Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Billy’s Forty-Second Law: Learn to tell your story

To influence people, you must learn to tell your story.  Telling your story, warts and all, makes you human and more likeable.  Structuring your story makes you more understandable.
Telling stories is important, and at the same time, it is difficult.  I am working with a client who was asked to put together the story of an investment in a subsidiary company which, unfortunately, went badly.  The reason was for a financier to understand what happened, and how this decision affected the company.  Therefore, my client began to write out his story.  He spent hours trying to unravel exactly what happened, the mistakes he made, where he made them and what the implications of each step in the process.  The result remained an incomplete story filled with missing parts.
Writing is difficult.  Putting your story together is very difficult, and yet is an important communications skill.  I was working with a different client and we were trying to put together a ‘good news’ story based on a recent success the company had with a new client.  We worked together for about an hour to develop a very simple narrative.
Stories are important.  Stories are the things we are made of, both corporately and individually.  There are stories which resonate.  The Horatio Alger…rags to riches story is one of the archetypical good news stories, especially in America. The Steve Jobs narrative is part of what makes the Apple Story.  The Bill Gates rich to richer is not nearly as dramatic. 
Storytelling is ancient…more ancient than writing itself. Stories and myths connect us.  Learning to control the narrative, to make it interesting and to captivate the audience is truly important.  This is the presentation part of the narrative. 
I used to teach presentation skills.  A good presentation has three components…the story, the structure and the delivery. The story is creative, delivery is technique, but anyone can use make their point.  I envision stories to be a bit like a flower.  You start in the middle, and introduce the theme of the story.  Lay out what you plan to tell people and the context in which you plan to tell it.  Then go into your first point…ensuring that you leave the theme, and then return to it. Once you pass through the theme, you can make your second point and so on.  The three part presentation is easy for an audience to remember.  
This structured, whether in a spoken or written form allows the audience to track and understand your story.  This makes is easier to influence, inform and call a client to action.

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