Marwa Al-Sabouni at TEDSummit 2016

How Syria’s architecture laid the foundation for brutal war

While some stories are meant to be a factual record of what has happened, delving deeper into the why it happened, and what we should do, involves a collection of subjective assumptions, individual conclusions, and personal hypothesis. In this talk from the TEDSummit 2016 conference, delivered by Marwa Al-Sabouni via the internet, we see such a blend.

Marwa takes us into the city of Homs, Syria where she has always lived, and which has been ravaged by years of conflict. While recognizing the fact that there were many factors which caused the war, she takes a close look at the role of architecture in regards to how it can strengthen, or weaken, the social fabric of a community.

Architecture is not the axis around which all human life rotates, but it has the power to suggest and even direct human activity.

In classic Ideas Worth Spreading style, Marwa’s talk combines harsh reality (facts that can be verified) with personal insights and suggestions in a way that compels the listener to pause, consider her perspective, and then reconsider their own preconceived notions.

Read more

The Craft of TEDx Speaker Coaching

As the TEDxSanDiego organizer for 3 years (2014 to 2016), organizer for TEDxMonumento258 (2015), and having attended 40+ TED/TEDx events since 2010, I’ve experienced a wide variety of stories and accompanying narrative styles. Like a fingerprint, each story is unique, as is each storyteller, and part of that uniqueness is related to the speaker coaching that happens behind the scenes, long before the speaker greets their audience to tell their story.

In my experience few TEDx attendees, or the viewers of TED/TEDx videos, are aware of the speaker prep that occurs in the months preceding an event, which is a shame, as the coaching process is such an important aspect of creating a memorable TEDx experience.

So how does that process work? Just as each speaker and story are unique, every coaching process is unique, as sessions are tailored to the speaker’s talent, experience, and narrative. In addition, no two speaker coaches are the same, with each having developed their own approach to the process. The intent, however, is the same. To maximize the speaker’s impact, and that only happens when a speaker truly connects with the audience with a talk that contains a relevant message.

Silhouette Speaker on Stage

Seeking that combination of connection and relevance is where I begin with a speaker. In the world of TED/TEDx, the mantra is Ideas Worth Spreading, and that phrase means that attendees in the audience, and viewers of the video, will find the idea compelling enough to tell their friends, family, co-workers and associates.

It’s never the job of a coach to write the story, that’s always the responsibility of the speaker, but rather to help define the central idea of the story, assist in the selection of assets which support that idea, and provide guidance on how best to thread those assets into a narrative that will both capture the audience’s attention, and convey the idea in a meaningful way.

Future blog posts will delve deeper into the details and mechanics, but in the meantime, think about the idea that you want to tell the world about, and write down why the audience would find value in hearing that particular idea. How would their lives change, how would they think differently, and most importantly, how would they act differently?

Storytelling Defined

What image comes to mind when you hear that word? Maybe you envision someone speaking from a stage, or an actor delivering dialogue in a movie. Maybe your mind ventures far back in time to a campfire that’s surrounded by American cowboys, or maybe African tribesmen. In any case, you’re visualizing the art of spoken language, a process by which words are arranged in a manner that conveys meaning, transmitted from one human to another in the form of a story.

But in a very real sense, storytelling began long before humans could communicate with words, going back to a period in our evolution when thoughts could only be expressed with gestures and grunts. Storytelling at that juncture was all about survival: avoiding danger (animals that wanted to eat them) and finding food (animals that they wanted to eat). Some stories were also told visually, in the form of cave paintings as far back as 40,000 years.

Cave-Painting - Cueva de las Manos Hands

Cave-Painting - Cave of Altamira Bison

As language developed, human storytelling expanded from pressing issues of survival to recounting history, educating society, sharing new ideas, and entertaining the masses. Regardless of the intent, or intended audience, the process consisted of humans constructing their stories based on a deliberate selection of internal knowledge (what they thought was true, or what they wanted others to believe was true) combined with their own conscious and unconscious biases.

As this video illustrates, technology has changed the landscape of personal storytelling, largely due to the ability to share videos over the internet. From fictional accounts, to instructional how-tos and the spreading of ideas and opinions, such stories can be captured direct to camera, or by recording a talk that was given in a public forum.

Yet another technology that has allowed storytelling to have a much greater impact is podcasting. Stories predicting the demise of podcasts turned out to be premature (totally bogus) and instead we’ve seen the practice expand, with many podcasts targeting very specific audiences and formats.

As you begin the process of creating your story, keep in mind the global reach that video and audio provide, and the unique style of storytelling that works best within each of these formats.