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Nov 15, 2017

Find the Red Thread at tamsenwebster.com.

The concept of deus ex machina is a great way to tie up the loose ends of a story, but it’s not such a great way to end a talk. Our audience wants to be engaged in our message the entire way through. In fact, they like to do some work, to be an amateur detective and see if they can guess where something is going. This is why structuring your message around the Red Thread works because it helps you make sure that you’re giving your audience the information they need to get to their own version of your conclusion.

Nov 8, 2017

Find the Red Thread at TamsenWebster.com.

If you’re trying to figure out what your Red Thread is all about, start with what you can do better than anyone else. For many people, figuring out what’s going to be powerful for them is easier said than done. Power is energy sustained over time. So, where does our energy come from? And how do we find a way to keep using it regardless of the situation?

There are three basic concepts surrounding energy that can help you clarify things. First of all, there are certain activities that are net energy negative: they drain our energy when we do them, probably because we’re not that great at them. There are other things that are net energy neutral: you might be pretty good at them, but you don’t necessarily feel one way or the other about them after you do them.

What you really need to pay attention to, though, are the net energy positive things that give you energy when you do them. What are those problems that you just can’t stand to see? What ideas get you excited? Energy is a signal of the potential power behind something. Pay attention to where you feel energy coming back to you, and you’ll have the key to unlocking the powerful pieces of your personal Red Thread.

Nov 1, 2017

Find the Red Thread at TamsenWebster.com.

When you’re putting together a large message, like an article, book, or talk, part of the challenge is figuring out what to put in between the pieces of your Red Thread. If you’re putting that much effort into a message, what you’re trying to do is get someone to move mentally from one side of something to another. That’s why thinking of your message in terms of trains, stations, and tracks can be useful.

So, using our metaphor, the pieces of the Red Thread are our stations, and the audience is the train, but if there isn’t any track they won’t be getting anywhere soon. The question to ask before each station is: what does someone have to understand and agree with before they’ll go with me there? For each piece of the Red Thread, you can use the previous piece to set them up for what’s coming next, like going deeper into the Problem to explain why the Idea is so important.

Oct 25, 2017

This week we’re looking at Ron Ploof’s work on proverbs and storytelling. Our brains automatically simplify complicated messages. The quote, “Play it again, Sam,” for example, isn’t actually what Humphrey Bogart says in Casablanca. For these messages, our collective consciousness somehow reduces them to what sounds like a proverb. We'll look at how you can use that to make your message stickier, using the Red Thread.

Oct 18, 2017

Find the Red Thread at TamsenWebster.com.

There are many times when we’re trying to figuring out how to position who we are and what we do (our Red Threads) for a particular situation: switching jobs, or expanding our business into a new industry. When you’re faced with these questions, you should ask yourself: are you a fox or a hedgehog? This concept was popularized by Isaiah Berlin, based on a saying by an ancient Greek poet, “The fox knows many things but the hedgehog knows one important thing.” The fox has many different ways to try and get the hedgehog, but the hedgehog’s spines are a pretty effective defense, no matter what the fox may try.

Because the Red Thread allows us to tell any story in a way that makes sense to anyone else, no matter what you are you can figure out how to represent your foxy qualities as hedgehog-y ones or vice versa. Whatever you are, remember that you already have a powerful story that you’re already telling. Make sure your Red Thread makes sense to you, and then you’ll find the way to make it make sense to others.

Oct 11, 2017

Find the Red Thread at TamsenWebster.com.

A great conclusion is one of the best opportunities we have to make sure that our message really sticks. At the end of a message, people want to tie everything together and have it make sense, which means that all you have to do is recap the Red Thread. To do this, you can use a technique called the Red Thread Storyline:

"We can all agree [GOAL], but the problem is, despite no barriers, [PROBLEM]. In order to solve that problem and achieve our goal, we have to understand [IDEA], which means we’re going to have to [CHANGE]. How? [ACTIONS], which means that when we get there we will have achieved our [GOAL]."

Oct 4, 2017

We spend a lot of time and energy crafting our messages but sometimes an audience just doesn’t “get it,” even though it makes complete sense to us. This happens because of a well-known phenomenon called “The Curse of Knowledge.” Basically, our brains have a cognitive bias that makes it impossible to remember what it was like to not know something.

