Don't Be Boring: Communicate Better and Make Any Topic More Interesting | Phil Jones | Skillshare

Don't Be Boring: Communicate Better and Make Any Topic More Interesting

Phil Jones, Communication and Change Consultant

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14 Lessons (30m)
    • 1. Introduction

      1:44
    • 2. There Are No Boring Topics

      1:53
    • 3. About Your Project

      0:43
    • 4. The Three Components of Not Boring

      2:04
    • 5. Connecting with Your Audience

      1:48
    • 6. Connecting with an Audience Need

      3:08
    • 7. Understanding Message Focus

      3:34
    • 8. Find the Story

      3:58
    • 9. Find the Critical Ideas

      2:19
    • 10. Use Mediums to Their Fullest

      1:25
    • 11. Basics of Writing in Non-Boring Ways

      2:28
    • 12. Basics of Avoiding Boring Presentations

      1:50
    • 13. Basics of Avoiding Boring Videos

      0:59
    • 14. Closing Thoughts

      2:32

About This Class

If you dread having to communicate a topic because it seems boring, or you keep losing the attention of your audience when you share important information, this class is for you. In 30 minutes, you’ll learn how to communicate important (but not very interesting) topics while keeping your audience engaged.

When we communicate with an audience, we fight for their attention against so many interesting distractions. By using three concepts of engaging communication (connection, focus, and presentation) you can keep the attention of your audience.

This short class uses simple, direct lessons to teach you actionable steps for:

  • Understanding your audience to keep them motivated
  • Finding the right angle for the audience
  • Delivering the message in the best way possible
  • Communicating more interestingly in writing, presentations, and video

You don’t need to know anything special before starting this class. It will help to have a message and audience in mind. Most importantly, you have to be willing to put in the work to make your message more engaging.

This class is perfect for anyone who feels self-conscious about their topic, or just wants to be a better communicator. It’s also a good starting point for improving your communication skills since it can help you decide what area you would like improve as part of your development. Thanks for stopping by, and I hope to see you in the course!

