Stories That Deliver Results

10 tips & 5 things to avoid

The stories we tell shape our environment and allow us to share our thoughts, test ideas and portray a certain image of ourselves. More than perhaps desired or recognized, stories have immense power in our professional and personal lives as they have the potential to establish our authority or in turn, ruin our career. Accordingly, politicians widely use storytelling in their campaigns to convey ideas and win people’s favor. The story tactic is a form of persuasion that has much better chances of resonating with the audience and can turn a client into an evangelist for your business. From creating ads, sales or presentations, stories change the way people look at your brand and what you sell.

Your story may change as business is always adapting and expanding, but historically popular stories reveal certain core elements that make a good story a great and memorable story. This blog will examine 4 reasons why storytelling is a powerful tool and give you 10 tips of how to tell them and 5 things you should avoid when telling stories.

Related: What happens to your brain when someone tells a story? Why All Good Presenters Use Quotes.

It’s actually not just the story that makes or breaks your presentation, but it’s also how you tell it and how you make the audience feel. To adapt this strategy, it’s vital to understand…

Why Stories are Important in the First Place

  1. Stories captivate. Have you ever listened to a presentation and had a difficult time following along only to drift off into another realm of reality and thought? The average attention span in 2015, according to the Statistics Brain Research Institute, is 8.25 seconds! You’ll be lucky to get a few minutes of undivided attention before the first person goes into lala land or starts checking their email. Don’t waste your first few minutes explaining complicated strategies, but catch your audience with a story right from the start. Related: Attention Span Statistics
  2. Stories stick longer. The best advertising agencies don’t go into the details when pitching a product, but rather, they tell a story. Whether of a customer or of their business, stories simplify the message and if memorable, they will stick in the minds of your audience much better than mere facts. This is because both sides of the brain get activated when listening to stories and so they get anchored in the long term memory of the recipient. If you have a captivating story, then your audience will remember you and your ideas. Related: How Metaphors Make Presenting Exciting
  3. Stories build relationships. Telling stories makes you human. It’s what we’ve been doing for over 40,000 years or so, when cave painting first took root. It’s how we learn, how we understand each other and how we connect to each other. Neuroscientists have researched different areas of the brain and have found that the whole brain is at work when listening to a story, rather than when listening to a fact, which is only a simple decoding process. Stories can make your audience think and feel the same way and can be the spring board in establishing a relationship. So next time someone asks you about your background, anchor it into a story and surely they will recall you after an interview or presentation. It’s just human nature.
  4. Stories fuel your marketing. Easy to remember and impactful and effective, a great story is easy to be retold and shared. Don’t fret about large companies having a hefty budget for marketing and advertising. Stories are your best friend, as not only are they a low-cost communication tool, but they also have the potential to fuel your social media and be shared. It’s much easier to share great story content then a product! It’s how you expand your realm of influence to friends of friends of friends.

Tips on How to Tell Your Story

Lay a Foundation…

  1. Set a foundation. Define who your audience is and how they would relate best. Your method of presenting will certainly differ if your audience is a group of high school students or bio engineers or bankers. Find out who you’re talking to and try to set your message in their language and understanding.
  2. Connect. Why will people identify with your story? Forge a connection by casting a sympathetic setting and similar difficulties your audience may have. Remember, stories aren’t about products, they’re about people.
  3. Consider how your story will be different from others. What’s special and how will it stand out? Do you have new data that is surprising? New research that may alter business? Transform knowing into telling, describing and visualizing.
  4. Build tension. Define the conflict and build tension. Every great story has some kind of obstacle that needs to be overcome. Make sure you point out what would have been different if you didn’t take the route you did.
  5. Deliver a turning point. Present your aa-ha moment, your resolution to the problem or the turning point of your story.
  6. Explain the outcome. What happened and why is it significant? Clarify the lesson and what action you are proposing people make.

Be Conscious to…

  1. Use visuals. Did you know that humans tend to think in pictures and that articles with images receive 94 percent more total views? Sharing content with strong visual images makes a significant impact of how the audience will remember you, whether in media or in presentations. That’s because words are merely processed by our short-term memory, but images are etched into our long-term memory.
  2. Slow down and don’t fear silence. If you speak fast, it’s likely that others will not understand what you’re saying. Taking time to speak makes you look more confident and allows the audience more time to process the information you are delivering. Integrate the power of silence into your presentation.
  3. Keep it simple. The main storyline should be straightforward, so it can be easily understood and repeated.
  4. Have fun and rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Kind of a no-brainer, but really even the best presenters rehearse for hours before coming onstage. Don’t leave your enthusiasm behind! If you are entertaining and engaging, people will like you and find whatever you are presenting on much more interesting. Remember, smiling is contagious and so is having a good time.

What You Should Avoid

  1. Coming unprepared. Lack of training and practice transfers to lack of professional technique. Even the best speakers don’t take a chance at winging a presentation. Steve Job’s secret formula to making his presentations look effortless was rehearsing aloud for countless hours.
  2. Not knowing your audience’s definition of value. It’s hard to communicate value if you don’t know the audience’s definition of value. What’s important to your audience? Your speech should resonate with the audience and be meaningful to them. However, you can only deliver if you understand the other side.
  3. Not knowing where the audience wants to go. If you don’t know what your audience wants or what they are looking for its hard to deliver. Think about what the destination for your audience or customer is and what their expectations are — why are they listening to you? Find out where the audience wants to go so you can speak directly to this point.
  4. Ignoring the audience’s worldview. If you know the story the audience wants to believe, their perspective and worldview, then you can speak with this in mind. This will help the audience to easily connect with you and will also give you a competitive edge to deliver something the audience can chew on and think over.
  5. Negative rhetoric. It can be a real turn-off. Think twice before polluting your presentation with negativity toward your competitors or other people. Consider that first, it’s difficult to listen to “complainers,” and secondly, you want to leave a positive impression. Of course, this is not to be confused with critical thinking, but be careful of frustration that causes more suffering. Don’t let your audience red-flag you!

A story can educate, entertain and persuade, it can land you a job or get you fired. It’s only to the best of our advantage to master the skill of storytelling to be able to lay a solid foundation and be conscious of how we tell our story. It’s something that might be useful to referring to when crafting your next presentation. We love your comments and thoughts!

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