talking on the phone, or even sending an email, you’ve got to engage others fast, before they tune you out, maybe forever.

Your challenge: to get heard, get remembered and get results.

Through fast, fun, actionable tips, You’ve Got 8 Seconds explains what works and what doesn’t, what’s forgettable and what sticks. With stories, scripts, and examples of good and bad messages, the book reveals three main strategies to get heard in a noisy world:

  • FOCUS: Design a strong message–then say it in seconds.
  • VARIETY: Make routine information come alive. 
  • PRESENCE: Convey confidence and command attention.


A SIMPLE SOLUTION 

People discover unseen opportunities when they have a personal and empathic connection with the world around them.

Dev Patnaik

How easy is it for you as a leader to imagine yourself in the place of those you lead? Do you intuitively understand the lives and stories of your audience? That may be made easier by the fact that your audience most likely “looks” like you in many areas – socially, economically, and spiritually to name a few. But what if your audience is different than you?

How can you connect with people who aren’t like you?

Yes, it is easier to connect with other people who are like us, but that doesn’t mean leaders can’t understand – and communicate – with people who are different from us.

Most messages, spoken or written, are designed from the speaker’s point of view. That’s upside down. Imagine you’re the audience. What would capture your attention?

The point is, your audience is probably not thinking about you. But to capture attention, you need to think about them. Be the audience.

Your audience, whether you are talking to 100 people at work or one person at home, has three questions, always the same.

Why should I listen (or read this)?

What exactly are you saying?

What should I do with this information?

To fast-focus your message, answer these three questions.

First Audience Question: Why Should I Listen

Fast-focus with a purpose statement.

A purpose statement is like a present. You immediately hook people with something they value. It’s a great way to state what you’re going to talk about and, more importantly, why. Why answers the audience’s question: “Why should we listen?”

Second Audience Question: What Exactly Are You Saying?

Fast-focus with your main message.

Third Audience Question: What Should I Do with This Information?

Fast-focus with a call to action.

A call to action spells out the next step. It’s usually about doing something. But if that doesn’t fit, the next stop could be to think something or feel something.

Paul Hellman, You’ve Got :08 Seconds

A NEXT STEP

Draw the following chart on a chart tablet.

With the chart and the following suggestions from author Paul Hellman, prepare your next presentation/message/communication with the Fast-Focus concepts.

  1. The Opening – The purpose statement is the hook that entices the audience to pay attention. The agenda statement that follows says how you’ll accomplish the purpose.
  2. The Body – If your audience could only remember one thing, what’s the one thing? Use a limited number of key points to develop the message.
  3. The Close – Close your presentation on a powerful note. What’s the next step? What should the audience do? If there’s nothing to do, then the call to action can also be what to think or what to feel.

Following the delivery of this presentation, pull together two-three associates and ask them to critique this presentation in terms of previous presentations on a similar topic. Listen with an open mind for possible areas of improvement.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 129-3, released October 2019


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<

Broadcast Attention by Knowing Your Thread

When Thomas Davenport and John Beck wrote the book The Attention Economy, they brought a very important message to church leaders. The book argues that information and talent are no longer your most important resource but rather attention itself. People cannot hear the vision unless we cut through the clutter.

The principle of attention requires church leaders to be bold and relevant as they integrate vision into the internal communication of the church. According to Davenport and Beck, these are the most important characteristics to get attention:

  • The communication is personalized.
  • The communication comes from a trustworthy source.
  • The communication is brief.
  • The communication is emotional.

In other words, your communication should be telling stories.

And your stories start with knowing your thread.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Be Known for Something by Mark MacDonald

Pastor, communicator, ministry leader… listen to your community!

— 80% of evangelical churches are in decline or stagnation.

— A third of our communities have no perceived need for a local church.

— Many churches aren’t known for anything relevant in their communities.

The solution: Be known for something that will reconnect you to your community. Embark on an eye-opening journey to revitalize your church’s reputation, control your message, and create a communication strategy for reaching the lost for Jesus Christ.

Your church needs to reconnect with community. This book will help you to discover how.

Mark MacDonald, a leading voice in effective church communication, shares fascinating stories to help you discover your unique thread that will…

  • Revitalize your church’s reputation
  • Simplify your church’s messaging
  • Tear down your ministry silos
  • Attract people to your church

Be Known For Something is the answer to engaging your congregation while encouraging church growth from your community.

Discover your thread in this easy-to-read and easy-to-lead book. Learn how to control it, communicate it, and live it.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

The sitcom “Cheers,” a hit for 11 seasons, may be best remembered for the refrain of its theme song: “where everybody knows your name.”