Transcripts

1. Introduction: Hi, My name is Philip Jones. I am a writer, former public relations consultant and current change management consultant. What that means to you is that I have spent all of my professional life trying to communicate more effectively. I've also spent all of my adult life trying to explain what I do to people without boring them to tears. It is not as easy as it seems like it should be. So I have a lot of practice in trying to get messages across that aren't intuitively interesting in ways that hopefully hold people's attention enough to make a difference in this course. I want to teach you what I've learned. Now I'll admit it's a little intimidating the teacher course on how not to be boring without worrying immensely that I'm boring the audience. But I know that all of us have something that is important to communicate that requires the attention of the people were communicating with. This course is meant to help you find the ways in which you can do that as effectively as possible. When I was growing up, I wanted to be a firefighter or an astronaut or something equally movie worthy, but I ended up with was a career that is intellectually fulfilling but not terribly interesting to talk about. So if you've ever been in a party where you've tried to explain what you do to someone and within 30 seconds they've changed the subject, you know what that feels like. But that doesn't mean that what you do isn't important and doesn't mean that what you have to say should elicit that type of disinterest. So what we're going to work on in this course is how you can make your message. Whatever it may be as interesting as possible. Toe, hold your audiences attention. So thank you for taking the time to watch this intra video. I hope you stick around because I think you're going to find some things that will be helpful to you in advancing whatever message you need. 2. There Are No Boring Topics: I want to start by reassuring you about something, and that's that. There are no boring topics. I know that the title of this course is how to be less boring. But I want to assure you that nothing is intrinsically boring. Things can be presented in a boring way, and different presentations can be very boring. But that doesn't mean that the subject matter itself has to be presented in a boring way. When I was in high school, I had a chemistry teacher who had been teaching for about 35 years, and their idea of teaching chemistry was to write equations on the board and explain to you how you needed to do those comps equations to understand chemistry. While many people I've talked to started a love of science by doing experiments and hearing stories of how different discoveries were made in chemistry that sparked a lifelong curiosity, I could never understand how chemistry mattered to me what the connection was between those equations that I saw on the blackboard. Where and my daily life chemistry is not an inherently boring subject. What it is is a subject that has the possibility for being presented in a boring way to give you another example. If you're one of the 95% of the population that watches game of Thrones, chances are you find it extremely interesting and not boring in the least. Now what's interesting is I had an excellent history teacher, and when they were telling stories about all of the drama between the different royal families in the Middle Ages in Europe, you start to see the parallels between that and game of Thrones absent the dragons and I som bees. The point is, is that you can take any topic and find the interesting elements in it to present and capture people's attention. So in this course, we're going to find out how you could be more like my history teacher unless, like my chemistry teacher, in hopes that your audience will find the things that matter to them so that you can maintain their attention over all the distractions that we face 3. About Your Project: I believe that we learn best through practice. So while I'm going to be sharing examples and suggestions with you, I think the best way for you to learn is toe work, along with some message or communication that you need to share in order to make it less boring. Let's start off with our project. And to do this all you need is a single sheet of paper, and I want you to write down a topic that you need to share with someone to communicate in some way. That is important, but you're afraid will be boring. So, on a sheet of paper, write your topic down and one line just a short summaries. Then, underneath that, I want you to write your communication goal. What you need to accomplish. Try to be a specific as possible, because we're going to refer back to this throughout the course as we try to be as unb or ing as possible. When you have that ready, we're good to move onto the next video 4. The Three Components of Not Boring: Let's talk about the three components of communication that make it not boring. The 1st 1 is connection. Connection is the relationship between your message, your topic and your purpose, and the interests, desires and needs of your audience. Chances are you've thought about why you need to communicate with your audience, but a lot of times we don't think through why our audience should pay attention to how we're communicating. Connection is your ability to align your needs. Is a communicator with your audiences needs in taking in that message when you have a good sense of connection? When the audience comptel why that message is important to them. They are a lot more likely to stay engaged. I don't mean to make human beings sound vein, but the most interesting thing to most people is themselves. It's the reason why you can pick out your voice from a crowded room when someone says it. It's hard wired into our psychology. Tobey, aware of how things affect us, so being able to connect with that, it's going to keep people ah, lot more interested in what you produce. The second component is focused. There is an entire universe of things that you could discuss on your topic. But focus is where you pick the things that are most relevant. Most interesting are most related to your audiences needs. And you just emphasized that being able to call attention to that detail that element, that baseline importance is going to keep people engaged because you ignore all the things that would be likely to lose their attention. We'll talk a little bit more about that in a subsequent video. Finally, there's presentation. Presentation is how you construct and offer your message to the audience. If you do it well, it's going to stick its going to resonate, and it's not gonna be born if you don't do it well, it's really easy to lose their attention. So our goal is to figure out how you can use presentation to your advantage to make what you present sticky. Those are the three components we're going to use throughout this course. We're going to work with each of those topics specifically and tie them back to your project so you can improve it in all three areas. 