“The role of the musician is to understand the content of something and to being able to communicate it so it lives in somebody else.” – Cellist Yo-Yo Ma
This morning, 17-year-old Malala Yousafzai became the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize (winning the award jointly with Indian child rights activist Kailash Satyarthi).
As The Washington Post notes, Malala, who was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman on her school bus in 2012, not only survived that attack, she has gone on to become an international champion of rights for the education of girls.
One of the many reasons Malala has become such an effective advocate, at the age of 17, is because of her eloquence in communicating what happened to her and her articulation of a clear vision for a better future.
That is one of the reasons I showcased Malala in my upcoming book, Got Your Attention? How to Create Intrigue and Connect with Anyone, being published by Berrett-Koehler in early 2015.
Below is an excerpt from the manuscript (which I turned in last month), about how we can get attention for our idea, issue or cause so it comes alive, as Malala so effectively does.
In a 2013 interview on The Daily Show, Jon Stewart asked Malala what she would do if she was attacked again by a Taliban gunman.
Instead of giving a hypothetical answer, Malala put us on the bus and spoke as if the gunman was standing in front of her: ‘I would tell him how important education is and I would even want education for your children. I would say, ‘That’s what I want to tell you, now do what you want.”
The audience gave her a thunderous ovation.
Stewart was momentarily speechless, then said, ‘I know your father is backstage and very proud of you, but would he be mad if I adopted you?”
By re-enacting what happened to her and projected the precise words of what she would say and do if that happened again … Malala PUT US IN THE SCENE.
When telling a story, always use the W’s – WHERE, WHEN, WHO and WHAT WAS SAID.
Now, instead of this being vague or sounding apocryphal (made up), your story is REAL because you are putting people in the scene. They are seeing in their mind’s eye. They are experiencing it as if it’s happening right now. THAT’s how you make a story come alive and live in other people.
Are you thinking, “Kudos to Malala for winning the Nobel Peace Prize, but how does this apply to me?”
What is an idea, issue or cause you care about?
Are you telling a story that, as cellist Yo Yo Ma suggests, makes it come alive and live in your listeners’ mind?
That is the key to inspiring people to give you their precious attention, listen and truly grasp and care about what you care about. It is the key to genuinely connecting with people because you are creating a verbal and visual shared experience.