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Sunday, March 09, 2014

Narrative Milestones Capture Hearts & Minds

Narrative milestones can be your secret to presentations that capture the hearts and minds of your audience for both technical and creative writing.
Have you ever listened to a presentation or a story and lost interest because it's just a jumble of information? Did you get the sense that the forest was being lost for the trees?
Or, even though the presentation was well organized and the skeleton / structure clearly visible, your mind still wandered off, utterly bored?
Chances are, the presentation was missing narrative milestones, which are critical in the telling of any kind of story, whether in creative writing, or in business presentations such as project summaries, training, sales, and investor conference calls.
What is a narrative milestone?
It is a temporal or topical "marker" within the text.
How is a milestone different than a subheading or a chapter title?
A narrative milestone is a trigger and a marker and it marks not just the passage and unfolding of information but also the sparking of emotional connection which keeps the reader engaged.
What is it good for?
It helps the reader or the listener develop categories or patterns for the creation of schema (or schemata) that will search as a framework for organizing information. It also helps the reader stay "hooked" or engaged in the text.
Where are milestones most effective in a narrative?
There should be a milestone at the beginning of the text. It does not have to be the same as a topic sentence, but should definitely communicate how/why a listener should care about what is being said. Then, there should be milestones at regular intervals within your text. If you're presenting it verbally or via video conference, include a mini-milestone every 30 to 45 seconds, and a major one every 2 minutes.  
What are the characteristics of an effective milestone?
An effective milestone is a great "hook" and combines conveys important facts while sparking an emotional connection.
Are milestones simply factual? 
No. A milestone can trigger emotions, and so are effective rhetorically in utilizing both pathos (emotions) and logos (logic/facts). Thus milestones can be effective in a persuasive, emotionally compelling document or presentation.
Narrative milestones will help you avoid that terrible sense that no one is listening to your presentation, or, worse, after reading it, they had absolutely no recall of the facts, nor did they have any sort of  emotional response.
Building in narrative milestones can help you create a very effective presentation or story, and you can convince your audience to actually remember and care about it.
(also posted this blog entry in LinkedIn).

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