5. Connecting with Your Audience: for our first step. Let's talk about connection. You probably know that in order for you to have a message that matters, you have to have a reason to communicate. It has to matter to you. It has to be important to you. But a lot of people fall short of thinking about why it should matter to their audience. If you don't consider your audiences needs, it's going to be much harder to make them interested in what you have to say, even if you don't know what your audiences reason is for paying attention to your message, they're going to be looking for. If they can't find it, they're going to move on to something else. This is where boredom happens when you were presenting messages or communications that are self serving and don't seem to connect to that. Audiences needs have nothing to hold on to, and so it just passes them by and they look for something else that is more relevant. This is something that advertisers and copywriters understand very well. A lot of copywriters talk about the eye test, which is when you look at a piece of copy that's targeting a customer. How often are you talking about yourself versus the customer? You always want to talk about the customer because the customer is interested in themselves . If you can't capture that, then they're going to have a hard time following along or keeping their attention for our exercise in this section. I want you to go back to your document where you outlined your topic in your goal. Now I want you to go to the next line, an outline Exactly why your audience should care about this message. What are they going to learn or gain from your message? If they have nothing to gain from it, then they're not going to beat. Pay attention, and it's going to be boring. What is it that they are hoping to get from the message? Because if they don't know it intuitively, you're going to have to tell them. Write that down. One line. Simple explanation. This is why my audience should care. Once you've done that, move on to the next video 6. Connecting with an Audience Need: in the last video, I asked you to figure out what matters to your audience about your topic. Why should this message resonate with them? Was that a little difficult? It may have been because one of the things that we have to do is understand our audience to empathize with them. If we can put ourselves in their shoes were much more likely to be able to find the connection that's going to make our message resonate and be less boring. One of the best essays on writing I've ever read was by my favorite author, Kurt Vonnegut Vanek. It could be accused of a lot of things. Being boring was not one of them. One of the things that Bonnie gets said that I hadn't thought about before was how hard the readers job really is. As he put it, Readers have to take tiny marks on a page, translate them toe letters that get translated to sounds that get translated toe words that get made into meaning. We all take for granted that that's an easy thing. But until you try to teach your kid how to read, you start to recognize that this isn't really that intuitive, Vonnegut said that the biggest thing that we should do is writers. His make that job as easy as possible on the reader. The easier you make that on the reader, the more likely they are to stay with you. If you make it harder on the reader by throwing up enormous walls of text or jargon that they don't understand or complex sentences, you're more likely to lose them. Our goal is to as wanna get put it, pity the reader. I would translate that into empathizing with the reader, understanding What are the things that are likely to lose them? Look back at your message and think, Where would you be lost if someone else was presenting it to you? If there is a place where you can find that, then you will definitely lose your audience because you are far more invested and you already understand the importance to avoid that, we're going to think through how they operate so that we can align our message with their needs, desires and interest. When you understand what drives your audience, you're better able to keep them engaged. So go back to your document and add another line where you're going to write down three things. The first is, what does your audience want? What are their goals? If you understand that you can tap into it with your message where appropriate, the next thing you want is their interests. What are the things that captivate their curiosity? If you can find some overlap between what you have as a topic and what they're curious about, you can use that to your advantage. Finally, what are the things that they want to accomplish? If you know what they want to accomplish and there's some alignment with what you're doing , you can build those two together, which is very helpful. All these things are meant to paint a picture of your audience, so when you're producing, you're communication. So when you're thinking about your message, you can see them enough to where you can do that. Reality check of is what I'm doing actually going to resonate with them, or am I going toe lose them? So that's our goal. For now. Put those three things together and we'll have connection more or less wrapped up. You'll have the pieces you need to do something that reflects your audiences, needs 7. Understanding Message Focus: so hopefully now you have a good understanding of your audience and what they care about. Now we can start to see the connections between your topic and your goal and the goals of your audience. Now that we have that picture, we're going to use focus to call attention to those things in the structure of our message . Focus is what we talk about, where we call attention to in that entire universe of things that we could discuss. Journalists do this all the time. They have to figure out what angle they're going to use on this story. So a personal example for me is watching coverage of Hurricane Harvey doing immense amount of damage to Texas because I live here in Houston and we witnessed this firsthand. Now, if you lived in Houston or the nearby areas, you were watching the local news nonstop because it was immediately interesting to you. You wanted to