What about your church? Does your community “know your name?” Not the literal name of your church, but the “who” and “what” and “why” of your church.

Maybe that question needs to be preceded with another, more telling one: Do your members “know your name?”

According to “Be Known for Something” author Mark MacDonald, if your members and regular attenders don’t know what their church was known for, the community certainly won’t hear about it.

And if your community doesn’t hear about you, or “know your name,” are you really being effective in reaching them?

Why do thousands of churches fail annually while our communities have lost interest in our ministries? Perhaps, there’s a thread we can discover so that we can reconnect with our local community where God planted us…a thread that God will use to grow His Church and your ministry.

Do you know what your thread is? Here are the criteria to weigh your ideas and create a successful communication thread:

It needs to be simple.

This short statement (1-5 words) needs to be a simple concept that people will embrace and remember.

It needs to be somewhat “open” in thought.

The more specific the statement is, the harder it will be to “roll it out” across your ministry.

It needs to be emotionally charged.

Consider the emotion someone will have when he or she experiences the benefit. Make sure this emotion is the feeling you or your church exudes.

It needs to be benefit-driven.

The statement should refer to a solution and, therefore, a prominent pain or a path to a goal.

It needs to feel like your congregation.

Be biblical, genuine, authentic, and real.

It needs to be unique.

The more unique you are in the communication thread, the easier it will be for you to break through with it.

Your DNA scarlet thread is woven within everything you’re doing. Get your thread embedded into people’s long-term memory.

Mark MacDonald, Be Known for Something

A NEXT STEP

Use the following discussion questions by author Mark MacDonald in your next leadership team meeting to focus on discovering your church’s “thread.”

  • If our people were to go and live our mission statement, how would their lives attract non-churched people in our community?
  • If we are “being” our mission statement, what benefit would speak directly to someone in our community?
  • What’s the biggest benefit for attending our church? What would the average regular attender say it is?
  • If there’s more than one thing, do we think we could decide on the thing? The answer we want to hear regularly to this question, “so why do you attend this church?”. Would the answer encourage someone else who doesn’t attend a church now to attend?

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 118-2, released May 2019.


 

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<

 

Sharpen Your Presentation to Fuel Transformation

Do you think people care about what you have to say? The truth is that the average person doesn’t know you. It’s not that you’re not likeable or smart; it’s just a matter of survival for people in today’s world. There is simply too much out there and not enough time to take it all in.

These words by communications expert Kem Meyer succinctly point out the dilemma for communicators today: for many people, the last thing they are looking for is unsolicited information, or someone to tell them to change their ways.

And yet many, if not most, of the sermons preached by pastors attempt to do just that.

However, many people will take the time to read or listen to something that reinforces an opinion they already have or speaks to a real need in their lives. If they are not looking for it, they won’t hear it. But, if you take the time to learn what they’re looking for, you can get in on a conversation already in progress in their minds.

How then, can a leader understand their audience in such a way to make their message more receptive? How can you connect, communicate, and influence your audience toward life-long transformation?

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Five Stars by Carmine Gallo

Ideas don’t sell themselves. As the forces of globalization, automation, and artificial intelligence combine to disrupt every field, having a good idea isn’t good enough. Mastering the ancient art of persuasion is the key to standing out, getting ahead, and achieving greatness in the modern world. Communication is no longer a “soft” skill―it is the human edge that will make you unstoppable, irresistible, and irreplaceable―earning you that perfect rating, that fifth star.

In Five Stars, Carmine Gallo, bestselling author of Talk Like TED, breaks down how to apply Aristotle’s formula of persuasion to inspire contemporary audiences. As the nature of work changes, and technology carries things across the globe in a moment, communication skills become more valuable―not less. Gallo interviews neuroscientists, economists, historians, billionaires, and business leaders of companies like Google, Nike, and Airbnb to show first-hand how they use their words to captivate your imagination and ignite your dreams.

In the knowledge age―the information economy―you are only as valuable as your ideas. Five Stars is a book to help you bridge the gap between mediocrity and exceptionality, and gain your competitive edge in the age of automation.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

If your great ideas are locked in your head they are useless to you, your team, and your audience. You have to be able to explain your ideas efficiently and persuasively.

Mastering the ancient art of persuasion is the key to thriving in a world of rapid change. Developing superior communication skills is no longer an option; it’s fundamental for success. Being able to communicate persuasively and entertainingly makes a compelling case for communication as the crucial differentiator – even in this digital age.

In a world where everything and everybody is competing for the attention of your audience, the ability to communicate is becoming more important than ever.

How can you get better at transporting your thoughts and emotions into the minds of other people?

