Welcome to the Telling of Story podcast. I’m your host storyteller Jewels, and along with my guests, it’s my endeavor to explore the art and science of storytelling, to attract, engage, and retain a business audience, and to unpack why it works for some and not for the many that try. In this episode, I have the pleasure of talking with John Skabardonis.
[00:00:25] Jewels: Listen in as John talks about.
[00:00:32] John: How long you have to get someone’s attention through trial and error to begin with, but at the end of the day, it has to resonate. If it doesn’t resonate, you know what they say about getting somebody’s attention. When you’re talking with an, especially when you’re on the stage, especially when you are, let’s say at a conference or giving a presentation, you got seconds, dare I say, maybe a minute to get inside their heads.[00:01:00]
[00:01:00] Jewels: In this episode, I have the pleasure of talking with John Skabardonis. John is responsible for technical marketing to the electronics and electrical industry in the America’s region. He has worked for Covestro in the US for 30 years in roles ranging from r and d to marketing, marketing, communications, and technical marketing.
[00:01:20] Jewels: John is fascinated by the rapid evolution of technology and is focused on materials and processes which enable this evolution. He’s also intensely interested in social media as a means of helping make information easily accessible. John received a PhD in physical organic Chemistry from Case Western Reserve University.
[00:01:41] Jewels: Is a design advocate and a member of the Industrial Designers Society of America, a distinguished Toastmaster and a Chairholder in the Color Marketing group. John, welcome to the show. Thank you.
[00:01:54] John: Wow, it sounds impressive. It does sound
[00:01:58] Jewels: impressive that your background [00:02:00] says chemistry, and then marketing. It seems like an odd pairing.
[00:02:05] Jewels: Can you give me a little history of how you’ve brought these two worlds together?
[00:02:09] John: Yes, of course. My first love was biology, actually, and when I went to the university, my goal was to become a marine biologist. I, I know I’m aging myself when I tell you Jacque au was my hero and when I was a child, and of course the fact that I was swimming in the med during that time didn’t hurt.
[00:02:29] John: So I went to the university thinking I’m gonna be the next Jacque Sau. And as I was going through the biology education, I figured out that. On a biological scale, you’re seeing the macro effects. What you really have to be looking at are the, uh, micro effects, and that’s where the chemistry comes in. I was particularly fascinated by membranes, which, if you think about it, membranes that surround cells form cell walls is [00:03:00] the reason why life exists without membranes.
[00:03:02] John: Oops, you got a problem. So, as I got my degree in biology and chemistry, I went to case for my PhD. Physical organic chemistry. Sounds really strange, but actually what I was doing was working on self assembling membranes, molecules that assemble by themselves into membranes. And most people will call me a surfactant chemist.
[00:03:21] John: I go into r and d, uh, and industry, and I’m making colorants. I’m making dyes and pigments. Really colorful work. At one point in time, I have some of our salespeople who come and say, we need to go to Customer X. They’re having a problem. I need a scientist to come with me. I kind of groaned inwardly and said, okay, we go to the customer.
[00:03:43] John: First off, I had to go talk to the big guys, explain what’s going on, possible fixes to their problems. And then I had to go talk to the people in the plant by the machines, the operators, so to speak. On one hand you had executives, on the other hand you had [00:04:00] PhD chemists. And then on the last part of the tour, I was talking to people who probably had a high school education, very different audiences similar.
[00:04:10] John: Story to tell, but the way you tell it was extremely different because you had to come across and connect the dots for these folks. So I talked to them. We went back and the sales guy says, I need to take you, Omar, or more sales calls. Pretty obvious. You know what you’re doing. If I distill it down. What’s chemistry?
[00:04:35] John: Chemistry is the study of all of these chemical reactions that make all sorts of things happen, right? In my specific instance, I’m looking at customers who have pain points for whatever reason, something isn’t working and it’s causing them a lot of trouble. We call it a pale pain point. My job is to find a way to alleviate the pain.