know if the water was going to come into your house and if you needed to evacuate. We heard the helicopters going overhead and wondered if we needed to get out of the house. That meant that our attention to that story was going to be pretty high. People all over the country saw news coverage about Hurricane Harvey, but people in Idaho were going to be a lot less concerned about the specifics of that coverage. Instead, journalists at a national level had to pick the focus when talking about the destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey. And one example of that was the news coverage about the people who came from all over the country in their own boats to go out and rescue people who were trapped in their homes. The thousands of people who overwhelmed the first responders because there was so many of them and these people came from all over the country on their own, got in boats and went out to these flooded neighborhoods to pull people out and rescue them . And it was an amazing story. Now the topic was still Hurricane Harvey and the destruction that it caused. But the focus was on those individual rescuers, because that was something that resonated with everyone. Anyone watching those stories could connect with that. You probably couldn't connect to stories about the water levels on the buffalo by you. If you didn't know if the Buffalo Bayou Waas. But you could understand someone who was willing to travel hundreds of miles in their own boat to try to help someone they hadn't met. So focus is your ability to take some element of this story and use it to convey the entire message. The entire topic focuses how we're going to pick out which component is most relevant and interesting to our audience and deliver it to them. What I want you to do is look back on your goal and your topic, then look at those needs, desires and goals that we outlined for our audience. Find out where those to relate, because we're going to use our focus to pull out all the pieces that are extraneous and extra and likely to board the audience. We're only gonna focus on the meet the thing that really makes sense to them. Now that you have those two together, I want you to start a new line and say, This is going to be the focus of my message. What is the angle that you're going to use? So, like a journalist, how do you want to tell the story? To use Harvey is an example again would you talk about the political aspect involved with zoning laws? That's probably not gonna be interesting to someone who lives out of this area that isn't involved in urban planning. But if they are involved in urban planning, they really want to hear that figure out what that angle is if you have trouble figuring it out, go into the comments below in the course, and I'll try to help you. This is really important in terms of focus and aligning your message with your audience. Once you've got that figured out, let's move on to the next component of focus. 8. Find the Story: now that we have a good idea of what focuses and how we can find it by looking in our audience and our goals together, let's talk about how you can make it real, how the focus can be used to make your message more interesting and the best way to do this . I think I'm a little biased because I was a writing major is through story. You see, all of us are wired to think in terms of story. When you talk to people about your life, you tell it in the form of a story. There's a reason why most of Western civilization uses the three act structure to tell stories. It's just something that's wired into us. We teach our kids morality through story. We look back on our life through story because story tell us about heroes overcoming adversity by experiencing a change. Most of the time when you're communicating with someone you're talking about change. One of the best piece of advice I've ever heard about presentations and speaking to an audience came from Dan Roam, author of a book called Show Intel, and he suggests that you follow the hero's journey in your presentations. But one of the things that really stuck out was when he said, most people, when they first present, they think of themselves as the hero of this story. You're not the hero of the story. The audience is the hero of the story. There's no better way to keep them involved than by making them the center of attention. So we're going to find the story here, and we're going to paint the picture for the journey that your audience is going to go on. Are you asking them to change? Are you asking them to grow? Are you asking them to understand all three of those things are a journey. One of the best ways to inform someone is to provide a story that serves as a metaphor or as a direct example of what is happening. If you've ever read books by Malcolm Gladwell, he is an expert in this, and in fact, most people in the popular science genre do this. They find a theory or concept that's abstract, and they find stories that they feel illustrate them effectively. You're going to use this in your messaging as much as possible. That keeps it interesting by pulling it back from the abstract. Like I mentioned my history teacher being able to call attention to specific instances and humanize them by telling us about the people involved and what they cared about it made it easier to remember the actual events that happened that had historical significance. So your goal here is to find the story that you're going to use now if you don't have a topic that lends itself easily to a story, and I'm going to use a personal example, and that's trying to teach people about excel. Macros Now talking about spreadsheets doesn't seem very interesting, and it's hard to come up with a story directly about Excel macros. So whenever I talk to my colleagues about them, I usually preface it with the story of the time that I had to spend my last weekend before Christmas vacation, filling in all this data on an Excel spreadsheet until one of my colleagues was walking out and said, What are you working on? You realize I could script that in a macron about five minutes, and you wouldn't have to do any of it. I asked him to show me and sure enough. He did, and he saved my Christmas weekend. That is a simple story, but it's a lot more interesting than talking about the benefits of Excel, macros and spreadsheets in the abstract. So I want you to find a story that you can use as the focus of your message. Get back your sheet, look at it and think of the focus, the area that you're paying attention to and try to think of, either on unrelated story that serves as a metaphor or something that you can use that's directly related to what's going on. So an actual story involving the information that's being shared This is something that doesn't necessarily come easy to you if you haven't done it a lot before, and it takes practice to learn. So if you're not sure what to do, go ahead and go into the comments and share what your focus is, and I can try to help you find a good story or tell you where to look in more detail. 