TED Conversations

Nisha Kulkarni

Communications Consultant, Self-employed

This conversation is closed.

What kinds of stories move you?

I am building my business around how storytelling and communications (both digital and traditional) can come together in compelling ways to help organizations and individuals reach new audiences -- that could be a customer, investor, supporter, fan, reader, et cetera, and make greater impact.

Since there is a barrage of content out there at any given moment of the day, what catches your eye and compels you to learn more, stay tuned and/or share it with your friends and networks? What do you find least effective and off-putting?

In addition, if you have any examples in either case, I would be very interested in your insights!

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    Jul 12 2013: Nisha, A short time back Pat Gilbert had a conversation about Lincoln I think it was hero or traitor ... Pat presented some factual snippets that I had never heard of. He set the hook and I poured through Lincolns papers and civil war documents / articles and found a Lincoln that was never discussed at school ... and documented. To me that was exciting and well played by Pat to lure me in.

    Turn offs for me are ... arrogance ... the "demand" that you must and will think like me ... that we are sheep and followers ... and assaults to intelligence.

    Dan Brown found a key .. that works for me. He tells a story that is steeped in facts and bits of knowledge. The Da Vinci Code core theme may have turned many off, but the history and information provided was fantastic. I double checked everything to ensure the fact checked out. Another author that I learned much from was Dick Francis he wrapped a great story around facts.

    I am not much on political bios ... They usually just make me mad. Clintons wrote 500 pages about things they could not recall in front of Congress. Nothing really new. Spit out a few pages for big bucks.

    Hot button issues like going green or global warming are just a bunch of quotes we have seen and heard a million times.

    Watch any presentation by Sir Ken Robinson ... he weaves a story about education using everyday examples and humor to great effect. That is what you seek.

    Be careful ... I watched a talk on TED about the way we think about charities. Good talk. So I looked him up. He is being sued by a number of companies as he took 80% of the funds raised for charity as his fee. Good talker ... IMO a rip off artist. So do your homework.

    So there are some thoughts .... I look forward to hearing about you and your web site. All the best.

    Bob.
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      Jul 12 2013: You really captured the "compelling you to learn more" aspect of Nisha's question.
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        Jul 13 2013: Thanks Fritzie .. I appreciate you and the TED community who inspire me to greater heights and to keep on learning. A good lesson for all.

        Bob.
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          Jul 13 2013: Hey speaking of those ripoff charities, it's gonna be harder for people to scam stuff like that when society becomes transparent.

          Maybe this is what Facebook is trying to do when they want everything to be public, but if it's the case, they're doing it wrong. Their intentions may be right, but they totally neglected user trust.

          But that was pretty awesome to hear how you old folks still engage stuff like that intellectually. Sounds kinda fun!
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      Jul 13 2013: Thank you for your thorough response, Robert!

      I was thinking about what you wrote about Lincoln, and I realized how true it is. There are so many "public" stories out there -- be it about people, organizations, places, events, et cetera -- but we only really see one aspect of it. I'm about to start working on a project now that really highlights that challenge. I like to be lured in too, and I expect that's the truth with most audiences. You need to whet the appetite and give them a reason to want more.

      And duly noted about "hot button issues": I feel the same way. Unless there's a fresh perspective (whether it teaches me something or helps me see things in a different way) on a popular issue, I don't see the point of repeating what has been said a million times before.
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    Jul 12 2013: True stories move me......If you watch Andrew Solomon's talk:

    http://www.ted.com/talks/andrew_solomon_love_no_matter_what.html

    And then visit the link provided on the right of the screen...."Share your family's story" , you will see what I mean.

    All the best with your project Nisha....make sure and tell us if you put up a web page.

    Mary.
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      Jul 12 2013: Thank you for your well wishes, Mary! I'm launching my website next week, so I will be sure to put it up here and on my TED profile.

      I appreciate you sharing Andrew Solomon's talk as well -- I'll follow your advice and let you know what I think!
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        Jul 12 2013: Great Nisha!!!!

        I know you won't be disappointed.

        TED has had several speakers come on and talk about stories.
        A quick search with "stories" in the criteria will yield the list.

        Looking forward to visiting your site!!
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    Jul 14 2013: I work part time with young people who don't go to main-stream school due to bullying, and the remainder of my time I work with elderly people as a reminiscence leader and life story recorder. Both are very satisfying jobs. I quite often link my rolls by asking the older folk what lessons they have learnt that could help the young people I work with. They talk about learning the lesson of self-respect, self-acceptance and non-judgement, dignity and gaining personal happiness by being true to themselves. It takes older people to understand the true value of human dignity. It's just a shame that many of our old folk are ignored and dumped in "care homes". They have so much to offer young people and young people greatly need what they have to offer.

