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Stories, stories, stories at Unified



Great time yesterday moderating my panel at the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium on “Content is King: How to Craft and Feature Stories that Stand Out.”

We had a good-sized crowd—it filled the better part of a ballroom—which tells me that people really have a desire to master this storytelling thing. For my part, in my opening remarks I made three points I think hold true:

  1. What is a story? What makes a good one? How do you figure out how to tell your own, unique story?
  2. Once you have a story to tell, you need a medium to tell it through. There’s print, of course, but also the whole range of digital. (And, as one of my panelists pointed out, your tasting room staff is part of your story!)
  3. Once you’ve crafted a story and told it through your preferred media, you need a way to see if it achieved the results you hoped for. This is, of course, the famous (or infamous) ROI everybody talks about.

I suppose we could have a seminar on any one of these topics, they’re so complicated and filled with possibilities. As it was, we had only 75 minutes to get through it all, a hopelessly inadequate amount of time. But one must try! I believe the audience got so much information thrown at them from the three speakers (each of whom had a PowerPoint presentation), it must have been hard for them to take it all in. All I ever want, in these sorts of public events, is for folks to leave feeling like they were glad they came, and that they learned a thing or two they can use in the future. In this case, I’m sure they did. They had so many questions afterwards, we didn’t have enough time to get to everyone because we had to leave the room so the next panel could convene. Later, at the bar, I ran into a young guy whose family started a winery. He’d been to my panel. He said they were having trouble figuring out how to sell their wine. He’d come to “Content is King” hoping to learn about some magic bullets. Alas, there are no magic bullets. It’s hard work, selling what you make. Not for the faint-hearted.

I ran into many old friends: Mr. Darrell Corti (such a legend, and such a gentleman), Nicholas Mlller from Bien Nacido, Rick Kushman from the Sacramento Bee, the fabulous Nick Goldschmidt, George Rose (snapping pix all over the place), Nancy Light, Rick Smith from Paraiso, down in Monterey, whom I’ve known and liked for a really long time, and too many others to mention. Rick Smith is one of those salt-of-the-earth guys. He was a founding farmer/father of Monterey viticulture and wine and in particular the Santa Lucia Highlands (whose appellation status he helped create). It’s always a pleasure to meet old friends, but it also makes you feel your age when you remember how long you’ve known some of these guys. But I also made some new friends, including Melody Fuller, who it turns out not only lives near me in Oakland, but is the founder of the Oakland Wine Festival, which I’d never heard of (shame on me), but seems like a great thing for Oakland. My city has become a real hub of excitement, of restaurants and bars and the most interesting people moving in, so it’s only natural for us to have our very own wine festival, which I’m sure will be a huge success.

  1. Bob Henry says:

    “I believe the audience got so much information thrown at them from the three speakers (each of whom had a PowerPoint presentation), it must have been hard for them to take it all in.”

    Proffered advice on PowerPoint presentations, from the doyens of visual data.

    PART ONE . . .

    Excerpt from Los Angeles Times “Business” Section
    (April 19, 2006, Page C1ff):

    “Making a [Power]Point of Not Being Tiresome;
    Cliff Atkinson turns ordinary slides into a more engaging tool using a three-act storytelling structure.”


    By Claire Hoffman
    “Small Business” Column

    . . . Cliff Atkinson, who runs a one-man, Los Angeles-based company called Sociable Media . . . published a book . . . called “Beyond Bullet Points” about how to combat “PowerPoint fatigue”: the deadening sameness of Microsoft Corp.’s commonly used presentation software.

    . . . Atkinson . . . has made a living helping people unshackle themselves from the tedium of pie charts. His secret, which he is happy to share with anyone who asks: using the same three-act storytelling structure that screenwriters swear by.

    . . .

    PowerPoint has its critics. Edward R. Tufte, a Yale professor and an internationally recognized design expert, has written several essays on how the application has negatively affected the way office workers think. . . .

  2. Bob Henry says:

    Proffered advice on PowerPoint presentations, from the doyens of visual data.

    PART TWO . . .

    Excerpt from The Wall Street Journal “Marketplace” Section
    (November 14, 2006, Page B1):

    “Tips for PowerPoint:
    Go Easy on the Text; Please, Spare Us”


    By Jared Sandberg
    “Cubicle Culture” Column

    “It’s much easier to write a presentation if you’re writing in bullet grunts,” says Edward Tufte, the pre-eminent designer of visual information, who argued in a 28-page polemic against the program, “The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint,” that PowerPoint routinely disrupts and trivializes content.

    Mr. Tufte says thought and analysis are sacrificed for convenience to the speaker, hurting both content and the audience. “PowerPoint allows presenters to pretend they’re giving a presentation,” he says. Still, “its cognitive style profoundly corrupts serious communications,” he says.

  3. Bob Henry says:

    Proffered advice on PowerPoint presentations, from the doyens of visual data.

    PART THREE . . .

    From Wired
    (September 2003, Issue 11.09, Page Unknown):

    “PowerPoint Is Evil;
    Power Corrupts. PowerPoint Corrupts Absolutely.”


    [See accompanying exhibit]

    By Edward Tufte

    [. . . is professor emeritus of political science, computer science and statistics, and graphic design at Yale. His new monograph, The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint, is available from Graphics Press (]

  4. KCPhillips says:

    Watched Jamie Goode’s Power Point video presentation on minerality just before reading this post. The form of PP unnaturally boxed how/what he wanted to say about a complex and controversial subject. (It certainly limited his ability to speak spontaneously and enthusiastically about it.)

    I didn’t need to retain info through a highly structured outline, as if I were preparing to take a test; I wanted his insight.

  5. Bob Henry says:

    Link to Amazon and Edward Tufte’s books on the display of visual information:

  6. You must be an environmentalist because the information you and the panel members presented was recycle, old and tired. You added no value, but in the next session Dave Mering from Mering & Carson certainly provided some innovative thought’s. “Your product is not your brand”.

    We pay good money to attend these events.They should not turn them into personal or corporate infomercials.

    Did you know Apple does not have a blog? How can that be, the most sought after brand in the world. It’s not what you say or where you say it but what actions your brand takes to support your brands message. It’s all about the CONSUMER’S EMOTIONAL NEEDS BEING FULFILLED

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