Imagine you were featured on the main TED stage with your most important work reaching millions? While waiting for that TED invite, maybe you’ve published an article (or a book) that failed to attract the attention you thought it deserved. If you have a passion for nurturing and sharing your Big Ideas, and you want to give your work the greatest possible chance to reach and influence others, TED founder Chris Anderson just released an eight-minute masterclass on the subject.
Why This Video is So Important for You
We live in an era of rapid healthcare transformation, and you are the wellness revolutionaries with Big Ideas pushing this renaissance forward. The groundbreaking health research we sometimes take for granted is now meeting with increased acceptance, and the pace of mainstreaming will only accelerate. This health resurgence needs you to lead and carry your message forward, if not yet from the TED stage, then first for those patients and readers who come to you for your health and wellness insights.
The challenge with Big Ideas is that they are, well, big, and often also dense, complex, layered and nuanced. And communicating your message in a way that’s instantly consumable by the lay-reader can be frustrating, at best. Like many of you, for years, I’ve struggled to write provocative, meaningful, and useful posts for my audience. We all bump up against the challenge of speaking in a language our audience can readily accept.
So how do you hold your audience’s interest while getting your point across and also moving them to take meaningful action — all in one tight, focused communique?
While the above video’s title promises four pointers on TED’s Secret to Great Public Speaking, hidden within each of his points are few additional secrets to unlocking powerful communication with your audience, regardless of the platform.
Chris Anderson’s Four Tips for Effectively Changing Minds
Anderson begins by quickly dispelling the biggest TED Talk mythology of all; that there’s some tidy TED Talk formula:
Some people think that there’s a TED Talk formula: Give a talk on a round, red rug. Share a childhood story. Divulge a personal secret. End with an inspiring call to action. No. That’s not how to think of a TED Talk. In fact, if you overuse those devices, you’re just going to come across as clichéd or emotionally manipulative.
— Chris Anderson
If you read many of the “how to blog” articles online, you’ll see a lot of the same tired formulas that just don’t work for practitioners who write about cutting-edge scientific topics. Anderson maintains that our number one task when communicating is to effectively “. . . Build an idea inside the minds of your audience,” and he offers four guidelines for how you should go about that task:
- One, limit your talk to just one major idea.
- Two, give your listeners a reason to care.
- Three, build your idea, piece by piece, out of concepts that your audience already understands.
- Four, make your idea worth sharing.
When reading another new article (or book chapter) from one of my brilliant physician clients, I’m often surprised at the sheer volume of material they’ve attempted to shove into a single article or chapter. In the thirteen-minute TED video format, or when writing on your blog, that’s a sure way to lose your audience’s interest.
“The Rule of One” has become one of the most powerful devices I’ve shared with clients, and if you follow it, this simple rule will transform your writing. Here’s “The Rule of One” for writing great content.
Ideally, you want every article you write to:
1. Speak to ONE Reader (Your Audience Avatar)
2. Feature ONE Key Idea
3. Encourage ONE core transformation (or encourage ONE small shift leading to that core transformation)
Begin every article or post with the key outcome, transformation, shift, or insight that you hope your reader gets. Can you summarize your objective in one sentence?
If you can’t, then take just one piece of one element – your favorite element of the article – summarize that and then check the other elements against it to see if they fit into your single focus. If not, they should be shuttled off to separate posts so you can focus on the one point you’re trying to make.
The fact is, most of us are working way too hard churning out long, complex articles when each of those articles would be far more effective broken up into several smaller, focused pieces.
I love Anderson’s idea of “building a bridge” from your worldview to your audience’s. One of the most powerful concepts I’ve learned from Marianne Williamson was this insight (and I paraphrase): “We think we’re communicating just because we opened our mouths and said something. Communication happens when we first prepare a context in which genuine communication can occur.”
So, what does this mean for your writing?
Your readers don’t care about your story; they care about their stories; those stories in their heads: those they tell themselves about their health and healing fears, hopes, illusions and dreams:
- I’m too busy to workout
- I workout during the week so I can afford to binge drink with my friends every weekend.
- My dad had heart disease at 50, I’m doomed, too.
- I can eat anything, and it doesn’t affect me; I’ve got a cast iron stomach
Yeah, those stories. When you enter that story in your reader’s head, you’re now in a better position to help them become curious about your solution. The curiosity you spark is the bridge that enables your reader or listener to care about what comes next in your article or chapter.
When do readers care about your story? When it’s tied in some way to theirs. In this post, I came up with this rule, which I’ll build on here. See what you think:
If your story illustrates something your reader must know or intersects with your reader’s most pressing needs, then tell it. And if your knowledge intersects with their needs, then share it.
We all write from our point of view and consider the world from our point of reference: usually the books we’re reading right now, the friends who surround us (who are reading those same books), and the twelve years of academic reading we carry inside our heads.
Anderson’s third point is such a powerful concept, and so hard to practice: Frame your ideas in concepts your audience already understands. In my private work with clients, this is the reason we focus so intensely on surveys and on doing the research necessary to define and deeply understand your niche audience and that audience’s needs as related to your niche topic. (Here are few actions you can take now to do some initial research of your own.)
In the Content Assets module of my EvergreenAudience course, we talk about using tools like the Flesch-Kincaid reader comprehension score to enhance the readability of your writing. (The FK Score is mentioned in this post, as well.)
In my early days working with doctors, when people asked what I did for a living, I told them I was a “translator.” In a way, writing about complex health topics for a lay audience is similar to translation: You are taking difficult concepts and explaining them within a context your audience can understand. To me, it’s this simple: The doctor who best translates their most rigorous science and does that most often wins in the marketplace of ideas.
Those who insist they are simply too busy to take those extra few hours to edit that article (or find a trusted editor to do it for them) will simply lose in the marketplace of ideas.
One reason I love what I do is that get to work with so many healers driven to improve the lives of others in very measurable ways. If this is your intention and that doesn’t come through in your communication, that’s a huge loss for you and your reader.
I think the primary way so many practitioners lose their way is by confusing their messaging with their marketing. So many doctors have been sold the Scorched Earth Marketing bill of goods: every email must sell something, every post must carry a thinly veiled advertisement. In this model, your ideas benefit you. The Sustainably Evergreen Model instead embraces building a relationship of trust with your reader through your messaging: your ideas benefit the reader.
Which leads us right back to the headline of Anderson’s fourth point: make your idea worth sharing. When you lead with thoughtful, useful, actionable content, your message is readily shared, something I explore in detail in this post about becoming “remarkable.” Follow Anderson’s four pointers when writing your upcoming posts, and your ideas will not only matter more, but reach a lot more people, as well.
What have been your primary writing challenges?
Do Anderson’s points help you with any of those? Please let me know in the comments!