Mastering the ancient art of persuasion – combining words and ideas to move people to action – is no longer a “soft” skill. It is the fundamental skill to get from good to great in the age of ideas.

The TED stars all practice five presentation habits.

Replace bullet points with pictures

People love pictures because they are a communication tool that dates back as far as humans roamed the planet – back to the cave drawing. Study after study confirms that pictures are far more impactful – and, ultimately, memorable – than text alone.

Make the audience laugh

Humor almost always leads to engagement because it’s one of our most primal and engrained emotions. While you don’t need to be a stand-up comedian to be a hit on the TED stage, a little humor will help you stand out. If they’re laughing, they are listening.

Share personal stories

The ancient brain is wired for stories. Today neuroscientists in the lab are using science to prove what we’ve know for thousands of years – stories are the best tool we have to develop deep, meaningful connections with those we wish to persuade. Facts don’t launch careers; stories do. Facts don’t launch movements; stories do.

Make presentations easy to follow

Skilled TED speakers use humor, tell stories, and structure the argument so that it’s easy to follow and easy to remember. They rely on two specific techniques to do so: headlines and the rule of three.

Promise your audience that they will learn something new

Learning is addictive, thanks to that part of our brain known as the amygdala. When you receive new information, the amygdala releases dopamine, which acts as your brain’s natural “save” button. The need to explore, to learn, something new, to be attracted to something that stands out is wired deep in our DNA. Give your audience something new and delicious to chew on.

Carmine Gallo, Five Stars

A NEXT STEP

While preparing for your next communication opportunity, take the time to review the five ideas above, using them to sharpen your presentation skills.

On a chart tablet, write the five key points listed above, leaving space below each one.

With an outline of your topic in hand, go down the list and write in ideas and actions that can be used for each of the points. After you have finished, review the list and choose at least one from each of the five areas to implement.

Prior to your presentation, enlist the help of a close friend or colleague who is familiar with your communication style. Tell them you would like for them to listen to your presentation, taking notes on not just the information being presented, but also the style and methods used.

Within a day after the event, arrange for a “debrief” with your friend or colleague. Bring out the chart tablet, and make notes from the debrief on it in a different color.

Use the debrief time to sharpen your presentation skills by adding the ideas and actions that worked to your regular preparation and presentation methods.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 104-3, released October 2018.


 

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

Do You Approach Communication as a Negotiation?

Do you think people care about what you have to say? The truth is that the average person doesn’t know you. It’s not that you’re not likeable or smart; it’s just a matter of survival for people in today’s world. There is simply too much out there and not enough time to take it all in.

These words by communications expert Kem Meyer succinctly point out the dilemma for communicators today: for many people, the last thing they are looking for is unsolicited information, or someone to tell them to change their ways.

And yet many, if not most, of the sermons preached by pastors attempt to do just that.

However, many people will take the time to read or listen to something that reinforces an opinion they already have or speaks to a real need in their lives. If they are not looking for it, they won’t hear it. But, if you take the time to learn what they’re looking for, you can get in on a conversation already in progress in their minds.

How then, can a leader understand their audience in such a way to make their message more receptive? How can you connect, communicate, and influence your audience toward life-long transformation?

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss

A former international hostage negotiator for the FBI offers a new, field-tested approach to high-stakes negotiations—whether in the boardroom or at home.

After a stint policing the rough streets of Kansas City, Missouri, Chris Voss joined the FBI, where his career as a hostage negotiator brought him face-to-face with a range of criminals, including bank robbers and terrorists. Reaching the pinnacle of his profession, he became the FBI’s lead international kidnapping negotiator. Never Split the Difference takes you inside the world of high-stakes negotiations and into Voss’s head, revealing the skills that helped him and his colleagues succeed where it mattered most: saving lives. In this practical guide, he shares the nine effective principles—counterintuitive tactics and strategies—you too can use to become more persuasive in both your professional and personal life.

Life is a series of negotiations you should be prepared for: buying a car, negotiating a salary, buying a home, renegotiating rent, deliberating with your partner. Taking emotional intelligence and intuition to the next level, Never Split the Difference gives you the competitive edge in any discussion.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Mention the word “negotiation” in a conversation, and the likely mental image involves police in a hostage situation, or maybe a high-powered business deal.

While those would be technically correct, at it’s very basic, negotiation is a method by which people settle differences. It is a process by which compromise or agreement is reached while avoiding argument and dispute.

In any disagreement, individuals understandably aim to achieve the best possible outcome for their position (or perhaps an organization they represent). However, the principles of fairness, seeking mutual benefit and maintaining a relationship are the keys to a successful outcome.

