Apr 282014
 
Tiffany Shlain

Tiffany Shlain

We live in a highly connected world linked together by status updates, texts, emails, tweets, and countless other messages. As communication professionals, we are expected to process this information every day, to navigate these connections as easily as a pro surfer rides a monster wave. But how much information can we “surf” before becoming overwhelmed? How do we as communicators manage the compulsion to connect but still carve out space to stay focused and productive?

Our closing keynote speaker Tiffany Shlain is tackling these very questions. A groundbreaking filmmaker, artist, and founder of the Webby Awards (as well as a Berkeley alum!), Tiffany explores what it means to be connected and how to navigate our changing world, from technology shabbats to tech etiquette. Her recent film Connected: An Autobiography about Love, Death & Technology is a timely look at the ways we are all connected that is both personal and universal.

The Yuen family phone.

The Yuen family phone.

Like many of us, I’m not immune to the allure of connectivity, the excitement of receiving that online notification, text message, or user comment. However, during my childhood my family and I were far from the technology forefront. We had a black and white television and rotary phone for most of the 1980’s. We didn’t get a VCR, microwave oven, or answering machine until 1992 (a banner year for us). My mother uses a manual typewriter to this day to write letters.

My world today could not be more different–I find myself now managing social media, writing content, and yes, even helping to organize BC2! I’m excited to listen to Tiffany’s talk as she returns to Berkeley for BC2, and I’m looking forward to making new connections with campus colleagues (special props to those who still have a typewriter).

Trailer for Tiffany Shlain’s Connected

May 312013
 

You’ve heard it said hundreds of times; “a picture is worth a 1000 words.”  This is no surprise as more than 50% of our brains are devoted to visual process, taking in our surroundings real time, and responding to visual stimuli.  Most of us find watching a movie or looking at photographs to be cognitive candy compared to reading a book or a long report.  Knowing what our audiences prefer, why do we spend so much time finely crafting written copy and long prose, and so little time developing visual messages?

It is time to step away from your keyboard, let go of that mouse, and get back to basics with a pen and a piece of paper, and start sketching…

sketch

 

“I can’t draw,” I hear you say, and neither can I.  However, we can all draw lines, arrows, rectangles, circles, and stick figure people.  These are the only skills you need to operate a pen and work out some ideas for your next communication piece.  Start your new project with a sketch. You’ll be surprised how using both hemispheres of your brain will invigorate your thinking. Use sketching to develop visual components for your storytelling. Here are some examples:

sketch 2 - types of sketches

 

So here’s my prescription for you as you start a new communications project:

sketch

 

  1. Think visually – what images come to mind, how can you explain things more simply with a picture, what message do you want your audience members to read and retain?
  2. Start with a sketch – brainstorm, play with ideas, pick a sketch type that works well for your project
  3. Communicate pictorially – use your favorite computer tools to create professional images of your sketches to tell your story
  4. Increase cognition and retention – it is easier for our brains to read, and retain information that is provided visually.  Use images to be more memorable and as a way to convey complex ideas.

Have fun! Less is more when you sketch.

May 222013
 

next-app1

I wasn’t always like this. I was a prudent spender—“Ha!” says my wife, peering over my shoulder—until the day I was seduced (now she’s holding her breath) by a new iPhone app. The irony? The app is an expense tracker… but its interface is so drop-dead gorgeous (luckily my wife has returned to her book) that I can’t resist buying something just to have an excuse to interact with it.

Here is what I like about the app, called Next:

  1. It only costs $1.99 (already entered that expense!).
  2. The design is devilishly simple—just an array of icons.
    Click on the one that resembles your expense—a cup of coffee
    (my Achilles’ heel)—and enter the amount spent.
  3. The analytics are also simple. One swipe to the right reveals your total expense by category for the week, month or year. One swipe to the left reveals the details of each expense by day.

next-app3That’s it. Dead simple. And, wow, so effective.

In fact, I have begun to quiz my wife and kids every night about their
day-to-day expenses, just so I can return time and time again to this app.
I think they may be calling me names behind my back:
“Meet my dad, Mr. Scrooge.”

Sigh, the power of good design.

Now to apply the same design thinking to the main university website… ah, now there’s a worthy challenge!

May 162013
 

guykAre the people you like the ones you see all the time? Maybe there’s something else going on. Maybe the fact that you see them often is the reason you’ve come to like them.

Close proximity and frequent contact mean you interact with them more, and your relationship can more easily progress from acquaintance to friend because of casual and spontaneous encounters. In other words, presence makes the heart grow fonder.

Unfortunately, large companies, virtual organizations, and digital communication work against physical proximity. Electronic/virtual/digital interaction is good for maintaining relationships, but pressing flesh is better for creating relationships. This is the main reason to get out of your chair and jump into the analog world.

Companies like Zappos, the online shoe company, have figured out ways to fight isolation. For example, Zappos employees work in an open, few-walls environment that they personalize to the hilt. Zappos also turned the employee entrances and exits at its Las Vegas building into emergency-only exits, so people bump into each other at the main entrance.

Zappos even digitized closeness for its far-flung workforce. After Zappos employees enter their name and password in the computer system, the software presents them with a picture of a randomly selected colleague. Employees then take a multiple-choice test to name the person. After they make a selection, the system displays the person’s profile and bio.

The Brafman brothers, in their book Click: The Magic of Instant Connections, sum up the principle this way: the single most important factor in determining whether or not you connect with another person is neither personality nor mutual interests—it is simple proximity. So get up and EBWA (enchant by wandering around).

Excerpted from my book, Enchantment, The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Actions