Show, Don’t Tell

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There’s a fundamental rule in storytelling…

If you want to make a point, don’t just tell it, show it!

Sometimes that’s done with demonstrations, action scenes or dialogue. Other times, it’s done in pictures. And, this last week saw an amazing example of the power of show over the power of tell.

You may not have heard, but last week, a little company called Apple released a device known as the iPad. It’s got a lot of cool features, but it became pretty clear that one major missing feature was the ability to display something called “flash.” For those not in the know, flash is a technology developed by Adobe that lets you display motion on a website without having monster files that take forever to download. Millions of websites use it, though most people on the browsing side have no idea they’re seeing it.

Nearly every browser now supports it…except Apple’s mobile browser. And, that’s been a bone of contention. Because, when a website uses flash and someone’s browser doesn’t read it, instead of seeing a movie or movement that person just sees a blank box with a little blue lego inside. This can seriously degrade the browsing experience for a lot of people on a lot of websites.

So, when Apple announced the iPad and it became clear this revolutionary new device did not support flash, the flash brigade was not happy.

Now, they could’ve explained the problem by explaining to people what a pain it would be.

But, there’s not a whole of drama in that. Because, it’s telling, now showing.

So, instead, this genius post appeared on Lee Brimelow’s The Flash Blog:

It’s a beautiful example of how much more powerful it often is to make your point, tell your story or sell your solution not by explaining the who, what, where, when and why, but by stepping back and showing it in vivid color.

So, next time you really want to do some heavy duty convincing, step back and ask,

Am I showing or am I telling?

And, if the answer is the latter, see if you can figure out a way to convey the same information in a far more visual, immersive, conversational “showing” approach.

You’ll be blown away at the difference.

P.S. – 541 comments & counting = proof of concept.

P.P.S. – The deleted screenshot was a porn website, in case you were wondering

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8 responses

8 responses to “Show, Don’t Tell”

  1. Mario Lobo says:

    I just not like it, for me It is a relly big iphone.

  2. Fletcher says:

    Here’s another one you might enjoy:


  3. Neal Hacker says:

    Great Point Jon!

    Goes back to caveman days of drawings on the wall showing others how to, say, kill a buffalo or something!

  4. You nailed it Jonathan. As a communication coach, I know words can only take you so far. You can get attention, trigger curiosity, build some trust with words, but in the end, if the facts do not show or they are not aligned with the words, you’re wasting your breath.


  5. Mick Morris says:

    Thanks Jonathon,this was a powerful example of your point. The visual provides some concrete evidence rather than a concept in your head….. lots of food for thought.

  6. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by jonathanfields: Show, Don’t Tell –

  7. That is how Jesus taught. He didnt say “God is great” etc. HE showed things. It’s how a genius teaches.

  8. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jonathan Fields, Jonathan Fields, remarkablogger, Mark Davidson, Mike Billeter and others. Mike Billeter said: "Show, Don't Tell" – – Excellent @jonathanfields post on why showing is so important to storytelling. […]