So I spent this last weekend helping out at the Space Coast Birding Festival in Florida. I was manning a booth for The Nature Conservancy, answering questions, doing the occasional radio interview, and handing out notecards, posters, membership info, and small stuffed animals (baby sandhill cranes this year).
The notecards were beautiful nature images -- a shot of the Pacific Coast near Monterey, a Karner blue butterfly, a polar bear on the ice that made me want to cry every time I looked at it, and, finally, a shot of a plant called a "prairie fringed orchid."
As you would expect, the polar bear and the Karner blue were very popular. The orchids, however, weren't getting much love. Which I thought was a shame. They are very interesting plants -- these hardy orchids growing on the prairies of the American Midwest. Like many grassland plants, they're threatened because the prairies are threatened.
I knew one really good prairie orchid story, so I started pointing the card out to people and telling them, "the orchids are rare and on Conservancy preserves where they grow, biologists and volunteers sometimes pollinate them by hand. With toothpicks."
That was it. One sentence. (Okay, one sentence and a fragment.) 22 words.
One simple sentence gave people a frame of reference and a connection to the orchid. And the orchid notecards started flying off the table -- people were asking if they could take 2 or 3 because they wanted to send them to friends. They wanted to tell the story.
It was a great reminder for me about the power of story over unadorned fact, or a beautiful image without meaningful context. People forget facts, they remember stories.
There are some excellent resources out there on how to think about and use story to connect with your audience. These are the sites I constantly return to:
Get Storied -- this is Michael Margolis's new project. He is a constant source of new insight and information. Check out his e-book.
The Goodman Center -- an excellent resource. Check out the roster of online classes.
Nieman Foundation -- their narrative journalism articles and interviews are always stimulating and inspiring.
The Heath Brothers -- these are the Made to Stick guys. They rock. Their Web site has a treasure trove of free material you can download (tips on presentations, how to make yourself sticky, why stories matter). Their SUCCESS chart is posted right beside my computer.
Have you discovered the power in the one-sentence story? Or do you have a link to add to my tried and true go-to list?