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WritersUA day 3: Tickle Your Brain

I’ve wrapped up my sixth WritersUA conference, but I’ve never been to a session that involved a hunting knife. That’s what happened at today’s closing session where Adam Ruben of Groupon used one to make a point, so to speak. In his session, “Tickling the Brain: Why Amazing Matters,” he showed how “different is memorable.” By using creativity and seeking novel approaches to presenting information, we can get and retain our readers’ attention.

A perfect example was at the Peer Showcase. One company produced a quick start guide and changed its packaging to make it easier to set up its product. The new design reduced a two-week setup job to two hours and reduced support calls by 97%. One of the features of the new package is a “Happy Fun Ball,” a foam stress ball. It is even called out in the quick start guide! I’m sure that by adding a fun feature, it brought a smile to customers’ faces and helped to improve their perception of the product.

Another clever idea he showed was a handstamp for a club, that was a coupon for an McDonald’s Egg McMuffin. Patrons at a bar would get stamped with this coupon. When they saw it on their hand in the morning, they’ll know where to go for breakfast (and get rid of that hangover).

Adam pointed out that the attention generated from creative solutions can be positive or negative.  I’m surprised no one called him out on his company’s ill-fated Super Bowl ad about Tibet. But with all the international attention that ad grabbed, it wound up achieving its goal.

Shock value contributed to the most memorable line of his speech. He urged the crowd to “F**k fear.” Yes, it’s language you don’t normally hear at a technical writing conference (unless you don’t have a VGA adapter cable to connect your MacBook to a projector), but it’s good advice. He said that “fear is the enemy.” It not just prevents us from doing what is new and creative, but from doing what we know is necessary.

Overall, the final keynote was a fun way to wrap up a memorable and enjoyable conference.

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