[00:04:57] John: If I can make him smile, it’s even better. [00:05:00] That’s where the storytelling comes in. They may not be scientists, but if you can distill their problem into something that they say, yes, you got it, and then propose a solution that is not up there with a lot of theory and everything else, but it’s common sense and you explain it to them.
[00:05:19] John: They really will start nodding, looking at you in the eye. You will see their body language change and you will form a connection at which point you’re marketing. Now marketing sounds brutal. A lot of people talk about the dark side. I probably heard that. I don’t consider myself a dark side marketer. I did that for small period of time.
[00:05:38] John: It was pretty odd. I’m really more of a, you got a problem, I got a solution. Let’s put it our heads together. Find a solution and make your life better. So in a nutshell, I think all of us are storytellers. I think you of all people would agree with me that all of us in some way, shape, or form, are much more effective when we’re telling a [00:06:00] story.
[00:06:01] John: There’s human elements in storytelling. Think back to Homer, what, seven, 8,000 bc. It’s way back then. There were people who were. Forming these, these crazy stories and these plots and the heroes and the anti-heroes, the villains, whatever, and all of a sudden the solution would appear and things would be so much better, right?
[00:06:23] John: It’s not very different today. The twists, the plots, the mechanism has changed, but the basic theme and premise is very similar. At least that’s what I say. I, I
[00:06:34] Jewels: couldn’t agree more clearly. ’cause storytelling’s my thing and this, you know, podcast is called the telling of stories. So I couldn’t agree more highly with what you’ve said there.
[00:06:43] Jewels: And one point that you made in particular was identifying the problem that a client might have or the prospect might have, and then finding the solution for it. How important is it to do it in that order rather than, you know, proposing a solution and [00:07:00] hoping that they’ve got a problem?
[00:07:02] John: Well, I would be guilty of having gone into meetings thinking I know what their problem is, and then running head on into a brick wall when they say, wait a minute, that’s not my problem.
[00:07:15] John: It’s actually X. At which point you go right in the face and you’re like, oh, bad information. Well, that changes everything. Let’s twist this around. Have you thought of this, this, and this? Truthfully, To use a military term, you need really good intelligence and it’s hard to get really good intelligence. So among the first things that I try to do is I try to get a prospect or the person I’m talking with to explain to me in their words what’s bugging them, and I will then repeat it back, show that I understand, and then propose a couple, 1, 2, 3 different.
[00:07:54] John: That we could take, and by angles I mean change what we’re doing, [00:08:00]change what you’re using, change the process conditions or whatever to see if that could solve what you’re experiencing. It’s never, it’s black and white. It’s never something that I would say is formulaic. Every single case has a particular twist.
[00:08:19] John: But it works so you don’t mess with what works. That’s the way I operate
[00:08:24] Jewels: anyway. My perception, John, is that the design industry in particular, that they, you, you’re pretty good at. Telling stories, right? You know, what’s inspired a design, what, where the cues have come from, you know, often from nature, you know, capturing that, turning it into some sort of form and function and hopefully something beautiful as well.
[00:08:47] Jewels: What can other industries, you know, firstly, is that a correct assumption or perception that I have? Spot
[00:08:52] John: on. Spot on. And what do
[00:08:54] Jewels: you think can other industries learn from, from this perspective? So
[00:08:59] John: industrial [00:09:00] design, full disclosure. Had I known about industrial design when I was studying, I probably would be a designer.
[00:09:06] John: I call myself a designer wannabe. Okay, that’s a very American term, crypto designer, something like that. The most efficient way to describe myself as a design advocate, like you introduced me and what that means is I get the basic elements of design. It’s very hard to convey all that a designer does because they merge art and engineering and who knows what else into a package that if it’s done right, feels totally natural.
[00:09:38] John: You put your hands on it, you put it on your head, whatever. You’re like, wow, how did I live without this? Designers operate with a lot of constraints. This is their, their key lament is I had this idea that was so great and then the darn engineer had to go and kill it ’cause they couldn’t make it the way I wanted it or what it was gonna be, so [00:10:00] expensive or whatever.