    Currently, many of the older folk I listen to were children in the war years or the immediate post war years when austerity was far harder then it is today. Many, born between 1928 - 35, were evacuated from cities (London / Manchester etc.) to stay with stranger families in rural areas. Often a truly frightening experience, but sometimes a wonderful, life enhancing benefit. The social changes that have occurred in the decades since WW2 has been huge. When you think that before WW2, TV was a new invention and cars were rare, most people left school at 14 and most work was physically demanding. At home, washing machines, vacuum cleaners and fridges were not the norm, neither was central heating. In urban terraces, outside toilets served several households and baths were taken (once a week) in a tub in front of the fire! Despite this hardship, they don't see it like that - they talk about the good old days, because communities helped each other. Today we live such isolated lives.

    Good luck with your journey - you'll have a great time. I love my work - everyday is a surprise and a joy.
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      Jul 15 2013: Thank you for your well wishes, Heather! I appreciate your kind encouragement.

      Your work is inspiring. How did you come to focus on children who were victims of bullying? Have you learned anything by working with these young people that surprises you?

      I can relate to your point about how your elderly clients think about the good ol' days and were more communally connected. I lived in Mumbai for nearly three years, where I worked in the field of poverty and social entrepreneurship. And what struck me is that the hardship many people face is just accepted, and they are able to live their lives just like anyone else. As an outsider looking in, we wonder how that can be, but they do. They make the best of it, mostly because not doing so is not an option. And even if it was an option, how would that help them live a better, happier, more productive life?

      I think there's a real lesson in that: in seeing things as they are and building something -- however big or small -- that may enrich your life.
  • Jul 13 2013: I am with TED FRIEND in the comment "knowing the background of the writer and history of the book". I remember seeing a movie on the life of Ian Flemming and it added a dimension to the Bond movies. I think Kate Blake's comment is spot on with the stories being more interesting "when people sincerely share something of themselves and their life" and Mary M. takes this one step further by identifying the interest in true stories.

    The ability to make a story personal is a hook few people can resist. I like to read the "Personal Glimpses" and "Everyday Heros" sections of Readers Digest and similar magazines for exactly this snapshot into lives that are often very different from my own. A guy name Paul Harvey (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Harvey) use to have a radio program that would give you a snapshot of some random but character defining event in the life of some famous person. He would describe the significance of the event in great detail while keeping the identify of the person a secret. You were soon hooked and could not wait to guess the character before the big reveal in the end. (Also did speech for Dodge Ram Commercial "and god made a farmer" for 2013 Superbowl-Excellent!).

    I like stories that teach you something, have an element of the unexpected, highlight some hidden virtue of a character that I would like to see in myself, and stories that teach me something as a side benefit.

    How did the characters face hardship and succeed in real life? How was virtuous character attribute shown to be something that makes a difference in the end? What were some extraordinary features of a character that enabled them to accomplish their pupose?

    Ok, one last tidbit. I can't explain this, but I really like Happy Endings, even if there was tragedy in the story.
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      Jul 13 2013: I also like stories that teach me something, and it's really an art to do so without sermonizing. There is so much content available today that feels more like a how-to manual than a story a person can relate to. I think that's why more and more you see this stress on sharing something personal or expressing more empathy. The stress is on "showing," not merely "telling."
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      Jul 12 2013: It always amazes me how people confuse "hearing" with "listening." When we listen -- really listen, like you did with your fellow debaters -- we see the bigger picture. I have had this experience myself, and although that insight may not be groundbreaking, it leaves room for further productive engagement and growth.

      There's so much talk about the new economy or the new world of business, and empathy is being touted as a much-needed tool or trait. I fully agree with that line of thinking, but it's not really new, is it? We just need to listen so we can have a more positive impact in our environments.
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      Jul 12 2013: Thank you for your feedback, TED FRIEND. I have pretty varied tastes in books, but I agree with you that personal stories resonate the strongest and that reviews aren't the sole basis for my reading decisions.

      I also like your thought on digital books: it works so well with e-books, and there's definitely potential for it as a creative solution to communications!
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    Jul 15 2013: This seems quite interesting, Nisha, and somewhat complex. Perhaps you should add more time by clicking "edit" and adding more time. I myself would like more time to think about it. Do you mean what advertisements intrigue me when I see them? Actually, almost none, the only advertisements I can think of that I like are the advertisements for upcoming rock concerts that feature a dramatic photo of the band that is going to perform, either a posed portrait photo or an in-concert photo.

    One thing I like about email is that you can write to important people and they will write back because email is so easy. For example, I've just had an email exchange with Jonathan Gold, who is our food critic here at the Los Angeles Times, and the only food critic to win a Pulitzer Prize. Every restaurant review he does has his email address at the end, so it was very easy to write him, and he very quickly answered. I've had some correspondence with a fellow named Henry Rollins, who writes a column on rock music in another paper here, and is pretty famous for having been the lead singer in the Black Flag rock group and now traveling the world giving spoken word performances. Again, it's because email is so easy.
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    Jul 15 2013: AsI mentioned in my question prompt (as well as in some of my responses to people's thoughts below), I have started my own business, and today is the day I launched my brand new website!

    The URL is: www.NISHAKKULKARNI.com
    Please visit and share with your networks!

