My radar is always scanning for what’s memorable. Why? To get attention nowadays, great work is baseline. To break through, it’s about being memorable.

I spent this past weekend at TEDxWomen and heard about a lot of interesting work and ideas. Millennials’ desire for “feminine” leadership values. A high-school senior who developed a computer program to diagnose breast cancer.

Among the hours of talks, one was most memorable: Angela Patton of Camp Diva in Richmond, VA. Put simply, Angela is a powerful storyteller and communicator because she makes a connection with her audience.

Angela created Camp Diva, a summer and after school program, to help at-risk girls of African descent prepare for their passage into womanhood.  Angela’s talk focused on the importance of fathers. She shared a story about how her students dreamed up the idea of a father/daughter dance that ended up taking place at a rather unusual location.

Watch it here:

There wasn’t a dry eye in the house after her talk. She also made us laugh, wonder and rejoice. She made us feel, and feeling is what drives us as human beings. (Side note: When evaluating story pitches, television broadcast producers often ask, “Will this make our viewers cry?”)

  • I felt like I was there. Angela used powerful visuals of fathers and daughters holding hands and talking to each other, rather than staged photos of people smiling into the camera. She also included small details to paint a picture, like what the fathers and daughters ate for dinner.
  • I felt like I knew the girls. When telling the story, Angela recounted the exact dialogue that went on between the girls. She let their personalities shine through with both sadness and silliness.
  • I felt surprise. Angela used the “cold open,” a concept I learned from my colleague Robert Perez. She doesn’t start by giving us a summary of what she’ll talk about; she jumps right into the story to capture our attention.
  • I felt anticipation. The struggle the girls faced made their victory much sweeter. Easy isn’t interesting. I eagerly awaited the sheriff’s response, and felt joy when the girls were reunited with their fathers.

Communications is not about broadcasting information. It’s about making a connection with another human being, and Angela Patton did it beautifully through her story.