[00:10:01] John: And therefore they’re, they’re really happy when I, as a person who deals with materials can go talk to them, for example, and say, You know, you may not have to take that shortcut. You may actually be able to use product Y that will be able to do the kinds of things you want and it won’t break the bank.
[00:10:23] John: And at that point in time there are face lights up and now we start having a really good discussion. Now, what’s important here is to not bludgeon them, if I can use that word with science. They’re not scientists, they are. Actually they’re material agnostic. I have a very good designer friend, Chris Lifter.
[00:10:45] John: He’s in the uk and he, he’s like, the first thing you should understand about designers, designers don’t care about the material. They do to some extent. Initially, it’s about the form, it’s about the function. It’s about what it does and how it does it. [00:11:00] As they’re refining the process, they will come to the point where they will have to find the materials.
[00:11:06] John: That’s secondary. The designer’s already locked in by the time they get to that. So my job when I’m talking to designers is to explain to them that you probably want to think about the material sooner so that you don’t have to make compromises later. And that is one of those aha moments that truly resonates with them.
[00:11:26] John: It’s not like I’m selling them something, it’s more like I’m being a consultant, if I can use that term and. They value having a consultant because many times they’ve had problems with previous designs or previous vendors or whatever. I see you have a four-legged friend who is very curious about our conversation.
[00:11:47] John: Yes. Now, let’s go into other industries that you mentioned. Just about every industry will have some input from designers. This is what I have found, to what degree the designers heard, [00:12:00] and to what degree are the. Inputs that the designer proposes, internalized, embraced is the difference between, let’s say this company and that company.
[00:12:13] John: It’s really sad in some ways, especially if the company is hiring a design consultancy. They give them the brief, the design consultancy assign somebody or a team to work on it. They come up with some great idea, at which point the client says, well, yeah, but we can’t do that. Again, here’s the handcuffs. We got all of these, these problems that your product has to fill into, and then it becomes, A lot of them have said it went from a great idea to a really bad execution, and that’s not cool, right?
[00:12:49] John: So if I had words for advice for people that interact with designers, I would say you gotta be really clear from the get go about what you will accept. [00:13:00] What kind of limitations there may be. And you really have to listen because these ladies and guys have some really great ideas, typically, and they don’t get a lot of chances to make them happen.
[00:13:16] John: To
[00:13:16] Jewels: make them real. John in, in very technical industries. The content can often be seen as pretty dry and, you know, for, for those that maybe aren’t as excited about chemistry or, or a particular technical aspect, you know, may find it even boring. You know, dare I say, not because it is, but because they’re just not interested in that.
[00:13:40] Jewels: Direction, right? How do you make these, you know, somewhat technical elements into stories? Where do you get stories from that will resonate with people that aren’t in the industry perhaps, and don’t really get the nuances of, of the technical aspects? Where do those stories come from and how do you make it [00:14:00] interesting
[00:14:01] John: through trial and error to begin with?
[00:14:02] John: But at the end of the day, it has to resonate. If it doesn’t resonate, you know what they say about. Getting somebody’s attention when you’re talking with ’em, especially when you’re on the stage, especially when you are, let’s say at a conference or giving a presentation, you got seconds, dare I say, maybe a minute to get inside their heads.
[00:14:24] John: And this is gonna sound like a pitch. I’m not advertising Toastmasters. I was a storyteller before Toastmasters and I became a much better storyteller through. The training, the feedback, the practice that I received by being a member and rising through the ranks of Toastmasters International. Truly a great program, amazingly effective if you put in the effort and actually practice.
[00:14:55] John: Let’s go back to your question. Chemistry can be dry. [00:15:00] It would be stupid for me to start talking to somebody who is not a chemist, who is not a scientist. Provide them with chemical facts. What’s the best way to put somebody to sleep or to have ’em tune out or they start playing with their phones? You can see it, you’ve lost it.