As a leader who is communicating a message, you are negotiating. Your listeners may be neutral toward your topic, or even against it. Even if they are “for” it, you would like to bring them on board even more.

It’s important for leaders to understand how urgent, essential, and even beautiful negotiations can be. When we embrace negotiating’s transformative possibilities, we learn how to get what we want and how to move others to a better place.

Negotiation serves two distinct, vital life functions – information gathering and behavior influencing – and includes almost any interaction where each party wants something from the other side.

Negotiation is nothing more than communication with results. Getting what you want out of life is all about getting what you want from – and with – other people. Conflict between two parties is inevitable in all relationships. So it’s useful – crucial, even – to know how to engage in that conflict to get what you want without inflicting damage.

Great negotiators are able to question the assumptions that the rest of the involved players accept on faith or in arrogance, and thus remain more emotionally open to all possibilities, and more intellectually agile to a fluid situation.

Learning the art of negotiation will help you get over the fear of conflict and encourage you to navigate it with empathy. If you are going to be great at anything – a great negotiator, a great manager, a great husband, a great wife – you’re going to have to do that.

You’re going to have to embrace regular, thoughtful conflict as the basis of effective negotiation – and of life. Your adversary is the situation and that the person you appear to be in conflict with is actually your partner.

More than a little research has shown that genuine, honest conflict between people over their goals actually helps energize the problem-solving process in a collaborative way. Skilled negotiators have a talent for using conflict to keep the negotiation going without stumbling into a personal battle.

Chris Voss, Never Split the Difference

A NEXT STEP

According to author Chris Voss, “negotiation is primarily a language of conversations and rapport: a way of quickly establishing relationships and getting people to talk and think together.”

Here are a few key lessons from Voss as you begin the journey of learning to be a negotiator.

  • A good negotiator prepares, going in, to be ready for possible surprises; a great negotiator aims to use her skills to reveal the surprises she is certain to find.
  • Don’t commit to assumptions; instead, use them as hypotheses and use the negotiation to test them regularly.
  • People who view negotiation as a battle of arguments become overwhelmed by the voices in their head. Negotiation is not an act of battle; it’s a process of discovery. The goal is to uncover as much information as possible.
  • Put a smile on your face. When people are in a positive frame of mind, they think more quickly, and are more likely to collaborate and problem-solve (instead of fight and resist). Positivity creates mental agility in both you and your counterpart.

Every negotiation, every conversation, every moment of life, is a series of small conflicts that, managed well, can rise to creative beauty.

In preparation for your next communication opportunity of any kind, review the quotes from author Chris Voss above and the four key lessons. Using those key lessons, prepare ahead of time how you will approach the communication.

After the communication, review how it went, what the impact of using one or more of Voss’ key lessons had on the conversation, and what you would do differently next time.

If applicable, ask a trusted friend or colleague who was present during the communication if they noticed anything differently in how you conducted the conversation.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 104-2, released October 2018.


 

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

 

How to Leverage “Pre-suasion” to Gain Attention

Do you think people care about what you have to say? The truth is that the average person doesn’t know you. It’s not that you’re not likable or smart; it’s just a matter of survival for people in today’s world. There is simply too much out there and not enough time to take it all in.

These words by communications expert Kem Meyer succinctly point out the dilemma for communicators today: for many people, the last thing they are looking for is unsolicited information, or someone to tell them to change their ways.

And yet many, if not most, of the sermons preached by pastors attempt to do just that.

However, many people will take the time to read or listen to something that reinforces an opinion they already have or speaks to a real need in their lives. If they are not looking for it, they won’t hear it. But, if you take the time to learn what they’re looking for, you can get in on a conversation already in progress in their minds.

How then, can a leader understand their audience in such a way to make their message more receptive? How can you connect, communicate, and influence your audience toward life-long transformation?

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade by Robert Cialdini

The acclaimed New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller from Robert Cialdini – “the foremost expert on effective persuasion” (Harvard Business Review) – explains how it’s not necessarily the message itself that changes minds, but the key moment before you deliver that message.

What separates effective communicators from truly successful persuaders? With the same rigorous scientific research and accessibility that made his Influence an iconic bestseller, Robert Cialdini explains how to prepare people to be receptive to a message before they experience it. Optimal persuasion is achieved only through optimal pre-suasion. In other words, to change “minds” a pre-suader must also change “states of mind.”

Named a “Best Business Books of 2016” by the Financial Times, and “compelling” by The Wall Street Journal, Cialdini’s Pre-Suasion draws on his extensive experience as the most cited social psychologist of our time and explains the techniques a person should implement to become a master persuader. Altering a listener’s attitudes, beliefs, or experiences isn’t necessary, says Cialdini—all that’s required is for a communicator to redirect the audience’s focus of attention before a relevant action.