This is the reason that the Red Thread is organized the way it is: we can’t introduce our audience to Change language before we’ve sold them on the Problem and the Idea because they have to make those same steps of understanding that we’ve made. Put yourself in your audience's shoes and you can turn the Curse of Knowledge into a blessing.

Sep 27, 2017

Find the Red Thread at TamsenWebster.com.

Most of us have certain things that we care so deeply about that we’re willing to take extraordinary measures to defend or advance that cause or belief. The problem is that not everyone shares those beliefs and, what’s more, even people who agree about a cause can’t necessarily agree on what to do about it. Humans tend to judge decisions from their own perspective, so this kind of disagreement can be especially frustrating.

When we are trying to achieve the same Goal, when we have the same fundamental beliefs, it’s necessary that we find ways to weave all of our different Red Threads together to solve the overall Goal that we all have.

Sep 20, 2017

When you’re putting a message together you need to be aware of what kind of form people like to hear a message take. Some people like stories, or quotes, or to see the data behind something, or even to be coached through an exercise that helps them experience a message for themselves. In this episode, Tamsen explains the four message mindsets: the Commander, the Counselor, the Showman, and the Sage.

Sep 13, 2017

We want to make our message memorable, but how do we make it memorable to us? When we focus on memorizing things word-for-word, we often forget the meaning behind those words. The problem is that, as the Red Thread teaches us, it’s the meaning that matters. The meaning, not the words, is what transfers from person to person.

When you’re trying to make your message memorable to you, internalize, don’t memorize. That doesn’t mean you won’t find language and phrases that you’ll want to use over and over again, but when you focus on the meaning you’ll find the best way to say those words.

Sep 6, 2017

Find the Red Thread at TamsenWebster.com.

What do you do when your message starts to feel flat? First of all, don’t worry, because it’s a perfectly normal feeling, especially if all you’re working with is a tagline or a positioning statement. Those things often focus on surface details and don’t give us a roadmap for what we could potentially talk about.

However, when we think more deeply about what we can offer, then we have more detail we can add. The more dimension we can see, the more detail we can provide. The view you’ve been staring at has rich depth and dimensionality if you start asking the right questions.

Aug 30, 2017

When you’re trying to figure out how to craft your message for all of the different people you want it to reach, you can end up addressing the question you want to answer, rather than the question your audience needs to have answered. The good news is that there are three universal questions that everyone needs an answer to before they will change their behavior or their action: Why?, What now?, and How?

The even better news? Depending on which question is most important to your audience, it can help you determine which type of message you need to prepare.

Aug 23, 2017

So you’ve done a lot of great work on your Red Thread and you think you have a great talk mapped out, but there’s one problem: you need to figure out how to start. This week on Find the Red Thread we take a look at the three ways that comedians and other successful presenters do openings.

No matter how you go about it, the first step is the Goal, and you have a lot of different options for how to get people there. By changing up how you introduce your Red Thread you can make a talk or presentation that hooks them from the start.

Aug 16, 2017

Even if you’re not in Sales, the fact is you still have to sell all the time. A lot of the time we don’t know what to say when we’re on a sales call because it feels uncomfortable, or like we’re pushing ourselves onto somebody else.

However, when you understand how people make decisions, what you say in a sales call becomes very simple. It's even simpler when you realize that how people make decisions follows the same path as the Red Thread.

Aug 9, 2017

Our brains are wired to try to make meaning— scientists call it the “make-sense mandate.” When researchers gave people three random sentences they would always try to string them together into some type of story.


The pieces of the Red Thread can help because they help you put your message in those terms— a problem that gets in the way of a goal, an idea that reveals a new opportunity, and a change that results. Our brains are hungry for story, so take advantage of that to make your message more engaging.

Aug 2, 2017

The most powerful messages are heard at both the fast and slow levels. We need to appeal to the emotional, irrational part of our brains by following story structure and using the Red Thread. At the same time, we also need to make sure that our message makes intellectual sense, that each step has been thought through and stands on its own.

The next time you’re putting together a message or presentation, ask yourself: am I finding a balance between fast and slow thinking? If you can get it right, you can craft a message that resonates.