9. Find the Critical Ideas: Now we know where our attention is. We know what our audience needs. We know how to connect the two, so it's time to move on to presentation. This is where we pull everything together. We use our knowledge of the audience along with the story that we're going to tell to create a better overall message. One of the main components of presentation is not to overstay your welcome. Have you ever been cornered in a conversation by someone who has an outsized passion for a thing or topic? And you don't share that passion? I, for one, have been cornered into a conversation about craft beers that lasted 45 minutes. In spite of the fact that I don't drink, you can imagine that my interest level in craft beers is surface level. Only now the person that I was talking to new I didn't drink, and so they should have realized that the focus of their story would be different, and the time that they invested in giving me background would also be different. I am likely to be interested in some elements of that story. You have to find what they are. One of the main rules of presentation is to not overstay your welcome. You know a lot about whatever it is that you're communicating on. You know, the background. You know the importance. You know, the future on Lee. Some of those things are immediately relevant to the focus that your audience cares about. If you give them all of the information you have, you will lose them. Your goal is to figure out how little you can give them while still accomplishing your goal . That's why it's important to review the goal that you wrote down as part of your project. What is it that you need them to get in order to be successful? Anything that doesn't serve that goal needs to go. The other thing to remember is most people leave a communication or a message, and they can only take away one or two big ideas. If you try to give any more than that, they're not going to remember them. And you have no control over which elements they are going to remember. So our goal is to focus on the critical idea. So what I want you to do is look at your focus. Look at your topic and your goal and your audience all the things that you've already written down on your sheet and figure that one or two big ideas you need them to take away . Everything you do in your message is going to focus on those one or two ideas. Anything that doesn't serve that goal has gotta go. So do that now and we'll talk a little bit about how you can ensure that you're focusing on those two ideas throughout your communication. 10. Use Mediums to Their Fullest: now that we have a good idea of our presentation and how to present our ideas and how it connects with our audience, and basically all the building blocks are there, it's time for us to use our medium to present that message. So you should have the core ideas that you need your audience to take away. You should know what your goal is for your audience, and you should have the focus and the story that you're going to tell. How do we present that to the audience Whatever medium you use, whether the audio video text or a face to face presentation, you want to be sure that you use the medium that makes the most sense for your goals and that you can use it to its fullest. You can have a great story, And if it's delivered in a way that doesn't work well, you're gonna lose your audience. So picture the most interesting story you can think of for your topic, delivered in the form of 5000 words of solid paragraphs, just a huge wall of text. You're gonna lose people because they're not even gonna get to the story. They're going to see that wall of text They're gonna say I do not have time for this. The same could be said for presentation where you have some slides behind you that are just walls of bullets and you don't get to the meat of the presentation soon enough. Or it could be a video that's 25 minutes long. These things or e trigger reaction people before they've had a chance to make a fair judge . So let's talk a little bit about how you can use each medium to the fullest. 11. Basics of Writing in Non-Boring Ways: again. I'm biased about writing because I was writing Major and I write all the time and I love writing. I think it's a beautiful art form, and it's critical to who we are as a people. But it's really easy to write boring, so I'm gonna give you some hints on how to use writing to its fullest. The first is to not repeat yourself. You see, the beauty of the written word is that as long as that word is in front of people, they can go back and re read if they didn't understand something. If I'm speaking to you face to face, I might have to repeat myself to make sure that you got a critical component of the information. You don't have to do that when you're writing, so avoid repeating yourself. Help your reader out by doing lots of subheadings and give them navigational aids so they understand where they're going. Doing that makes it far easier to read and to skim, and to take in that information, be as succinct as possible. By being succinct, you can keep the reader moving and taking a new information. The more they consume the same information once they already have the idea down, the more discouraged they're going to get, and they feel like it's stale and they don't want to move forward. Create lots of smaller paragraphs instead of a few large paragraphs. One of the most important things you can do is write like a journalist. People don't really read newspapers as much as they used to. But there is a science behind how newspaper writers write their stories, and that's the inverted pyramid. The inverted pyramid is called that because you focus on the most important thing at the top, and then you go to less important things as you move down the story. The reason for that being that if you read the first paragraph of a new story you should be able to catch the most important details, all the background gets moved further down. The other reason for this is when they're laying newspaper stories out on a page. They don't necessarily know how much room they'll have. So the editors and layout people could cut from the bottom without worrying about cutting out the