[00:15:18] John: So what you have to do is you have to couch the problem in a manner, and again, I use the term problem generically, the issue, whatever it is that you’re addressing, you put it in such a manner that it actually starts making sense to them. Perfect example. Sustainability. Everybody is starting to get really worried.
[00:15:43] John: Plastics in the ocean, the big Gyre in the Pacific, oh my God. Have you seen Wally? The planet is gonna turn into one huge dump, right? I could start telling you that it’s really not that bad. I could start [00:16:00] telling you about the plastics that my company makes, which actually are. Valuable as a resource and get recycled and things like that.
[00:16:08] John: That doesn’t really mean anything to somebody who’s not a chemist. They’re gonna, they’re gonna tune you out. Some of them may listen, but most of them will say, well, that’s great. You’re a great company, but the rest of them are really jerks. So the world really is going down that nasty path. No. What you have to do is you have to provide a twist.
[00:16:28] John: So the twist is, People today are doing the bare minimum when it comes to recycling. True. And who’s to blame? Well, I don’t want to point fingers. However, there are these governing bodies that really hadn’t pushed the issue for a long, long time, and people were just chucking it. Perfect example that I like to talk about.
[00:16:56] John: If you’ve ever seen any of the episodes from Mad Men, Yes, [00:17:00] this was the advertising agency in the fifties or whatever, and there was this one episode, they’re having a picnic in the park and he downs the drink and tosses the can like in the bushes. And I’m like, I saw that I, I was shuttering like, oh, but that was what was going on.
[00:17:17] John: People weren’t aware of the issues that you can have when it’s not one person, but it’s millions of people and billions of people who are doing this. If you have bad sanitation and your waste goes to a landfill, but the rain monsoon rains come down and they get the plastic will float washes into the ocean or the rivers and then into the ocean.
[00:17:40] John: What are you gonna have? Well, you gonna have a bunch of plastic in the ocean and then wave action can break it down and you got all these other issues. So if you wanna think about it, the very first logical move that. Could be made was mechanical recycling. You sort it into different types of plastic and you grind it up.[00:18:00]
[00:18:00] John: Hopefully you don’t totally destroy the plastic In the process. It actually retains some of its properties that make it useful, and then you reintroduce it into new materials. Perfect, but that’s not enough. As I said, usually you’re breaking polymer chains, you’re modifying the properties that made it so useful in the first place.
[00:18:19] John: The color usually goes to pot because you’re blending in all different types of colors. It’s really doesn’t have the same value as it did when it began. Where we’re going nowadays is we’re saying, oh, there’s a couple of ways that you can go about this, where you break the plastic down. Into, let’s call them starting materials.
[00:18:42] John: A plastic is a polymer, many pieces. You break it down into monomers or oligo mers, smaller, much smaller building blocks, and then you use those to reassemble the plastic bypassing oil. There’s no petroleum involved, and you have the same superior properties of that plastic [00:19:00] that you had in the virgin material.
[00:19:02] John: That’s a pretty good solution. Even better. And going back to the designers, what if the device that you buy is made in such a way that it’s easy to disassemble that at end of life there’s a person or a robot that picks out different components, plastic, the metal, the circuit boards, whatever, and those can now go into a closed loop.
[00:19:28] John: What’s beautiful about a closed loop is. If I’m selling the o e m, the plastic to make, let’s say, a case for a laptop, I know what I, what’s in my material. They know that they bought it from me at end of life. If they can give me back that material, I know exactly where it came from. I know where it’s been used.
[00:19:48] John: I know it’s a starting properties and I can put it into a new material that will be essentially, Have a super high level of properties that that manufacturer wants to [00:20:00] put into their next laptop or tablet or whatever else it might be. Oh, by the way, the color is there. It’s perfect. That’s nirvana. The designer never was told, make it repairable or make it easy to disassemble or whatever.
