Maybe you’re a nervous wreck inside when you need to present, maybe you are shy, or worried about writing emails and presentations. Learning how to craft a compelling yarn will leave you feeling empowered, confident and energised.
A good story captivates and convinces more than data and evidence alone. The global movie industry is worth $136Bn (annual sales) and movies are consumed by more people than all major sports and theme parks combined, whilst the global market for raw data and pure evidence is worth next to nothing and appeals only to the best-educated people with a lot of time on their hands.
If you learn to tell a good story you will:
- Become a better, more convincing leader
- Get your message across to executives and managers
- Feel better prepared, empowered and confident.
The good news is that storytelling is formulaic - there is a formula that you can learn and apply that I am going to share with you.
A formula for storytelling
If you follow the eight steps below you’ll be creating engaging stories in no time.
The formula summarized
- Define your audience
- Consider what emotion you want to arouse in the audience; how you want them to feel
- State the problems of the audience you solve or address (not your own problems, they don’t care about your problems, they care about theirs)
- Establish your credibility and your humility relating to the audience and the problem - this is best when it is your personal credibility, not only that of your employer.
- Show that you empathize with the problems the audience or people impacted by the problem face
- Make a promise about how will you address the problem and relate the promise to things the audience or the people impacted by the problem truly care about
- Show proof that you can solve the problem
- Make a clear call to action that invites your audience to take the next step with you
Money, time and value
A common mistake people make in narratives is to address their own problems, not the problems of the audience. Your problem is selling your product; your customer’s problem is not buying a product, its something else. Your problem is that you chose the wrong metrics for your North Star; your CEO’s problem is missing board targets - not your North Stars.
If you are completely dialled into your audience’s problems, then go straight to them. If you are uncertain, try and view them through the lens of:
- Money - problems relating to the loss of or gain of money. Examples of money problems are revenue targets, profitability, funding, valuations, discounts, pricing and so on.
- Time - problems relating to the loss of or gain of time. Examples of time problems are project deadlines, development estimates, task completion times and so on.
- Value - problems relating to value in terms of the relative worth or importance of something. Examples of value problems are brand value, emotional gains and pains and social gains and pains.
Let’s put it all together.
The formula explained
Define your audience: What kind of people are they, what age, what level of experience, what are their jobs, their pains (problems, fears, anxieties) and gains (how they measure success).
Consider what emotion you want to arouse in the audience; how you want them to feel: Do they need to be energised or do they need to be reassured? Consider using an emotion wheel like this one.
State the problems of the audience you solve or address (not your own problems, they don’t care about your problems, they care about theirs): What are your customer’s (the audience in this case) problems expressed in terms of money, time and value. How would they describe their problems if they were being completely open and honest with you? Think about: how they measure the success of the project, how they are measured, what they are most afraid of, what politics they may face, what time pressure they may be under, what budget pressure and so on.
Establish your credibility and your humility relating to the audience and the problem - this is best when it is your personal credibility, not only that of your employer. What experience do you have that relates to the problem you are solving? No one likes a show-off, so even if you know it all, show some humility.
Show that you empathize with the problems the audience or people impacted by the problem face. You are empathizing with their problems - if you think they are under a lot of time pressure, acknowledge it, if you think they are confused, acknowledge it in a humble way.
Make a promise about how will you address the problem and relate the promise to things the audience or the people impacted by the problem truly care about. The promise encompasses not only the benefits of the product (the technical solution) you are selling but also the solutions to the full set of problems of the customer (lack of budget, lack of time, the pressure to perform, etc). A good way to think about the promise is in terms of money (costs saved, revenue gained), time (saved, gained) and value (gained in terms of satisfied customers, targets met, performance attained).
Show proof that you can solve the problem. This could be a demo, a customer reference, a mockup, a technical diagram. The goal is to create symmetry between the problems, the promise and the proof. I understand your problems, I promise to fix them and I prove that I can and will.
Make a clear call to action that invites your audience to take the next step with you. This could be anything from taking a follow-up call to taking a product demo to making an introduction to the buyer. Do not skip this step! Make it simple and powerful.
An emotion wheel will help you identify the emotions you want to convey.
Over to you
Give it a go and let me know how you get on.
More links and ideas to share
- Pixar and Khan Academy offer free storytelling lessons.
- More on Pixar’s formula for storytelling
- TED’s ideas about storytelling.
Cover image from Unsplash,
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