    I also want to take a moment to thank everyone who has (so far) thoughtfully answered my question! Your responses have helped me to do some valuable "homework" and to do creative, productive brainstorming.
    That being said, I hope that the conversation will continue throughout this week.

    I look forward to more discussion!
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    Jul 15 2013: Compelling: novel (could be funny, useful, or just interesting, as long as I've never even thought of an idea/plot remotely close to the story I'm hearing, I'm compelled as hello minus 0).

    Off-putting: anti-novel (idea/plot overused and cliched)
  • Jul 13 2013: Stories or essays of interest, a very wide range of possibilities there. For me when it comes to personal stories then those which touch the inner part of you are the ones which matter, for example the movies: Good Will Hunting, Dead Poet's Society, The English Patient, The Thin Red Line are good examples. They reach down into parts of humanity where meaning becomes important unlike many other films which simply act to seduce the ego or basic emotions. As regards say important issues that matter for humanity in general then stories relating to an ability to empathise matter a great deal, those which put you in another's shoes, create understanding and a feeling of connection rather than separation are the ones that matter.
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      Jul 15 2013: You have named three of my favorite films! There's a real poetry to how these stories touch the viewer, and you're absolutely right: you can't help but empathize and feel a connection.

      I'm really intrigued by how much we crave the personal story -- it doesn't surprise me, especially since the modus operandi is to mask our inner lives so much of the time. But there is so much richness and fluidity there! Amazing what we could accomplish if we tapped into that to engage with one another.
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    Jul 13 2013: Two of my favorite stories are manga called Slam Dunk and Real by Inoue Takehiko.

    If I told you, those stories were about humility, respect, overcoming massive personal guilt, comraderie, passion and dedication, and finding one's own character and finding others, would you guys read them?

    I respect the craft that is put into manga, and those two are EXTREMELY well crafted.

    Here's why I like those stories so much:

    They both have...

    Character,
    Depth,
    Emotion,
    Respect,
    Teamwork vs Individual theme,
    Great and Exciting Conflicts to Overcome.

    Inoue Takehiko is a MASTER at crafting characters and he is a MASTER at expressing intense emotions through the medium of Japanese Comics, and with that, the story just comes much more naturally.

    And guess what?

    They're both about Basketball.

    If you've read it, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about :)
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      Jul 15 2013: I think manga and other graphic novels really point to how storytelling can bend genres while being relevant and totally brilliant. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
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    Jul 12 2013: 800 to 2500 page and higher stories. The bigger the better to take your time absorbing it but then when you are keen on a book, it can grip you if the author knows how to weave every thread.

    I love Fantasy and Sci fi and lately historical figures. The greatest book i've ever read was surprisingly a short read but it opened a 17 year olds mind from Star wars and Star trek silliness to sci fi on a truly epic level, in many ways the author had a sense of how sci fi was going to develop. I was 17 and it was 1987, it's dated now and takes three reads to understand it or to get a feel for the particular style of layout, i've never seen another who has used that style. Surprisingly it still gets rave reviews and a lot of confused younger reviewers.

    The Dragon never Sleeps by Glen Cook, 1987.

    For those who still dream of what's out there.
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      Jul 12 2013: I like what you have to say about taking your time to absorb a story. There's something to be said about building a world in someone's imagination, isn't there?

      And thank you for the book recommendation -- I'll be sure to check it out!
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        Jul 12 2013: It probably won't appeal to you or anyone as we are always individual, like our tastes for wine which is only truly appreciated when drunk from a wine glass otherwise it's just alcohol, subjective.
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          Jul 13 2013: I appreciate what you say, but I think whether I like it or not is irrelevant (at least in the beginning). I think that until we expose ourselves to different ideas and things -- step outside our "comfort zone" -- then we are keeping our view of the world a little too narrow.

          The point is to open the imagination and to see what other things are out there and what we can learn from those things. So if I don't like it, that's okay -- but I'd like to learn something new (even if it's just that I don't like that particular wine).
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        Jul 13 2013: I should delete my previous post but out of respect for your reply I shall apologize, Sorry Nisha, I fell into something i've been trying to avoid falling for, being crotchety online as in life. It's surprisingly hard not to. By the way that is one fine post, Thank you.
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    Jul 12 2013: My favorite two TED talks about story are Shekar Kapur and Amy Tan.

    You might look also at Joseph Campbell's Hero with a Thousand Faces, about compelling archetypal stories.

    I have not heard Andrew Stanton's talk on stories, but over one million people have.
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      Jul 12 2013: Thank you for the suggestions, Fritzie. I will check those out this weekend!
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        Jul 12 2013: You are welcome.

        One more bit. Salman Rushdie has written about the role he sees for online games as a communal storytelling culture.

        I may have heard him address this subject as a Big think interview. You may get additional ideas from that.
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          Jul 13 2013: I reviewed those talks you recommended and they were great. I especially like Andrew Stanton's talk and the Big Think interview with Salman Rushdie.

          It's interesting to see what the discussions around storytelling are as it has evolved and what it can be. Lots of stimulating, food-for-thought ideas that can be applied to any endeavor.

          Many thanks again, Fritzie!