[00:20:18] John: So they’ve used glues and they’ve used a ton of different screws and they’ve used. Foils and they’ve used, who knows what, foams and all sorts of other stuff that makes it really hard to recycle. I mean, it’s a challenge. I’ve seen tear downs of electronic devices. They’re not pretty when you open them up.
[00:20:39] John: We’re actually now starting to talk with major, major global OEMs, and they’re agreeing with us. We could do this. Think about Chromebooks. Chromebooks are ubiquitous. Children. I mean, my children were digital natives and they’re out of the university already. But children nowadays, in [00:21:00] grade school, oh my God, they’re born with an electronic device.
[00:21:03] John: Essentially. They’re gonna have Chromebooks throughout their education, and a Chromebook is not made in the most robust manner. It’s gonna last, what? Three, four years? Five years. At which point, what do the schools do today? A good educational system probably has some idea and they want to see if they can recycle them, get some value out of them, at the very least, keep ’em out of a landfill.
[00:21:34] John: We’ve actually had competitions with students, high school students, right here in the US where we ask them to come up with scenarios that would. Allow the schools to essentially create these closed loops I was just talking about. Make them easier, make, create the process, create the incentives for the students, create the incentives for the schools to give the [00:22:00] incentives to the students.
[00:22:01] John: It’s a whole system, and these are 16, 17 year olds that are pitching this. My jaw dropped. I was aghast at how cool. The ideas that these young people were proposing. In all seriousness, they’re not crazy. They’re not out there as far as how difficult they would be to implement. They are doable, and that’s the kind of story that if you pitch it in the right manner, With the right hooks, you can get into anybody’s head and they will agree with you.
[00:22:41] John: They will say, of course, this makes perfect sense. Let’s make it happen. Okay? It’s a lot harder to actually get through all the details, but at the very least, you’ve sold it. You’ve got a willing audience. You’ve got their ear. It’s like I’m probably going off on tangents and you’re wondering, [00:23:00] where is this guy?
[00:23:01] John: Oh, that’s
[00:23:01] Jewels: okay. Wow. So there’s a few bits in there that I’ve picked up on. One in particular there, right towards the end is the ability to resonate. And hook somebody in is really your first challenge, right? If, if somebody’s not listening, you’re never gonna get to the part that you want to get to, which is, you know, let’s solve the problem.
[00:23:22] Jewels: But if you can fashion a story in such a way that the listening in particular in a way that they will understand it. Irrelevant of the audience type, right? So whether they’re technical or non-technical, whether they’re management or not, it doesn’t matter. You need to resonate with that particular person, which makes it kind of hard when you’re pitching, you know, to an audience perhaps.
[00:23:43] Jewels: You know, if there’s a group of people that vary in their skills and vary in their interests, How do you go about in a group situation, perhaps when you’re pitching to more than one archetype at once, where is there a trick to [00:24:00] finding something in between? Or do you have to visit them one by one at some point in time to get ’em across the
[00:24:05] John: line?
[00:24:06] John: Uh, it’s, it’s a very good point. The first rule of, uh, presenting or public speaking, if you will, is to know your audience. Everybody who is involved with public speaking will tell you this from the get go, and that gives you a certain advantage. It gives you some basics to start with. However, that, as you said, there’s a bunch of different types.
[00:24:26] John: There’s a bunch of different levels. There’s a bunch of different backgrounds in this, in this room, let’s call it, and you don’t wanna lose a certain group. Because you don’t address their, their needs or their fears or their, the things that they need to hear. What I like to do is, number one, you’ve probably heard it already, the way I talk, I, I try to use humor in some way, shape, or form.
[00:24:54] John: I don’t take myself too seriously. I know I’m not that big of a deal. Uh, [00:25:00] but more importantly, This is something that is totally dependent on the situation. I try to surprise the audience. I, I try to have early on in a pitch or in a story, in a presentation, something that they did not expect. A weird twist, whatever it might be.