most important part of this story. So your goal is to figure out what the lead is and the lead is journalistic jargon for the most important part of the story. The who? What, Where? When? Why? How? Get that up front. Give it to them immediately. Your lead is how it affects the audience. What matters to them. Give that to them right away. Be upfront with it. Make sure that they get that because if they see that importance right off the bat, they're more likely to stick with you. And they will care a little bit more about the background and if you started with the background before they see why that background matters to them. 12. Basics of Avoiding Boring Presentations: let's talk a little bit about in person presentations. So assuming that you have a slide deck and you're speaking to that slide deck, I'm going to encourage you not to put together what people call a slide. You meant, in other words, a slide document where you basically just take all the things that you would have written down and put them in bullet points on slides. That's not a fun way to present people just end up reading the presentation and ignoring you. Or it's even worse if you're reading the bullets to the audience, which you want your slides to be is something that supports what you're saying. And I know that's harder to dio. You have to spend more time rehearsing. You have to be confident in what you're presenting. But I know you can do it, because what you can do is use the images and the slides or the very succinct wording to support your conversation. This is where you're going to tell a story. This is where you're going to interact with your audience, which you want to treat the presentation like, Is not you reading to a passive classroom? It's you talking to the individual members of the audience because remember, this is supposed to be important to them. Look at them in the eye and convince them it's important. So use your slides to support your voice over. If you're unsure of what you want to say, and you feel you need those bullets in there to help move you through the presentation, you speaker notes those really help because they can give you those same bullets you would have in the slides. But you don't force your audience to read them. Try to make it engaging. An interactive ask questions really involve the audience. That's the one advantage you have in a presentation face to face that you don't have in any other medium. So use it, engage them, and that will maintain their interest a little more. Asked them questions. People really care about sharing their opinion, so if you can get them to share their opinion, if you can get them thinking about something, you pull them back into that meeting. In that state of mind, 13. Basics of Avoiding Boring Videos: Let's talk a little bit about video video is probably the hardest because it requires a little bit more technical skill to deliver well, so I don't want to ask you to do things that are too hard. But one of the most important things with video is keep them short. People are a little bit intimidated by long videos, and besides, you really only want to convey one idea in your videos anyway, so you can keep them to shorter than two minutes. That's great, and I know I don't always practice that myself, but I try the other thing you can do in videos where possible. Let's try to break up the images as much as you can. I'm somewhat limited by my technology. Here I have one camera, but if you can set up the two cameras or you can introduce images throughout the video, that's good because that novelty keeps the audience engaged. In the absence of that, just try to keep the video short. Frequent cuts helped to because it gives you a way of showing the progress of time, which is important when you're trying to keep people's attention. If they see that they're making progress, they're more likely to be engaged 14. Closing Thoughts: We've covered a lot of ground in not a lot of time, but hopefully, now that you've developed a really good sense of your audience and what matters to them, you have the focus of your message and a good sense of what needs to happen in order for you to successfully accomplish your goal. You have your story that you're going to tell, and you know, the elements of presentation you can sort of tweak to make that as engaging as possible. You have the tools necessary to really avoid being boring. And when I say being boring, I mean that you're losing the battle for your audiences attention. I know that some of these topics aren't going to be the types of things that you want to just share with your friends on a weekend, but they're still important, and your goal isn't to be the most entertaining person in the world. It's to share an important message with people who need to hear it. As long as you have the conviction that your message is important and you're telling it in the way that is the most respectful of your audiences time and the distractions that they face, then I think you can harness that awareness in that passion to be is engaging as possible. What you do is important. Your audience is important. You respect them enough to be watching a course on how not to be boring. Use that believe in yourself, communicate with them. Share this as a way to help them, because when you're being honest and vulnerable and you're acknowledging the fact that this doesn't come easily and you're doing your best to be respectful of their time, I think that shows and people appreciate that This is a skill and any skill requires practice. So my one take away for you. My one idea is, Remember that by thinking about your audience and what matters to them and practicing that intentionality, that knowledge of what's going to stick most with them. You will get better and better at this over time, and eventually it's gonna be second nature. You're going to know how to tell the stories that matter. You're going to understand your audiences needs, and you're going to present things in a way that don't have any excess that could board them. I look forward to seeing what you Dio and I really want to hear your questions and your feedback. So please share in the comments and I'll be happy to help you out as much as I can, because this is something that I think the world could benefit from. So thanks for taking the time. I'm really encouraged that you're interested in this stuff enough to try to improve. So I'm interested in trying to help you because I think the world would be a better place if we do a better job of communicating with one another. So thanks again and I look forward to seeing you in another course.