I thought I’d end the year with a practical tool you could use as you turn your Red Thread Storylines™ into longer forms of content (think: white papers, blog posts, talks, etc.). It’s a little something called the “Starting Structure” that I use with my TEDxCambridge speakers and other clients. Try not to faint at the creativity of the name…
Here’s what that Starting Structure looks like:
- OPENING (if needed)
- [OPTIONAL: THROUGHLINE]
- Validate the goal: Why is answering this question important?
- Known barriers and consequences: What does the audience already know is in the way of achieving the goal? What are the effects of those barriers?
- Current solutions and results: What solutions (outside of yours) are currently available to your audience? What have they tried? What are the typical results?
- [Two-part PROBLEM]
- Why this, why you: Why do you (the author or speaker) care about this Goal and Problem? Is there a story you can tell about what got you started looking for a new answer to the Goal question? Why are you now qualified to provide an answer?
- Definitions & discoveries: What terms need to be defined and clarified for your audience? What new information do they need to know?
- Mini-lessons learned: What were some of the insights that led you to finding a new answer?
- “This is why..”: How does this big realization or insight explain what you’ve told the audience so far (e.g., why the known barriers have been insurmountable and/or the current solutions insufficient)
- Objections and sacrifice: What objections would your audience likely raise at this point? What are your answers to those objections? What previous perspective or behavior is your audience likely to have to give up to adopt your idea?
- Reaffirm and remind: What have you already told your audience that will help them re-commit to a new answer, despite having to make a change? (For example, you could remind them of why the goal is so important and/or the new information and insight they’ve gained through what you’ve told them in the “Problem” section.)
- CHANGE & ACTIONS
- “The Change at work”: What concrete examples can you give the audience of your idea being applied (e.g., case studies, audience exercises, etc.)?
- What to watch out for: Where is your audience likely to have trouble adopting the Change? What guidance can you give them?
- CLOSING: STORYLINE + GOAL REVISITED/FREE PRIZE
- [GOAL REVISITED]
- Closing all open loops: How can you demonstrate to the audience that all of their questions have now been answered, including new questions you introduced?
- Call to “first action”: What simple first step can your audience take to get started taking action on your idea?
- Free Prize: What additional benefits or possibilities can you offer your audience as a result of making the change?
Now, here’s how to use it:
- Replace the bracketed Red Thread titles with your finalized Red Thread Statements. For example, you’d replace “[GOAL]” with whatever you drafted for your Goal statement (“How can I turn my Red Thread Storyline into a longer piece of content?”)
- Brainstorm ideas for information (key concepts, facts, etc.) and illustrations (stories, images, activities, etc.) to support those statements. You’re looking for what you need to show or tell your audience to help them understand and agree with each of those main points. You don’t need to actually write what you’d say or script here, at this point you’re just capturing notes for yourself (e.g., “Define x term,” “Present y study,” and so on). I’ve given some prompts in the outline above, but I go into a lot more detail on each of those sections on this webinar.
- Decide where you do and don’t need to spend time. While the Starting Structure shows a general order, every section doesn’t necessarily need to be the same length in your final content. For instance, sometimes you don’t need to spend any time after introducing your Truth, especially if it’s something you’re fairly sure your audience will accept. In a case like that, you could go right to the Change & Actions section.
- Connect it all together with transitions and final language. Once you know what you need or want to say, this step is all about figuring out how you’re going to say it. If you’re building a written piece of content, this is where you’d start to draft the content itself. If you’re building a presentation, this is where I’d suggest you start to build what I call “scriptlets,” what would happen if a script and bullets had a baby. A scriptlet captures what you would likely say, in the language you would use to say it, but divided into each micro-thought, not paragraphs of prose that are hard to remember and even harder to break apart if you need to fix your flow later. To make all those points flow easily from one to the next, it can help to plan the actual transitions to connect them with each other.
- Edit, edit, edit. I think this one is fairly self-explanatory: go back over what you’ve written or “scriptleted” to make sure it (a) does, in fact, make the case you set out to make in your original Storyline and (b) does that in a way you’re happy with. If there’s any big tip here it’s to make sure you give yourself time to put whatever it is away for a bit—even if only for half a day—so you can see it again through fresher eyes. Even better, have someone else take a look at it.
One last thing: a lot of times people will look at this and wonder if it following this structure will make their content sound formulaic. The answer? Nope. Think of it as you would how all stories are said to follow seven basic plots. When you go further and realize that all seven of those basic plots all share having a Goal, Problem, Truth, Change, and Actions… you’ll realize the possibilities are pretty much endless.
The Red Thread Statements are your ingredients. The Structure is a basic recipe that you can easily make your own. I can’t wait to see what you create!The Red Thread statements are your ingredients. The Structure is a basic recipe that you can easily make your own. Click To Tweet
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