Category Archives: Everything Else

Out on the Wire

A great podcast for speechwriters (and other storytellers)

“Tell a story” is advice you’ll often hear about speechwriting. Telling a story—and telling it well—can be a key to connecting with your audience, and making your message memorable.

What you won’t hear as often is how to tell that story, and how to tell it really, really well. How to keep your audience leaning forward, eager for the next word. How to make yours a story they’ll repeat to their friends.

Good news: now there’s a podcast to help you do just that, and an accompanying workshop to put what you learn into practice. Better yet, Jessica Abel’s Out on the Wire often focuses on the world of audio and the spoken word, which are pretty much next-door neighbours to speechwriting. Continue reading

I believe crash reports should be worth reading (14)

Everything froze for a moment as the full realization struck Commander Akal: the altimeter had been sabotaged. She didn't have five hundred metres of room to play with; she had perhaps one hundred and twenty, and that number — like the landing craft — was plunging.
	'Shnat!' she hissed, smacking the actuator to fire the braking thrusters. The craft lurched upward, slamming her body into her seat. Searing pain ripped up her spine, and she knew immediately one of her tails had fractured. Better that than the rest of her.
	The green copper-oxide surface of Mardath rushed to fill her screen, and she punched the emergency thrusters. Two of the them fired; the third sputtered, flared and burst in a shower of metal splinters.
	The craft yawed left, and the horizon twisted sickeningly.
	'I'm about to be the first Tragg on Mardath,' Akal had a split second to think, and then the craft's hull crushed and folded into her in less time than it took to blink, flattened. It skidded, tumbled, skipped and skidded again, carving a staccato groove in the Mardathian surface.
	The dust took hours to settle in Mardath's thin gravity. But when it did, all was silent and still.

Everything froze for a moment as the full realization struck Commander Akal: the altimeter had been sabotaged. She didn’t have five hundred metres of room to play with; she had perhaps one hundred and twenty, and that number — like the landing craft — was plunging.

“Shnat!” she hissed, smacking the actuator to fire the braking thrusters. The craft lurched upward, slamming her body into her seat. Searing pain ripped up her spine, and she knew immediately one of her tails had fractured. Better that than the rest of her.

The green copper-oxide surface of Mardath rushed to fill her screen, and she punched the emergency thrusters. Two of the them fired; the third sputtered, flared and burst in a shower of metal splinters.

The craft yawed left, and the horizon twisted sickeningly.

“I’m about to be the first Tragg on Mardath,” Akal had a split second to think, and then the craft’s hull crushed and folded into her in less time than it took to blink, flattened. It skidded, tumbled, skipped and skidded again, carving a staccato groove in the Mardathian surface.

The dust took hours to settle in Mardath’s thin gravity. But when it did, all was silent and still.

This one’s for Red Sweater Software and the excellent MarsEdit.

Marion Dewar and Project 4000

Canada needs more Marion Dewars

At age 16, my first experience volunteering on my own was heading down to Ottawa’s Lansdowne Park.

It was the home of Project 4000, an initiative spearheaded by the city’s newly elected mayor, Marion Dewar:

Canada had a quota of 8,000 Southeast Asian refugees for the year and had already processed half that number, she was told.

“I said, you’ve only got 4,000 left? We’ll take them — you know, very slap happy,” she recalled in an interview. But she was never more serious.

“It stuck in my mind: 4,000. We’ve got almost 400,000 in Ottawa. Surely we can handle that. Then I thought, I better get to the community.”

This was the first stirrings of what would become Project 4000 — a startling and steely initiative to resettle large numbers of refugees from Viet Nam, Cambodia and Laos in Ottawa.

Continue reading

I believe crash reports should be worth reading (13)

Crash report: At 02:32 hours, an unidentified object was identified in low Earth orbit and tracked by NORAD. At 02:58, the object broke orbit and entered the atmosphere. Consistent with the Janus Protocol, a squadron of three pursuit aircraft (US and Russian) were scrambled to intercept. Radio and radar contact were lost at 03:11, and JCS authorized Status Verdant. The Epsilon Device was deployed, successfully disabling the target. A recovery team is now en route to the crash site and no resistance is expec

At 02:32 hours, an unidentified object was identified in low Earth orbit and tracked by NORAD. At 02:58, the object broke orbit and entered the atmosphere. Consistent with the Janus Protocol, a squadron of three pursuit aircraft (US and Russian) were scrambled to intercept. Radio and radar contact were lost at 03:11, and JCS authorized Status Verdant. The Epsilon Device was deployed, successfully disabling the target. A recovery team is now en route to the crash site and no resistance is expec—

Photo of books on a staircase

What should aspiring communicators study?

Someone asked one of the LinkedIn groups I’m in what courses an aspiring public relations practitioner should take in college. There was some good advice about writing and so on; others suggested related disciplines like marketing, or specific skills.

I came at it slightly out of left field with this:

Data-based story-telling is becoming an increasingly significant part of our practice… as is recognizing the flaws, inconsistencies and logical gaps in the data-based stories told by others. You don’t have to hold a math PhD, but I’d bet good money that in another 10 years, some fluency in statistical inference will be table stakes for communicators hoping for a strategic role.

There were a few other non-obvious answers: public administration and business, for example. That’s smart: building a foundation for understanding an organization’s strategic objectives means you can better position your communications work to support them.

What other courses would you suggest a fledgling communicator consider?

Jon Stewart

Jon Stewart’s second-last moment of Zen

Jon Stewart’s farewell episode of The Daily Show wrapped with a fantastic Bruce Springsteen performance, which Stewart introduced with “Here it is, my moment of Zen.”

Twitter lit up, and rightly so; Springsteen’s song and the mass assembly of current and former TDS correspondents will probably be the most talked-about parts of the finale in the next several days.

But it’s the segment before Springsteen’s valediction that I hope has some lasting impact, because it got at the heart of what Jon Stewart seemed to me to be aiming to do for the last decade and a half. Continue reading

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