Nov 04 2015

Telling Your Story with Adaora Udoji

by Matt Murphy

"A story is the transfer of knowledge or ideas, injected with humanity."

This is a story about Adaora Udoji, an award-winning journalist, news anchor, producer, and adjunct professor at NYU ITP. Adaora visited the NYU Langone Medical Center in October to share her story with the students, researchers, nurses, and doctors in the audience -- and to help them better tell their own stories.

"Each of us has the ability to communicate effectively, if you get comfortable with your own style," Adaora told the audience.


Adaora Udoji talks scientific storytelling,
photo by Matt Murphy

Storytelling is a part of our everyday lives, regardless of whether or not we realize it. Entrepreneurs need to be able to tell a good story when trying to get financial support from their audience. But good storytelling is just as important outside of business settings, whether it is a doctor communicating with a patient, or a student trying to get support from their boss.

According to research that Adaora cited, the average person spends more than 40% of their time talking face to face or on the phone, and this observed figure is much higher than people self-report.

So how can we improve our stories? During her time at the Medical Center, Adaora highlighted three key ways to be more effective storytellers: connection to the audience, simplicity and honesty.

Connection to the audience: Adaora discussed the importance of making a connection with the audience. "When you have something in common with an audience member, they're more likely to listen."

She also introduced the concept of "playing the odds," noting that with a large audience, you will never connect with every single person, but you should try to maximize your odds of impacting the largest possible number of people.

Simplicity: Adaora also urged the audience to keep their stories simple. "People have a lot on their minds," she said. "The more direct you can be increases the odds your audience will stick with you." This includes avoiding jargon that is often common in healthcare and the life sciences. To facilitate this, she recommended recording yourself speaking and transcribing, rather than writing from scratch. People tend to use simpler language in conversation than in writing, and since it comes more naturally it is easier to remember.

Honesty: Perhaps the most important point Adaora raised was the importance of being honest. "Do you really believe what you're saying?" she asked the audience. "If not, then nobody else will."

This seminar was a part of the NYU BioVentures Series, and was sponsored by the NYU Entrepreneurial Institute and the NYU Biotech Association. It was held in part to prepare for the NYU Healthcare Innovation Makerthon, which will take place on November 11-15.