the 3-minute story

In my workshops, the very first lesson we typically cover is on the importance of context. When you have some information you want to communicate, there are a few things that it's helpful to think about before you begin the data visualization process.

As part of this lesson, we discuss three concepts that I recommend employing for success when it comes to creating a communication - note that these apply equally well whether you're communicating data or communicating in general -

  1. the 3-minute story;
  2. the Big Idea; and
  3. storyboarding.

I'll cover each of these in a little detail in this and upcoming posts. 

the 3-minute story

The 3-minute story is exactly what it sounds like: If you had only three minutes to tell your audience what they need to know: what would that sound like? This is a great way to ensure you are clear on and can articulate the story you want to tell. Being able to do this removes you from dependence on your slides or visuals for a presentation. This can be useful in the situation where your boss unexpectedly asks you what you're working on, or if you find yourself in an elevator with one of your stakeholders and want to give them the quick rundown or get their feedback. Or in the situation when you are watching your time on the agenda wane as others go over their allotted time...from the initial 30 minutes, to 20, to 10, to 5... If you know exactly what it is you want to communicate, you can make it fit the time slot you're given, even if it isn't the one you planned for.

Let's consider an example 3-minute story. Imagine that I am a 4th grade teacher:

A group of us in the science department were brainstorming last year - it seems by the time kids get to their first science class in the 4th grade, they come in with this attitude that it's going to be difficult and they aren't going to like it. It takes a good amount of time at the beginning of the school year to get beyond that. So we thought, what if we try to give kids exposure to science sooner? Can we influence their perception? We piloted a summer learning program last summer that was aimed at doing just that. We invited elementary school students and ended up with a group of about 30 2nd- and 3rd-graders. Our goal was to give them exposure to science in hopes of creating positive perception. To test whether we were successful, we surveyed students before and after the program. We found that, going into the program, the biggest portion of students (40%) felt just "ok" about science, whereas after the program, most of these shifted into positive perceptions, with nearly 70% of total students expressing some level of interest towards science. We feel this demonstrates early success of the program and that we should not only continue to offer it, but also expand our reach with it going forward.

Stay tuned for my next post, where we'll discuss how to boil this down further into the Big Idea.

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