Master of Stories
By Kenrick Cleveland
Persuasion Fundamentals, Using Stories
‘Facts and figures are forgotten. Stories are retold.’ -Jeffrey Gitomer
Unless you’re a really mathematically oriented person, you’re not going to remember the charts and graphs of a presentation, and neither is your audience. If you give presentations to groups of people, while sometimes you may need to get specific, the real core, the real power of your presentation is going to be ‘The Story’.
I used to believe I wasn’t a very good story teller. I didn’t have any shyness or esteem issues where my persuasion skills were concerned, but up until a few years ago, I didn’t really think my stories were actual stories. I didn’t understand that MY stories are the real juice, the lifeblood of my persuasion.
We all have a story. In a previous article, ‘What’s Your Story?‘ I described how stories work. But your story may not have presented itself to you. It might be a tangential story. The most important story you can tell in relation to your business may be your grandparents struggle. If you’re a financial advisor, it may have to do with your father’s financial ruin when you were very young. If you’re a realtor, you might have a story about someone who you sold a house to whose life was changed irrevocably for the better.
Your object in telling a story is first to get the listener to agree with you. Once that happens, persuasion is inevitable.
The most important aspect for your story is to have a point. We’ve all heard meandering speeches about someone’s surgery or the kind of day they had that never, ever get to the point. These are NOT the kind of stories we want to tell in business.
Our stories have to have a similarity to the situation to which we’re presenting, as well as the important aspects of ‘The Hero’s Journey’. (If you’re not familiar with ‘The Hero’s Journey‘ by Joseph Campbell, become familiar with it. It is the single most important work on archetypes and stories starting pulling from sources back to the dawn of time, and has had profound impact on my teachings and learnings, as well as the teachings and learnings of millions of others.)
With a story, you don’t have to start at the beginning. In fact, there’s usually a lot of wasted words at the beginning of a story. A writing teacher I once knew had a general rule that the first paragraph or two of a story was completely dispensable. By starting in the middle, or even practically in mid-sentence, the audience is compelled to listen intently. ‘What did I miss? What do I need to know for this to make sense? What’s going on here? I can’t wait to find out.’
Another way to do this is to start with ‘the point’ of the story and work your way back. Since the point, the outcome, or what you want to teach, is the absolute goal, it’s most important that this is crystal clear.
A member of my coaching club actually ‘reverse engineers’ his stories so that the very first thing he works out is the outcome. From there he works back through the journey that got him to the goal.
When working on your story, begin by beginning. Start by starting. Write, write, write. And when you’ve written it out, read it out loud. You’ll see exactly where it needs to be edited when you read it out loud.
For more on persuasive storytelling, call Kim. She’s probably got a good story for you.
Until Next Time,
Kenrick E. Cleveland