Jul 26, 2017

This week on Find the Red Thread, Tamsen looks at Warby Parker to show us a great example of a Red Thread being used to its best effect.

It all starts with the question, “Who am I for?” Warby Parker has narrowed that down with glasses are low price, high design, and that benefit someone in need when you make a purchase. Working backward from Warby Parker’s target audience, we can look at their about page to see how each step of the Red Thread lands with that audience.

Jul 19, 2017

Our brains continually make split-second decisions about what to hold onto and what to let go of. As communicators, we need to make sure we’re giving our listeners the hooks they need hold onto our message, and we do that by making meaning.


When you’re looking at how your message is organized, you need to make sure that the pieces of the Red Thread show up either as an introduction to or summary of the information that you present. That way you can be sure you’re giving your audience the hooks they need to remember your key information.

Jul 12, 2017

One of the best ways to get better at crafting messages around a Red Thread is to see how it shows up in other places. Most people aren’t explicitly using the Red Thread Method, but there are some “tells” that signal where the key concepts are in a message or story.


In this episode, we look at the most common Red Thread tells, little phrases in other people’s messages that tell you when they’re stating the Goal, the Problem, the Idea, the Chance, or the Action. Paying attention to these cues will help you spot the Red Thread in the wild.

Jul 5, 2017

Find the Red Thread at tamsenwebster.com.

After putting so much work into your Red Thread, you want to be sure that your message will stick. The key is to understand how to engage with different learning styles, but probably not the ones you’ve been taught.

While everyone has heard about the differences between visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners, most don’t realize that studies have consistently shown that those categories make little to no difference with learning. Instead, they point to something else entirely: the difference between a Rule Learner and an Example Learner.

Jun 28, 2017

It’s sometimes hard to tell what can take your idea from good to great, but we know that difference is a game changer. This week, Tamsen breaks down the two things that get in the way of an amazing Red Thread: fear and baby steps.

If you want to take your talk to the next level, you need to move beyond the standard answers. We look how you can use the three universal questions— Why?, What?, and How?— to craft a message that will resonate with everybody.

Jun 21, 2017

When we put a message out there, we want to make sure that people end up thinking differently afterward. The challenge is that sitting between where somebody is and where you want them to be is a giant, yawning gap that Tamsen calls the “No Hole.”

The key is to understand how people make decisions. If you can introduce the right information to get people to say yes to the smaller steps that make up the pieces of the Red Thread, you can build up to get a yes for the bigger steps, too. The key, as Tamsen explains, is to make sure you think through each step to understand where you’re going to have the biggest trouble getting someone to say yes, so you know where to spend your energy to succeed.

Jun 14, 2017

Find the Red Thread at http://tamsenwebster.com

If you’ve been working on finding your own Red Thread, there are some common pitfalls that you need to watch out for. In this episode, Tamsen goes through each step of the Red Thread— Goal, Problem, Idea, Change, and Action— and points out how to approach each one.

Jun 7, 2017

Find the Red Thread at tamsenwebster.com

When Tamsen and her husband took a vacation to Amsterdam, they stopped by Manchester, England to catch some music by one of their favorite bands. They had a day free and asked their local friend for advice, he suggested they take a visit to Chetham’s Library, the oldest public library in the English-speaking world, and home to a powerful Red Thread.

No matter who you are, one thing we’re all trying to figure out is how to make an enduring mark on the world. Is what we have enough? At the core of the Red Thread is the idea that you already have what you need to hold onto because it starts with what you already do. If you have clarity around that, it’s easy for people to get onboard.

May 31, 2017

What do you do when you have less time to present your pitch or speech than you thought you had? It can be terrifying, especially if you’re not in charge of what the product of that edited message is going to be. In this episode of Find the Red Thread, we take a look at just how much power a great Red Thread can have by examining a video summary of a clip of Sheryl Sandberg’s 2017 Commencement Address to Virginia Tech.

Tamsen breaks down the video summary of clip of Sandberg’s talk to highlight how her Goal, Problem, Idea, and Change statements create a strong throughline that survives even a huge edit. If you build your message up from the Red Thread you can easily expand it for a larger presentation, but you also know what you need to hit for a shorter version that has the same impact as the full talk.

Want more information on how to find your (or your organization's) Red Thread? Find that and more at TamsenWebster.com.

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