Tell Your Story

Those of you who read my posts on a regular basis (and my sincere thanks to those of you who do) probably have noticed by now how often I employ storytelling as a part of my narratives. I am a great believer in stories as a way to convey important messages in all walks of life, including business. I am reminded of this in particular when I watch presentations by entrepreneurs, who often have a limited amount of time to describe the essence of their business to investors.

I take part in regular meetings of the Business Network Chicago Venture Capital group, ably run by my colleague Len Bland. The entrepreneurs that present in these sessions have 10 minutes to describe their business proposition to the group, followed by a question period. I often feel that the people presenting would like to defy the theory of relativity by trying to present a dozen slides or more in less than 10 minutes. Judging by the questions that follow, I must conclude that some do not succeed in getting their business across effectively.

I teach a class on how to prepare an elevator speech; the principles involved are as valid for an entrepreneur presenting to investors as for a job seeker networking. The following principles are based on an article by Chris King. A good story:

• touches people in some way
• needs to have some substance
• needs conflict and resolution
• creates vivid images
• is perfect for your audience

A Story Touches People in Some Way: you must involve the audience and have them interact with you, even if only in their thoughts. An audience of investors must be able to see how you will motivate people to buy your product or service. You must be able to get them to stand in your customers shoes for a few moments, in order to persuade them why your customer will be your customer.

A Story Needs to Have Some Substance: you must have what storytellers call a “skeleton”, otherwise knows as a beginning, middle and end. There must be a narrative to your story, in this case built around your customer and how you will make their life different.

A Story Needs Conflict and Resolution: all stories revolve around conflict and resolution; your business’ story is no different. Who is your main character and what is their problem? How will you resolve that problem?

A Story Creates Vivid Images: if you can create an image in someone’s mind about your product or service, they will remember much better. That is the key to most marketing campaigns. You can use words or pictures to create that image, but the more alive the image is, the better it will be remembered.

A Story Must Be Perfect for its Audience: consider carefully who your story will be presented to. An investor wants to know why your customer will buy, while a customer wants to know what your product or service will do for them. The essential story is the same, but how it is presented may differ.

Even well established businesses must tell and retell their story. It is not a bad idea for business owners, executives and senior management to review their company’s story from time to time in order to be certain that what they present to their employees and the world is a true and compelling story.

For more information about Len Bland and the BNC Venture Capital Group, click on this link: BNC Venture Capital Group
Fore more information about Chris King and storytelling; go to this link: Storytelling Power

One thought on “Tell Your Story

  1. Very interesting…

    Two thoughts come to mind. First, as communicators, we have lost our ability to communicate emotion. Second, we sometimes forget the inciting incident.

    As a presenter, we forget that our audience has an empathetic ability to connect to our emotions. And, through some really interesting research on the communication of emotion, we know that messages and experiences stick when compounded with emotion.

    Walt Disney recognized that when we employ sights, smells, and sounds, we enhance the experience by evoking emotional memory. For Disney, it’s about our childhood memories that connect the “now” experience with an emotion in the past… happiness. If we are able to evoke emotional memory, or communicate an emotion in the present, we can achieve greater success.

    When you watch a film or a television program, the story always begins with the inciting incident. It answers the question, “what does our protagonist experience that propels him or her to move forward?” As they move forward we go on the journey with them waiting with anticipation for final resolve.

    Let me date myself for a moment. During the TQM movement of the 80’s and 90’s we crafted story very well in business. We would start with an incident and then root around for cause, then develop an action plan for a strong resolution.

    Whether we are doing root cause analysis, process reengineering, or strategic planning, the elements of story are there. Just remember, you always start with the inciting incident, the hook for the audience, then sprinkle it with emotion. When we get to the end, our audience will be with us and remember the experience for an intriguing water cooler discussion.

    Just my two cents…

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