[00:25:18] John: It might be something that happened to me that morning or that the previous speaker said, or Did you know that last week? I found out? Whatever it is, something that throws them for a loop. What it does is, They were looking at their phones and checking their Instagram, and all of a sudden they’re like, what the hell is he saying?
[00:25:35] John: Sorry, I used the four letter word. What the heck is he saying? All of a sudden you got their, their attention, and now is the, is it the chance to actually try to drive home a point? Will it work well? You’ll see it in their faces. If it doesn’t work, you have to try a different angle. Usually I scan a room.
[00:25:52] John: Before I begin talking with them. If it’s only three or four people, it’s very easy. If you’re talking about an auditorium, it’s a lot [00:26:00] harder. You start picking up on cues, I think, and that’s about as, as formulaic as I can get with how I approach this.
[00:26:08] Jewels: John, you mentioned you’ve been part of Toastmasters for, for quite a long time.
[00:26:12] Jewels: What are some of the fundamentals that you’ve learned and maybe can share with the audience about how to structure. A speech, a talk, a Ted note, uh, TED talk, whatever that may be. How do you, what are some of the fundamentals that, that make that process just that little bit easier?
[00:26:30] John: My biggest, I’m talking about myself and my, the discovery process for myself.
[00:26:36] John: My biggest problem was I did not put enough time in preparation being able to sound natural. To come across as engaging when you’re trying to remember your content, or the order in which you’re going to present things is a superhuman task that is so difficult to do. The [00:27:00]way you overcome that is you practice now today in 2023, you could actually record yourself.
[00:27:09] John: Very easily and watch yourself on video and hear yourself on the audio. How are you coming across? Back when I started, I was depending on feedback and one of the beautiful things about Toastmasters is you will get feedback from a group, a club as we call them, of individuals that actually want to see you get better and succeed.
[00:27:35] John: There is no hidden agenda. It’s not like you’re at work and let’s say you’re in a somewhat toxic environment and it might be backstabbing, there might be hidden agendas, things like that. In a, in a Toastmasters meeting, what you have is that you have a group of individuals who are trying to support each other, trying to point out things in a very nice way that can help you improve your delivery and help you come across.
[00:27:59] John: [00:28:00] Now, all that said is practice. Without having a very set structure, like you said, is not gonna be very much good. So you really have to think about what’s your opening, what’s the data you’re gonna present, how are you gonna close? And like I said before, if you can say something that gets people off their comfort zone, for example, something odd, something strange, something they didn’t see coming, that’s a really good mechanism to get them to pulled in the body.
[00:28:27] John: Of course, you have to structure in a way that makes sense to the mean. You have in your audience that you expect to have in your audience. I was at a scientific conference a couple weeks ago. You can bet that the presentation I was giving there was a little different from the presentation I would give to a group of grade schoolers.
[00:28:46] John: I still would talk to them with animated. Voice inflection, body language, facial expressions, and everything else. However, the content varies greatly, and then of course you have to [00:29:00] wrap it up. You have to be able to wrap it up in a very concise manner. The other thing that Toastmasters taught me was time.
[00:29:07] John: You really have to be able in a certain time period to complete this whole process. One of the things they do, they teach you at Toastmasters, which is really effective. Is impromptu speaking. Now, this is universal. If you’re thinking about the political process, there will be candidates running for office, and the candidates who are running for office at some point in time will have a microphone shoved into their face by a reporter or some interested individual who will ask them a question.
[00:29:40] John: The question may be anything, and the candidate will say what they want to say. The candidates who come across as polished. We’ll actually get the dumbest question that people could ask you. Address it for 15 seconds, twist it on its head, talk about their talking points, [00:30:00] and close with the same dumb, let’s call it thing that they were asked in the beginning, which could be miles apart from what they ended up talking during the, the, the meat of their answer.
[00:30:12] John: This is something that is so powerful if you are able to harness it. The ability, the, the confidence that you have if you’re able to do this then allows you to be much more relaxed and have the brain working instead of being in panic mode to actually deliver things that make sense or that support your case.
