Storytelling to Inspire
Storytelling is something that most people love, and storytelling meshes perfectly with the way our minds have evolved.
A story that helps convey your message and inspire your audience is a valuable story. I want to use this post to explain the concept of telling a story that takes place in the future.
I do a great deal of work in the area of search engine optimization. I have many stories and examples that I can use to explain a situation for a client or a prospect. However, part of what I do is to tell a story that places them in the future. I sometimes ask questions about what they envision the future to look like; then we define the story together. The client and the business are placed in the future. We describe the future and then determine the path to get there.
A story of this type puts the client as the central character. We are all deeply interested in ourselves. Therefore, the story tends to hold the client’s interest – sometimes in a compelling way. Another useful aspect of this approach is that the client or prospect also remembers the story as it is a story about them.
Even though I am making a case for telling a story that places your client or prospect in the future it is important to place them at a point in time that is realistic. If the time frame of your story cannot be justified or it is too far in the future, then you run the risk of losing your audience.
What if you feel you’re not good at telling stories?
If you feel that you are not good at telling stories, then don’t worry too much. What you are doing is to paint a picture of the future for your client or prospect. If you learn about them – and this is key – then your story will have meaning.
Remember to keep your stories simple and to the point. Don’t go off on tangents. Make your stories tight.
Add in something that makes your story compelling. If you can also include something unexpected for the audience then this will help to retain their attention and make your story more memorable. There have been many studies done on viral videos on YouTube, and one of the key aspects of viral videos is that they have something that is unexpected. People share things that they like. Therefore, weave something unexpected into your story then this can help your audience to like it and remember it.
Define a concrete result, which means that you need to understand the client’s goals and objectives. Concrete also means that the objectives can be measure and that they are time-bound. It is OK (even good) if the task or objectives are difficult. We don’t need to craft a story defining success for something easy to achieve. This may not be worth the bother.
Below are two excerpts from JFK’s speech about putting a man on the moon. This is from the speech he delivered at Rice University on September 12, 1962.
“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, . . .”
As business people, we don’t want to do what is easy. We want (and need) to take on challenges that move our organization and us forward – that makes us better!
Again, Kennedy makes a case for moving forward – he is explaining that it is the future that is important . . . to move forward is what is vital.
“. . . some would have us stay where we are a little longer to rest, to wait. But this city of Houston, this State of Texas, this country of the United States was not built by those who waited and rested and wished to look behind them. This country was conquered by those who moved forward . . .”
With this speech – which he delivered many times – Kennedy was painting a picture of the future. He laced into it stories that help to inspire and to motivate. He also provided a concrete objective (we all knew we were going to The Moon.).
Your stories and the outcomes have to be credible. We have to tell a story about something that we are expert in. We have to be strongly associated with what we are explaining in our story. If I were to deliver a message about curing cancer, then I would need credentials to help establish the credibility of why I can tell the story and why people should listen to my story. We need to establish our credibility to gain the trust and buy-in of our audience.
The last ingredient of a good story is emotion. If you can get your audience to relate to your story with emotion then you help them to better understand and you help them to become ready to achieve. Remember that you have crafted your story with them as the main character. You have placed them in the future and helped them to understand the picture of success – for them! To tell a story using this approach, your story is already better than what many do, but if you can tie in something that connects with them emotionally, then you really have a high impact story.
Ideas for your stories . . .
Think about the situation of your clients and prospects. What issues do they face? What options do they have to deal with their problems? How can you be the best option – perhaps even the obvious choice to help them achieve success? Tell a story that is based on a successful outcome for your audience. Make them the central character. Show that it is achievable in the not too distant future with you as a key member of the supporting cast then you have a good story. This story needs to be told as it will help your clients and prospects solve their problems and help them to achieve success.
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