Guest Blogger: Trisha Griffin-Carty
We’ve all been there…sitting through yet another data-driven presentation, heavy on the PowerPoint eye charts and numbing statistics. Yet, no savvy business person deliberately sets out to bore his/her audience. Rather, just the opposite is true! In our information-saturated society, each of us is struggling to have our message heard, understood and – here comes the real test – acted upon. We want our audiences to be so engaged with our data, arguments, and ideas that they are moved to action.
Enter the power of stories. No, not the “once upon a time” variety we learned growing up, but stories that explain new ideas, win support for projects, and help us stand out among a sea of candidates in a competitive job market.
Why stories? Well-developed stories connect with clients, colleagues and customers on both logical and emotional levels in ways that strictly factual accounts just can’t. Every effective story needs a clear purpose, an easy-to-follow structure, and a main point or theme. When it comes to the emotional element, however, many “stories” miss the mark. Why? Because listeners need – and want – to care about the topic, if they are going to invest their time and attention.
So, what’s a coach to do? How can we help our clients connect with their listeners using stories
First, encourage clients to look at their own personal and professional experiences. Scan for ideas that could be used during interviews, presentations, networking conversations, team meetings, pitches to the boss, etc. An effective story does not need to be a life-changing experience. Some of the most powerful stories are drawn from everyday events.
Next, create a story bank. This can be a simple desktop file where clients enter phrases, images, lines of dialogue, marketing slogans, titles of books, songs, blog posts, etc. Coming up with an idea “on demand” can be challenging. The alternative is to notice and capture ideas on an ongoing basis. That YouTube clip or headline from today might be just the right story for next month’s presentation.
Finally, observe, observe, and observe some more. Watch your colleagues, managers, and presenters. Who uses stories? How are they structured? How does the audience react? The goal is not to imitate others, but to recognize where and how stories add value AND learn how you can use your stories to achieve results.
The good news? Storytelling is actually part of our social DNA. So, the next time you encounter a client who is “stuck”, try asking him or her to share a story with you. This just might be the key to a new conversation.
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