[00:30:35] John: It sounds like Machiavellian a little bit, I think, but it’s really, I don’t think of it as that. I think of it as you are giving me an opportunity and I will tell you what I want. To tell you whether you ask it or not. Pretty simple.
[00:30:51] Jewels: I think the advice there about, you know, the practice part, I think that is hugely underestimated in a lot of speakers, particularly people that [00:31:00] maybe aren’t necessarily doing it as a, for a living, you know, it’s just part of their job and they have to present in either to clients or perhaps smaller audiences.
[00:31:09] Jewels: They don’t tend to put in the practice. And I think that’s very undervalued out there and something that everyone I think could learn from it and do a little bit better. And obviously, depending on the value of the presentation to give, would depend on how much practice you should be putting in. You know, perhaps if you’re doing a, a TED Talk, which you know is gonna be, you know, delivered to a massive audience, then the practice you put in there is probably gonna be a lot more.
[00:31:36] Jewels: Then if you’re doing a presentation to, you know, a bunch of fifth grade that, uh, fifth graders for, you know, for a school presentation for bring your, bring your father in. Right? I
[00:31:46] John: have had some really hard presentations. Yeah, I’m sure they asked the
[00:31:50] Jewels: best question. ‘
[00:31:51] John: cause you have to structure the content for that audience.
[00:31:54] John: And that’s something that I’m not, uh, good at. However, I will say this, the practice part, [00:32:00] when I first started, I would actually write like type. My entire presentation and early on in a, as you’re learning to become a speaker, you fall into the trap of creating PowerPoint slides. I work in industry after all, death by PowerPoint, right?
[00:32:21] John: And you jam all this information into the PowerPoint slide. There’s words and words and words and words. So what are you doing? You’re in front of a podium. You click and up comes this slide that is full of words. At which point you just lost the audience because now they’re reading all the things that are on this slide and they’re not listening to you anymore.
[00:32:44] John: In the worst case, the presenter actually turns around and starts reading off the screen or the project, and then you’re like, oh, don’t do that. Please don’t do that. If you remember any of the early Apple [00:33:00] conferences, especially when Steve was running the show, he had this way of. Putting up a picture, single picture, no words, or maybe a couple of words, and then you talk about it.
[00:33:12] John: You have no choice but to listen to what he’s saying because you’re trying to understand why this picture is so important. Right? I could go on and on and you can tell I like to talk, but the problem is that there are very unique situations where some of the times you have to break those rules. You have to do it in a way that gives you the advantage, rather than putting, either putting the audience to sleep or having them read ahead and just stop
[00:33:41] Jewels: paying attention to you.
[00:33:43] Jewels: John, you also mentioned in your bio that you’re intensely interested in social media as a way of, you know, helping make information easily accessible. Tell me a little bit about that and why you think social media in particular is a good platform. And maybe some hints and tips of, you know, [00:34:00] how one could use that platform a little bit better in a business sense and in a storytelling sense.
[00:34:05] Jewels: I guess, how do we get your message across?
[00:34:07] John: It’s a fun story to tell because I have to tell you, I got involved with social media 2009 or so. It was more of a, Hmm, this is interesting. I wonder what this does type of reaction on my part. I wasn’t necessarily thinking things through, I definitely wasn’t envisioning where we are today.
[00:34:26] John: I. Social media is unique and very challenging. Because of the way that information is presented, you’re gonna have a very limited number of words, characters. If you want to think about Twitter, you make a point. You have to use very attention grabbing visuals. If you use visuals or video, it’s not trivial.
[00:34:56] John: And as we were saying earlier, you have [00:35:00] to make the statement because that’s what you’re doing on social media. You’re making a statement of sorts resonate. Now, here’s where it gets tricky. If you target a specific segment, your statement will resonate with that segment if you do things right, but it won’t resonate with the other segment over there.
