Have you ever struggled to get your audiences to read through all of your content? Your whole proposal? Your whole white paper?
Then, my friends, I give you Exhibit A, a Red Thread swipefile article I shared a couple of weeks ago:
A Messy Table, a Map of the World
It’s a fantastic, long-but-doesn’t-feel-like-it, article in the New York Times [that’s a gift link, so you should be able to read it for free]. It’s about, of all things, still-life paintings. You know the ones: paintings of stuff on tables.
It’s also 3,331 words long, which would be the equivalent of at least 20+ minutes of a presentation.
And if you’re saying to yourself, “Tamsen, there is no way I’m going to read a 3,000+ word article about stuff on tables,” well, I encourage you to at least start reading it.
I bet you won’t be able to stop.
I’ll also remind you that you may have said “yes” to my opening question—that you sometimes struggle with getting your audience to read your stuff all the way through. If so, then I really want you to start reading that article, as there are a bajillion things to take away from it that can help with your content.
It also makes me wish there were a way for mere mortals like us to be able to create “documents” like that, so our pitches and proposals were as easy and interesting to read as that article. So, if you’re a budding tech entrepreneur reading this, pretty please get on that!
But let’s break it down, shall we?
I decided the clearest way to walk you through how the author made a lot of text seem like not much at all—and a usually dry subject interesting—was to annotate a transcript of the article. I figured the easiest way to do that was to pop the text into a Google doc, note how the article “moves,” and to add my comments. You can find that here.
Whether or not you read the original article, or my annotation, here are my ideas about:
How you could use it…
There’s a ton of stuff in the story of still lifes themselves (more on that in the Google doc), but for me, it’s the visual storytelling, using only text and static images, that I’ll tuck away in my own personal swipefile. [Fun fact: I’ve thought that for a while, as you can see in this SlideShare I built, from—get this—eight years ago!]
As I said earlier, I think there is so much potential for someone to make that kind of storytelling easy for a non-coder to build. Word doesn’t have the capability to handle zooming and panning on images, though PowerPoint or Keynote do (but most folks don’t know how to use them to do it). Prezi has the zooming and panning down, but doesn’t really support linear storytelling the way the Times’s website does.
I have dreams of sending people proposals or pitch decks that work like this article does. Why? Because ultimately, it’s not just about the content we present to people, it’s the form of that content, too. And just like we need to build the stories that people will tell themselves about our ideas (because those are the only stories that really matter), we also need to build those stories in a way that works with how people understand, learn, and engage.
What content could you give this kind of treatment to? How would you do it? Email me and let me know!It's not just about the content we present to people, it's the form of that content, too. Click To Tweet
Please note that many of the links are affiliate links, which means if you buy a thing I link to, I get a percentage of the cost, and then donate it to charity.
Like this content? Be the first to get it delivered directly to your inbox every week (along with a lot of other great content, including my #swipefiles). Yes, please send me the Red Thread newsletter, exclusive information, and updates.