From studies on advertising imagery to treating opiate addiction, from the annual letters of Berkshire Hathaway to the annals of history, Cialdini outlines the specific techniques you can use on online marketing campaigns and even effective wartime propaganda. He illustrates how the artful diversion of attention leads to successful pre-suasion and gets your targeted audience primed and ready to say, “Yes.” His book is “an essential tool for anyone serious about science based business strategies…and is destined to be an instant classic.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Even the most well-planned communication opportunity often achieves lackluster results without the audience listening (and hopefully acting on your suggestions).

But what if the audience can be warmed up to your message before they even see it?

The best persuaders become the best through pre-suasion – the process of arranging for recipients to be receptive to a message before they encounter it.

Pre-suasion, a word coined by Robert Cialdini, is the process of gaining agreement with a message before it’s been sent. Although that may seem like some form of magic, it’s not. It’s established science.

That key moment is the one that allows a communicator to create a state of mind in recipients that is consistent with the forthcoming message. It’s the moment in which we can arrange for others to be attuned to our message before they encounter it. That step is crucial for maximizing desired change.

The answer involves an essential but poorly appreciated tenant of all communication: what we present first changes the way people experience what we present to them next.

The truly influential things we say and do first act to pre-suade our audiences, which then alters audience members’ associations with what we say or do next.

All told, there are any of a number of first steps besides establishing trust persuaders can take that will make audiences more redemptive to the case they intend to present.

The steps can take multiple forms, and, accordingly, they’ve been given multiple labels by behavioral scientists. They can be called frames or anchors or primes or mindsets or first impressions. I’m going to refer to them as openers – because they open up things for influence in two ways.

First, they simply initiate the process: they provide the starting points, the beginnings of persuasive appeals. But it is in their second function that they clear the way to persuasion, by removing existing barriers.

It’s because of the only-temporary receptiveness that pre-suasive actions often produce in others that I’ve introduced the concept of privileged moments.

The meaning of the word privileged is straightforward referring to special, elevated status. The word moment, though, is more complex, as it evokes a pair of meanings. One connotes a time-limited period: in this case, the window of opportunity following a pre-suasive opener, when a proposal’s power is greatest. The other connotation comes from physics and refers to a unique leveraging force that can bring about unprecedented movement. These yoke dimensions, temporal on the one hand and physical on the other, have the capacity to instigate extraordinary change in a yet third, psychological, dimension.

Robert Cialdini, Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade

A NEXT STEP

Author Robert Cialdini believes that altering a listener’s attitudes, beliefs, or experiences isn’t necessary. All that’s required is to alter the audience’s focus of attention just before requesting a relevant action.

The factor most likely to determine a person’s choice in a situation is often not the one that offers the most accurate or useful counsel; instead, it is the one that has been elevated in attention (and thereby in privilege) at the moment of decision.

“Privileged moments” are identifiable points in time when an individual is particularly receptive to a communicator’s message.

The artful channeling of attention leads to potent pre-suasion and positive outcomes.

In his earlier work, Influence, Cialdini argued that there are six concepts that empower the major principles of human social influence. Understanding and practicing these concepts will help you “pre-suade” your audience.

Reciprocation – People say yes to those they owe. Those “freebies” given away in stores? Studies show they can increase the likelihood of purchase by over 40%. Requesters who hope to commission the pre-suasive force of the rule for reciprocation have to do something that appears daring: they have to take a chance and give first. The “gift” should be meaningful, unexpected, and customized.

Liking – It may seem so common sense, but it is true: people say yes to those who they like. Two specific ways to create positive attention get the most attention: highlight similarities and provide compliments.

Social Proof – People think it is appropriate for them to believe, feel, or do something to the extent that others, especially comparable others, are believing, feeling, or doing it. Two components of that perceived appropriateness – validity and feasibility – can drive change.

Authority – When a legitimate expert on a topic speaks, people are usually persuaded. Sometimes, information becomes persuasive only because an authority is its source. This is especially true when the recipient is uncertain of what to do.

Scarcity – We want more of what we can have less of. Our aversion to losing something of value is a key factor. Scarcity also raises the judged value of that item.

Consistency – Communicators who can get listeners to take a pre-suasive step, even a small one, in the direction of a particular idea or entity will increase our willingness to take a much larger, congruent step when asked.

Review each of the above concepts, along with their brief description, and commit to applying one or more of these concepts over the next two months. Examples could include: social media posts, sermons, vision casting moments, or staff meetings. At the end of two months, review the use of each to determine how effective it was in helping your audiences take a next step in their walk with Christ.


 

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<