Updated: Jan 23
Connecting your story with the needs of an audience is a powerful way to influence the decisions of colleagues and customers. Storytelling invites your audience to see the human response necessary to solve problems at all levels.
With all the talk about storytelling, how do you develop the ability to effectively tell your story to potential customers, clients and other stakeholders? It will help if you remember the elements of a good story:
1. A good story is an illustration of a plot, a destination or a message. What message do you want to convey to your audience? At the end of your story what do you want your audience to know, see or become? Your story should point them to the solution that is in your presentation.
2. A good story has conflict. It has been said that, "Conflict is the space between expectation and reality". Your audience is experiencing conflict, whether it is internal, with systems or with other people. Even choosing between two attractive options presents a conflict. Don't gloss over the struggle that has helped make you an expert at what you do. Don't over-dramatize that struggle either.
3. A good story has a hero and an antihero (we're not talking about people now). The hero is the goal to be achieved or the lesson to be learned. The antihero is the obstacle(s) confronting that goal or lesson. Any story about people should focus on types of people and not individuals. If your audience hears you disparaging a former boss, coworker or relationship, they might develop concerns about how you will refer to them in a future story.
Is it time to craft your storytelling skills?
1. A good story teaches through both happy and unhappy endings. In your story perhaps you don't close the deal. If the point of that story is to help people push past fear of the word, "No," the deals you didn't close become important lessons in grit, while the successes remind us of the rewards of persistence. Keep your audience focused on the solutions your journey now makes available to them.
2. A good story should challenge the audience to see something new. Whether you are speaking to an audience of one or 1,000, the point of telling your story is to present you as part of the solution they hadn't seen before. Here are a couple of other points to remember:
Make sure your story is not too long. Your story should illustrate the point, not be the point.
Be sure the story is relevant to your audience. Examples she isn't familiar with won't help make your point.
Your story should present you in a positive, human light, not as a superhero.
If you are reading this, you have lots of stories. Get comfortable telling stories by looking at one of your stories through the eyes of a potential customer or employer. How can telling that simple story, using the points above, position you as the solution they have been looking for? Told properly and in the right context, your stories of success, struggle and growth can help your audience make sense of their own stories while presenting you as the expert they need.
Michele Aikens is CEO and Lead Coach of Sepia Prime Communications and Coaching (SPCC). Connect with her via e-mail here.