Exploration and Observation = Discovery

Exploration and Observation = Discovery


Did you hear? Scientists discovered a new solar system 40 light years away. While I heard conversations about the ‘what if’ of getting there; I was more impressed with the exploration and observation the scientists had achieved.

Exploration and observation are the first two tenants of creative thinking. This is the foundation of my workshops, ArchiSketch Chicago. Get OUTSIDE to wander and see your environment, not stuck inside some conference room in a brainstorming session.

Launched last summer, ArchiSketch is about exploration and cultivating one’s own observation and artistic talent. History is my muse and is the backdrop for story combined with easy drawing instruction tailored for each stop.

Join me as we move our exploration and observation outdoors into areas of the city that you may or may not be familiar.

“Joann has a way of presenting information and story to get me to STOP and LOOK. Even though I may cross this intersection on a regular basis.”

One of the greatest compliments I could received–a lasting impression to spark creative thinking in others.

Upcoming ArchiSketch Schedule:

  • March 9th Sketching Sullivan. A three-hour hunt for Louis H. Sullivan’s iconic designs, dissecting his organic & geometric design.
  • March 22nd 3 Plazas on Dearborn. 360˚ views from each plaza, skyscrapers, grand-sized sculpture and opportunities for sketching people.
  • April 8th Lincoln Park Zoo & Garden, this is preview of the Urban Sketchers 10×10 workshop lineup.

Visit the ArchiSketch Chicago website for more information.

In addition to the ongoing Toastmasters projects, I also tap into other resources to expand my story development and storytelling skills:

Storyiz, Stanford d.school’s storytelling & visual communication studio is packed full of content and activities to create compelling & visual communication.

The Art of Storytelling by the masters at Pixar. This six-part class is free from the studio that behind Monsters Inc., Up and Inside Out. FREE.

Illuminate by Nancy Duarte and Patti Sanchez. A new book from the leaders in presentation development, design and public speaking to help leaders communication more effectively.

PS: The Willis Tower (fka Sears Tower) will be undergoing a $500MIL renovation and the kinetic sculpture “Universe” by Alexander Calder will me removed, and is not part of the new plans.

Use A 3-Part Structure for Your Speech


Have you noticed the latest marketing buzzword? STORY. Yes, story or storytelling. Interesting that marketing ‘gurus’ are parlaying a concept that is as old as mankind.

Over the years, I’ve worked with some amazing writers/account directors who were VERY creative and intuitive when crafting speeches and presentations. Among their strengths was the ability to understand the audience, a skill I still employ. We developed killer visuals to accentuate the key points of speech. The perfect pairing for successful communication (plus hours of rehearsal).

All speeches (presentations) fall into these categories:

  1. Informative
  2. Idea / Concept
  3. Sell / Call-to-Action

Be honest with yourself about the type of speech or presentation you’re writing, then the key theme and messages will be clearer.

Informative. Wow, I can’t begin to tell you how many of these I’ve done in my career. Avoid the temptation to overload individual slides with data/information. Focus on the key takeaway, thus the attention will be on the speaker. Provide a fact sheet or ebook as a supplement for your participants. This way, when rehearsing the speech the emphasis will remain on you and the core message.

Idea. Have you watched TED videos? “Ideas worth spreading” are the best kind! You can learn a lot about crafting your speaking skills from TED talks by watching how passionate and clear the speaker is about the message. Passion and confidence are the keys to these types of presentations/speeches. A friend who organizes TEDxIIT laments about the hours spent off-stage writing, editing, preparing and rehearsing. Clarity. Simplicity.

Call-to-Action. What do we want the audience member to do? Buy? Stop doing something? Join a movement? Think like an advertiser or marketer to hone the message and be very clear about the outcome. When organizing this speech, begin with the end-result and script it in reverse. Much like an advertising campaign, the language should encourage the audience to take the desired action.

3-Part Structure


Use this three-part structure to organize your speech:

  1. Set-up / Background
  2. Conflict / Confrontation
  3. Resolution / Outcome

The Set-up. This is the background. Set the stage for your audience with history, who’s involved, introduce the characters. You’re building trust with the audience. Entrepreneurs are using this technique on-stage to describe their own path as it led to making change or discovery. A sales presentation would give background on the company and its products or services. Draw your audience into your story as you build to the next part.

Conflict or Confrontation. The tipping point! What is the problem? The challenge? The frustration? Your audience members, most, not all, should be feeling some level of empathy for you at this point. Your emotions and passions are elevated at this point in your presentation.

Resolution. How did you fix the problem? How does the product or service eliminate the problem? What lesson was learned? We’re eager to learn the positive outcome and what the future might be.

There’s a reason the best stories are unforgettable… we identified with the characters, were empathic with the struggle and celebrated the successful outcome. Even business pitches can have this kind of impact when this approach is adapted for your target audience(s); try adapting a client case study.

When you get together with friends and family this summer, listen… listen to the stories being told. Become a good listener to recognize a good speech structure, how the speaker is engaging the audience and the key takeaway. Was it emotional? A call-to-action? Did you learn something? Was a new concept introduced?

Put this into practice today.

Identify the TYPE of your current speech/presentation. Is it clearly 1) informational, 2) an idea or concept or 3) call-to-action? Then, review and edit your content so that it flows into the three-part structure. Simplicity works in your favor with well-thought word choices and vivid imagery.


Resources to help you:



Storytelling ~ It’s In Our DNA

We’ve all been hearing the word “storytelling” in marketing and social media conversation quite frequently these days.  I’m baffled why this seems to be the latest fad. After all isn’t storytelling in our DNA?

For those of us who have worked in marketing, public relations and advertising, we’ve been crafting and delivering those “stories” for a {very} long time.
  • Key messaging
  •  Investment appeals
  •  Call to action
  •  Crisis communication
  •  Competitive analysis
  •  Market overview
  •  Benefits of service(s)
  •  Long-term strategy
  •  Case studies
  •  Testimonials
I don’t claim to be a writer but I do draw upon my experience of formatting and designing “stories” for senior level management, events, non-profits, and start-ups for a variety of audiences.  Nothing new, mankind has been communicating with imagery for thousands of years.

More than 10 million Google results are listed when you search “storytelling for business.” I love the lead from a prominent social media blogger, “In storytelling for business, you want your reader to take action.”  Drop the word “storytelling” and we’re back to the principles of a communications strategy.  This is where all my copywriting colleagues should be standing on top of their desks, raising their hand with a big “OH YEAH!”

Technology is Today’s Campfire
A few months ago I was in the audience listening to a Chicago Tribune photographer talk about visual storytelling in today’s über-connected environment. Assimilating technology to the time when we sat around the campfire and told stories from one generation to the next. I wonder if YouTube, Facebook or Twitter will be considered this generation’s “campfire.”

There exists, I believe, a hunger for authenticity when technology lacks warmth. As usage of mobile devices, apps and gadgets increases rapidly, stories like the unemployed college grad who made a small fortune self-publishing her books are eaten up like jelly beans on Easter morning. Or, a YouTube video going viral in a matter of hours.

I find unspoken power of marketing and communications in combining images and text to tell a story. 
Effective visuals derived from these five core principles: archetype, face, experimental, emotion and shock. 

The most widely used being archetypical and emotional imagery.

Storytelling for business has a similar structure to that of fiction. (Figure)
What story are we crafting today? I hope it’s one where I/we get to dig deep into the photo archive.

PS: I’m also diving into “visual storytelling” and how we can craft messages and allegories with imagery.  
Here’s a reference from My Modern Met, (may not be NSFW).