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How to gain access to and craft teachable stories for purposeful impact

Sep 21, 2020

Recently I have become obsessed with watching “How To” videos about public speaking. Yesterday I consumed “How to Speak” presented by the late Professor Patrick Winston, director of the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory from 1972 to 1997. Although he passed away in June of 2019 his message rings true and his video has over 2 million views which means he must have been onto something.

Because his speech is well past the average video attention span, over 60 minutes, but so much of what he shares bears repeating, I have highlighted a few of his presentation’s notables, including the minute marks (mm) in case you want to drink for his fountain of knowledge and insight. By presenting you this synopsis it allows me to further my knowledge on public speaking through practice (mm 0:45), which Winston presents in the form of a formula - Quality = (KNOWLEDGE, practice, talent).

I watched his entire lecture “kickin it old school” with pen and paper at the ready because I, along with the audience at MIT, was instructed by Professor Winston to close my laptop and to put away my phone in what he called “the rules of engagement” (mm 3:10).

He stresses these rules because humans have only “one engagement processor”, which is interrupted with distractions like cell phones and laptops, even if it is not your own. He explains pen and paper are the only acceptable tools as it limits distraction while allowing the audience to keep notes and learn.

This rule of engagement was presented following Professor Winston’s first lesson, to start with your “Empowerment Promise” (mm 4:25), what your audience will know at the conclusion of your presentation.

The next recommendation that really resonated with me is Professor Winston’s notion of “building a fence” around your idea (mm 6:34). By this he means explaining how your approach is different, unique, and not to be confused with someone else’s idea or approach. By doing so you “build a fence” around your idea and how it stands apart from everyone else.

From MM 24:00 - 36:23 Professor Winston takes a deep dive into the “basic crimes” of slides. He kicks it off with a brilliantly told story that lands on a point I am sure we all can agree with that the vast majority of people have“...too many slides, and they have too many words...” .

“Slides are for exposing ideas, not for teaching ideas…” and in a conference talk “we expose ideas, we don’t teach them”. This was very impactful for me, as a teacher of storytelling, because Professor Winston reveals to us “How Do People Think” (mm 40) . He sums it up like this -

“I believe that we are storytelling animals and that we start developing our story understanding and manipulating our skills with fairy tales in childhood and continue on through professional schools like law, business, medicine… everything. We continue doing that throughout life.

So if that is what thinking is all about and we want to teach people how to think, you provide them with the stories they need to know, the questions they need to ask about those stories, mechanisms for analyzing those stories, ways of putting stories together, ways of evaluating how reliable a story is. That is what I think you need to do when you teach people how to think.”

Over 20 year after this presentation “aired” we continue to hear the importance of storytelling in teaching, learning and business. It’s a basic truth. What Professor Winston does not convey in his “How to Speak” video is how you gain access to teachable stories and how to craft them for impact.

That’s where I can help!

Gaining access to teachable stories is as “easy” as 1 - 2 - 3 :
  1. Take a piece of paper and write across the top First / Last / Best / Worst

  2. Select a Word like “Teacher” and write the name of your First teacher, Best teacher, Last teacher, Worst teacher.

  3. Do not overthink this as it is possible you cannot recall who your last or worst teacher was.

  4. Think about a moment in time where something happened between you and that teacher. - that is the story! How you shape and share this story what Articulated Intelligence teaches you. 

The likelihood that you learned something in this moment between you and the teacher is huge, as some teachers have a tendency to be more impactful and memorable than other - for better or worse.

We, humans, are wired to add meaning to our memories, therefore all you have to do next is tell this story to friends and family and coworkers. Through the telling of the story you and those who hear it will automatically begin to attach meaning to it.

If you are interested in an example CLICK THIS LINK and listen to the story I created from an experience with my best teacher as a result of playing this game. I use this story as a teachable moment to educate my audience why I do what I do.

It is important to note that in order to become a good storyteller:

  • Maintain a steady state of practice by Searching for stories by playing games like FBLW - try the word Friend / Vacation / Employer these are bound to give you rich content.

  • The next step is to Shape your stories - add location / time / descriptive words / minimize the amount of characters in the story / add meaning

  • Share your stories! Storytellers are not born, they are made and through practice you can make yourself into a good storyteller.

To learn more about how we can help you tap into your bottomless well of stories and help you shape them by adding meaning - reach out to us.

Stories make you and your message memorable.

Live Life Well Spoken



How to Speak Video -

Patrick Winston Wikipedia -

MIT News July 19th 2019 -

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