I had the pleasure of speaking at a conference where another speaker blew me away recently. His name is Scott Harrison, and he is the founder of charity: water. What's special about Scott is what an exceptional storyteller, marketer and presenter he is.
He wants to solve the world’s water crisis in our lifetimes -- to make clean water accessible to every single person in the world.
Normally when I write a blog post it's designed to be consumed in a few minutes. This one has a one-hour video at the bottom of it. Chances are if you read our blog, you are a pretty busy person. I recently sent this video to about 100 close friends. I'm really enjoying how many of them are telling me that they watched it and how it changed their view of the world.
Briefly, Scott tells a compelling story that is understandable, simple and believable. It's something you can get your arms around. This is similar to what litigators are called upon to do every day. I just happen to think this guy has an unusual natural talent for it.
Scott has upended and disrupted charity in a way that frankly I had no idea needed to happen. I give to quite a few charities in the course of the year. I can't even remember what most of them are except for a few key ones. All I remember is that they were worthy causes, a friend asked and it was something I could easily do.
What Scott Harrison is doing is entirely different. He recognizes something that I didn't fully recognize before: I don’t really trust charities. For the most part I think they're not going to make good use of their money. They're going to probably be a bit better than government in efficiency but they're not going to be anything like the way we operate in the private sector.
charity: water, Scott’s organization, is different. Instead of reporting what percentage of their donations go to administrative costs, they give 100% of donated money to their projects. How is this possible? Simple: They fund raise separately for administrative costs to run the business, and they fund raise separately for donations. Scott figured out how valuable it is to be able to say that 100% of your donation goes to the people that need it.
The second key feature of this charity is the fact that they prove every donation. This concept is quite wonderful when you understand what it means. Simply stated, it means that you're able to trace every single dollar to a specific project. Depending on the project, you will get tweets, Google maps, photographs, your name on a sign -- whatever it takes to prove that you contributed something specific.
Another technique that charity: water uses is amazingly simple: it's called giving away your birthday. The idea is that for your birthday instead of asking for presents or Facebook posts, you ask people to donate dollars equivalent to the number of years you have lived.
This is an amazing thing. My birthday is in a few weeks. I set a goal of raising about $2000 which will help about 50 people in India get clean water. I've raised about $1000 as of this writing. I think that's amazing. All in all, I see this organization as a reinvention in the entire way we think about charity.
To say I presented at the same conference as this founder of charity: water is a little bit embarrassing. It sounds as if I'm trying to associate myself with someone really great, and I think I am. What this guy is doing is on a whole other planet. I have no right to ask for an hour of your time, but I promise it will be worth it.
Like others who have seen Scott speak, when I left I felt compelled to act. His presentation was so moving and compelling that there's no other way I would have done anything else. Now, I've seen lots of charity presidents and executive directors stand up and ask for money. I've seen incredible stories that no one would say no to. But Scott's pitch was entirely different. What he's asking for doesn't just feel selfless. It feels like a movement. And people like movements. People like meaning.
I hope you can see where I'm going in this post. All of this is so similar to an opening statement and a closing statement in the cases we present that I hope you can see the similarity at once.
When Scott presented his case, he gave it meaning. He told compelling stories. He used photography, graphics and simple slides to explain complex subjects. He used language and imagery that would appeal to visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning styles. Perhaps most important of all, at the end he asked me to do something. When you watch this presentation I want you to watch Scott Harrison's use of stories. How he memorizes what he presents. And how he uses graphics to make his case.
I make a living watching presentations, designing presentations and helping people improve how they present. Even though I know Scott’s presentation has been given hundreds of times, it felt real and new that day. And that is how we should make our judges and juries feel every time.
This doesn't mean playing on emotions because you can. It doesn't mean tugging heartstrings because you can. It doesn't mean slyly taking advantage because you can. No, it means being authentic, creating meaning, and asking for what's right.
Watch this video and tell me you can skip over doing something. Lots of people call us horrible things in the legal industry. Here's a chance to show something different. Watch this, learn from it, and then take action that feels right to you. You can donate to my campaign (updated for 2014), you can start your own, but I'm telling you there's a movement underway here, and it's going to change the world.
Articles related to storytelling, persuasion and using graphics well on A2L Consulting's site:
- Free Download: Storytelling for Litigators E-Book
- Free Download: Using Litigation Graphics to Persuade E-Book
- Free Download: How to Give a Great Presentation E-Book
- Why the President is Better at PowerPoint Than You
- Tell me why you are telling me that
- Closing arguments must close loops
- Why litigators should care about story and meaning
- The 12 worst PowerPoint mistakes litigators make
- Making it simple looks easy - but it's the hardest thing presenters do