“People don’t want more information. They are up to their eyeballs in information. The want faith – faith in you, your goals, your success, in the story you tell.” – Annette Simmons
Let me tell you a story . . . . .
It’s the perfect hook isn’t it?
We can’t resist a good story and yet it’s an influencing skill that is majorly underused.
If there’s a year that is going to be full of stories, 2020 is the one.
Where were you? Who with? How was it? The stories you share will reflect very much who you are.
Which stories you tell will shape people’s opinions of you.
Whether that is pitching for a piece of work, explaining what it is you do or when you’re out on of your next date!! If you’re dating 😉
And these stories of 2020 will be many and varied.
There will be those who have continued as normal. There will be those who have been in work and overwhelmed, and those who’ve been at home and been overwhelmed.
Those who have felt lost and disconnected, those who have been bored and listless and those who relished the “free” time, who have learned new skills and got a great tan.
As we return to work, or start looking for new work, stories will be key to connecting and influencing those around us. As Herminia Ibarra asked in her classic research paper – “What’s your story?”
Stories define us.
Is storytelling difficult? The difficultly is in having the courage to use this skill. We’re so used to elevator pitches, powerpoints of a trillion slides, with text that’s so small it’s unreadable and an absence of spark and colour from adjectives or adverbs, that the switch to storytelling can feel a little contrived when put into practice. But believe me, it isn’t for the listeners – and it gets results!
All good stories contain the same elements and follow the same story arc, whether it’s the Hunger Games or Great Expectations, or even that last brilliant talk you went to – watch Steve Jobs in action to see just how influential storytelling is.
How do you build your story?
Let’s take a look at the key elements.
Your audience maybe many, or just one. But think first, be clear about what you are trying to achieve.
The central character
You are the central character, importantly, someone who people warm to. Keep this in mind in how you describe you in your storytelling. People want a hero they can “get”, flaws are fine, but connection is king/queen.
The catalyst for action
Something catalytic has to have happened. Something where the only choice is to take action. How did it make you feel? Remember – emotions connect.
The trials and tribulations
There has to be trials and tribulations, this is what makes it feel real.
What were the challenges you faced, the obstacles, the frustrations. Showing how tough it was will only build the case for how great you are when you show that you overcame all of this.
Then you reach the peak. That turning point when things start to change. When success is yours for the taking. Describe what it was like. How did if feel, how did others respond?
For a strong finish, bring the impact to life. In any good story there has been change in the external world, but, importantly, something has changed in you, the central character. What have you learned? What has shifted in your behaviour? What is better?
One last point. How to pace the story is often overlooked. There’s historical thinking that the peak should be in the middle with a nice even run up and run off. But putting it at around 75% in is good.
Why? This enables you to really engage the listener up to the peak and makes the finish succinct. You will be able to leave space for questions – a great engagement tool in itself.
Creating a great story doesn’t take as long as you think, it just needs a little bit of planning. And anyway, you want to keep the story short. Long stories, unless brilliantly told, lose an audience.
Use the outline here to frame your next moment to influence and let me know how you get on.
And if you want to really challenge yourself, how about a story in 6 words?
Here’s the most famous one out there.
“For sale: baby shoes, never worn” – Attr: Ernest Hemmingway
A couple of examples of great story-telling in action: