Posts tagged ‘storytelling’

Stories that Enhance Health Website Design: If It Helped Them It Might Help Me Too

Stories can enhance health websites because they resonate with health information seekers, who find support and encouragement from the experiences of others like them. Two excellent examples are Weight WatchersSuccess Stories and’s Survivorship Stories. Both sites include extensive libraries of well-written stories about people’s experiences losing weight and surviving cancer, respectively.

Because of the effectiveness of stories in health websites like these, I challenge my Online Consumer Health students to consider how the inclusion of stories can enhance the websites they design in class. In one assignment, they first review the purpose, length, transparency of authorship, writing style, and perceived accuracy of stories on health websites. Then they either write or reuse stories from other websites for their own sites.

In my constant search for examples to use in class, I came across the stories in RediscoverYourGo. I contacted the developer to learn about the planning and design of the website, particularly how the decision was made to use stories.

“I can do anything I want, now. I would say I’m ‘back to normal,’ but I didn’t know ‘normal’ for years. I would say I gained back 15 years or so. It’s really, really good.”

I spoke with Simon Lee, CEO of Lee-Stafford on February 8, 2010. RediscoverYourGo was developed for a medical device company, Smith & Nephew, that manufactures parts for hip and knee implants. On the home page, “stories” is one of 4 tabs on the left and 3 links to stories are featured on the lower right next to “Learn from real patients who have rediscovered what it means to live pain free.” The “stories” tab leads to a list of the replacement products headed by, “Real people who have rediscovered their go.” Each replacement product has story snippets from people who have had surgery to implant that product (example to the left). The story snippets are brief, first-person quotes and they include the name (generally the first name and last initial but in some cases the full name), city, and product, illustrated by a photograph. Rather than use a headshot, many show active poses and look like they were taken informally, not by a professional photographer (in contrast to the posed “after” pictures on Weight Watchers). There is some duplication, with some people appearing in more than one category, presumably because the person has used multiple products. The first person quotes were extracted from a letter or interview with, as Simon said, “100% real patients.”

Selecting a snippet leads to a longer story in the third person about the person’s experience with pain, learning about and contacting the surgeon, undergoing the surgery, recovering, and developing a post-surgery active lifestyle. The header includes more about the person, including occupation, a larger version of the snippet photograph, and a picture of the replacement product. Many of the stories identify the storyteller’s age, and the photographs indicate age as well. Stories are more likely to resonate with someone who identifies with the storyteller, which, in this case, might be because of replacement product, age, or recreational activity. Weight Watchers facilitates this by sorting stories by gender, age, or total weight loss and inviting a viewer to “Read about someone like you”.

The use of stories is “a toe in the water” to create an online community for patients with Smith & Nephew products. What lay behind the use of stories, Simon told me, was the desire to create a “patient ambassador network” to capitalize on patient stories. Often patients with debilitating pain became advocates for the surgeon who “fixed” their problem: they wrote letters thanking the doctors who performed their replacement surgery for giving them their life back and were eager to discuss their outcomes with others.

Simon believes the more open use of social media or forums was not possible because of concerns about monitoring, disclosures and privacy, a concern shared by all the major orthopaedic and spine device companies. Highlighting patient experiences on a website seemed the best alternative.

The overall website design goal was to modernize the brand and create more youthful and non-surgical-looking site as befitting one of the big growth areas: patients 45+. Previously, the primary target audience was 65+. The focus on the new demographic is because a growing number of younger people are seeking partial replacements. The potential exists that they will then become loyal customers to the brand and their surgeon. Simon believes that healthcare is local and that decisions to choose care are “based on who can treat me and where can I be treated.” Furthermore he believes that “educated patients are happy patients and happy patients are advocates for the doctor who ‘healed’ them.”

February 14, 2010 at 1:01 am 12 comments

10 Things You Can Do To Be a Brilliant Orator

If you are going to give a talk, you might as well be a brilliant orator, a phrase that has been used to describe Julius Caesar, Barack Obama, and many in between. Here are 10 things you can do to improve your oratory performance:

  1. Have an interesting message to convey. It sounds simple, but, if it was that easy, why doesn’t everyone do it?
  2. Have a conversation with your audience. Orating does not mean lecturing or preaching. It means conveying a message to people. Since each person took the trouble to be there to hear you, talk to him or her.
  3. Do not read your slides or notes. If you do, I guarantee someone (if not many) will think, “I can read that myself so why am I listening to this person?”
  4. Don’t say “umm”. Pause instead. Or breathe. (Well, always breathe.)
  5. Look friendly and approachable. You know how people like babies and cute animals? You want people there to like you because they will get more out of your presentation.
  6. Use self-deprecating humor, which will never offend people. Surely there is something funny you can say about yourself!
  7. Tell a story to illustrate to illustrate your point. Stories tend to be memorable and thus a good reminder of your message. They are also fun to tell and if you are having fun your listeners are more likely to as well.
  8. If someone asks a question, don’t be nervous because you are the expert. Worst case , if you don’t know how to answer the question, answer a different question that you do know the answer to that is at least related.
  9. Have a plant in the audience to ask a question that you want to answer. This way you will look good and you avoid having to wonder why no one asked a question. Usually after the first question you will get others (see #8).
  10. Tape a practice session and actually watch or listen to it. It is very painful to do! A few years ago I gave a talk that was streamed on the internet and it took me 3 months before I could watch it, but it was pretty good except I said “umm” too much (see #4).

March 15, 2008 at 7:31 am 4 comments

Breathing, Jumping, and Storytelling Enhance Presentations

I love to give talks and jump (no pun intended, read on to see why!) at the chance, but I know many people who do not gleefully anticipate giving a talk. Tonight I spoke at the Greater Boston Chapter of ASTD, and was one of a number of presenters speaking on Effective Presentations Skills. In this fantastic session, I learned a lot from the other presenters, most notably (this is off the top of my head) to breathe deeply to be calmer, to jump in place repeatedly (before a presentation, not on stage!), to have a conversation not give a presentation, to crave feedback to improve presentation skills, to use humor at the start of a presentation, and to use storytelling to make presentations more compelling and memorable.

The last one comes from me, and I learned the benefits of storytelling from teaching online. Storytelling at a Distance goes into many of the reasons why storytelling is effective and, personally, I have more fun and am more relaxed telling a story than addressing bullet points on a slide. While storytelling is generally what a presenter does, it is often beneficial to elicit stories from the audience to make a point that resonates with the audience (or should I say the people I am having a conversation with?) However, it is helpful to have a plant in the audience in case no one volunteers or if you want to have a sense in advance of what someone will say or how long they will talk for.

Finally, I learned last night that, when in PowerPoint, “B” turns the screen black and “W” turns it white for those times when you want to hide your slides but not put everyone in the dark. I can’t wait for my next talk so I can try that and the other tips I received.

February 8, 2008 at 8:17 am 1 comment

Lisa Gualtieri, PhD, ScM

Lisa GualtieriLisa Gualtieri is Assistant Professor at Tufts University School of Medicine in the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine. She is Director of the Certificate Program in Digital Health Communication. Lisa teaches Designing Health Campaigns using Social Media, Social Media and Health, Mobile Health Design, and Digital Strategies for Health Communication. Contact Lisa:


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