[00:35:20] John: So now you have to take the same content perhaps. But repackage it for this other segment, you’re starting to do AB testing to see what kind of hashtags get the most attention. You’re starting. I, what I tend to do, especially on Twitter, is I have a very specific way of starting all my posts, which is a, a statement of let’s say 5, 6, 10 words followed by an indent.
[00:35:50] John: So the statement presents. The problem or, wow, this is so cool. Or something that is attention [00:36:00] grabbing in some way, shape, or form. You don’t have to read through the whole thing. Those first few words should get your attention followed by a few more words. Pretty picture, a link to a video or a website.
[00:36:14] John: More information. The challenge is, how do you say more with less. And I’ve actually had discussion with other marketing colleagues. We’ve come up with a motto. Less is more. You try to just chop words, chop sentences if you can, o out of your text to make it as impactful as possible. That’s social media.
[00:36:41] John: And the attention span of somebody on social media is seconds, literally seconds, whatever it might be. 2, 3, 4, 5. Not much more than that, and then they move on.
[00:36:53] Jewels: I hadn’t thought about this link before, but perhaps practicing on social media and grabbing attention there [00:37:00] is not a bad way I. To interject or to start a presentation perhaps, like how do you actually grab somebody’s attention right from the first, you know, if it is a PowerPoint slide from the first slide or from the first 10 seconds that you arrive on stage, how do you grab their attention?
[00:37:16] Jewels: So social media might actually be a really good place to test some of that
[00:37:20] John: theory, right? I am guilty of that. Yes. It’s actually, it depends on, on the topic, of course, however, it’s something that can be quite effective or. You can say something incendiary in, in a post, something that will get people agitated and hopefully it won’t backfire on you, and you’re able to flip it very early on in your storytelling to make the point that I did that on purpose.
[00:37:46] John: But here’s what I really wanted to tell, right? It’s tricky. I will tell you that we were talking earlier about lifelong learning. Social media is evolving so rapidly that. [00:38:00] It truly is, for me anyway, a lifelong learning prospect because as soon as you think that you’ve got something down and you’ve got it figured out, something else appears or interest in whatever it is that you figured out is waning or whatever else is happening, and all of a sudden you pivot.
[00:38:19] John: By the way, ai, AI and social media fake. Posts, there’s another of, you’re starting get into some really tricky territory there, right? That this is where it gets really, I mean, we’ll see what happens and how it can possibly be controlled, but I think there’s a prospect for things to go kind of crazy, especially in the near future as all of these AI algorithms start spewing out information.
[00:38:49] John: That sounds pretty plausible. Huh? Legit. Yeah. Plausible
[00:38:53] Jewels: real. John, I’ve enjoyed our conversation and after 30 years in the a [00:39:00]technical industry as a storyteller, can you perhaps give a little bit of part, impart a little bit of wisdom on our audience? You know what? What advice would you give somebody who maybe is in a technical industry and struggles a little bit with the storytelling side?
[00:39:15] Jewels: What would you say to them? Your
[00:39:17] John: audience are not scientists. Your audience is composed of humans. If you find the buttons that activate whatever it is that they desire, fear are worried about whatever is hurting them. As I said earlier, the pain points, you will win them over in a much more impactful manner than if you just attack them with data.
[00:39:46] John: That is in one sentence, 30 years distilled experience. Fabulous.
[00:39:52] Jewels: John, thank you so much. I really do appreciate your time. Where can the audience find out a little bit more about you? LinkedIn is
[00:39:59] John: [00:40:00] probably the best. I have a very unique name. If you spell it correctly, you’ll find me. Yep.
[00:40:06] Jewels: It’ll be in the show notes.
[00:40:08] Jewels: So, uh, follow those. Thank you so much. Appreciate your
[00:40:11] John: time. This was awesome. Thank you. Have a great day.
[00:40:17] Jewels: I enjoyed my conversation with John. There’s a couple of things that came out for me. Stories must resonate with the audience to keep their attention and practice, practice, practice your storytelling. Telling much love. Chat soon.