A story of violence

Scientific findings remain mostly confined to the realm of specialistic publications, without spreading to the general public. That is unless the data are used to create compelling stories that find their way to our hearts and spread virally.

Domestic abuse
Take this recently published study from Lancaster University. The authors demonstrated for the first time that the risk of domestic abuse rose by 38 percent in the UK when the English national team lost.

One to watch and share
Tender, a British charity that strives to raise awareness of domestic abuse, created a short and very touching video based on this finding. I don’t know how many of you have read the original paper, but several hundred thousands of us have been moved by this incredible video: https://www.youtube.com


Using the right visuals can greatly enhance the emotional impact of our stories. Not surprisingly, it is not easy to choose images that everybody watching our presentation will be able to relate to.

But what if we did not have to choose? What if we could deliver each one of them the experience they like best? Not one standard slide deck, video or image style, but each person in the audience getting a personalized version that they get to choose.

Science fiction? Not quite, as you will know after watching this amazing video. Devised as a webcam-enabled, YouTube-only experience, this interactive ad changes its visual content with every blink of a viewer’s eye while delivering a straightforward message about Virgin Mobile’s many awesome features.

So turn the webcam on and choose your very own version of the story. In the blink of an eye.

Read more on ads and visual stories


Does your company video look like this?

Scientist with beakers? Check.
Blue-collar guy? Check.
Racial diversity? Check. 
Stop-motion? Check. 
Baby? Oh, hell yes.

These images, often combined with a solemn voiceover, form the basis of one of the most enduring, and enduringly bad, ad and corporate video templates. Stock video footage firm Dissolve created a masterpiece with its own goods.

Read more on images and authenticity


I did not have sexual relations with that woman

I don’t know about you, but I always get nervous when I hear this:
I want you to know…
To tell you the truth…
Let me be perfectly clear…
As far as I know…
I want to be perfectly honest…

Language experts have textbook names for these guys—”performatives”. Harmless constructions, even polite, right? Unfortunately they may often signal that bad news, or even some dishonesty on the part of the speaker, will follow. 

James W. Pennebaker, Professor and Chair of Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, has done an in-depth study of the linguistics of deceit as well as that of truth. When people tell the truth, they usually use I-words at high rates. The one big exception is the performative case, such as when people start a sentence with something like “I want you to know that…” or “Let me be perfectly clear…” Anything that follows can’t be judged as false or truthful. Performatives are a delightful way to deceive while technically telling the truth.

Social media make things even more complicated, because they combine the definiteness of print with the casualness of online communication. Now more than ever before, we need clear positions, frank feedback, honest opinions. Politeness vs. deception, it’s a thin line online.

Read more on presentations.

Choose to inspire

I watched two videos several times last night, for very different reasons and with very different feelings. The first video is about the perception and reality of wealth inequalities in the US. It is a beautiful video in its clarity, simplicity and impact. I loved it, it is exemplary in showing how a story based on complex information can touch us and change our view of the world.

The second video is a showcase of 40 innovations for a TEDx event. Each innovation is displayed for a couple of seconds through a combination of images and text. I found it very hard to see the images and read the text at the same time, let alone grasp the importance of the inventions. I hated it, I felt the makers of the movie abused the time I gave them by trying to stuff me up, instead of inspiring me.

Inspiring is difficult, it requires effort and giving the audience a gift they are willing to accept. Abusing on the contrary is easy, it is the selfish thing, it is focusing on what we want to give, no matter what.

Inspiring or abusing, what do you choose in your daily work?

Science, religion, and the big bang