How Do You Make It Into a Story?
Do you ever hear a story dear reader, and then play it over in your head because it's that good?
Recently I attended a conference in Toronto with some of my skookum entrepreneur buddies (You know who you are!!) where I had that very experience. One of the featured speakers was Brendon Burchard, a motivational writer who talked about growing up in the small town of Butte, Montana, the first world producer of copper. Eventually copper poisoned the land, and today in place of the mine is a toxic waste site. Brendon talked about the time the heater broke in the family home in the dead of winter, and there was no money until the next paycheque to pay to have it fixed. His mother set up a tent in the livingroom and put in sleeping bags and blankets so her kids wouldn't freeze during the night. Of course, the kids had an amazing time camping indoors and didn't fully realize the seriousness of the situation.
Yet the most touching part of his story wasn't even that part, although this definitely tugged my heartstrings. No, the really emotional part of the story for me was when he spoke about how he and his siblings grew up believing that the reality they were born with, what they saw around them, was all there was to life. He showed the audience a picture of his younger self standing outside a modest house. Gradually Brendon began to question whether there was something more, and then his big 'aha' moment came when he had a near-fatal car accident at 19.
The purpose of him telling us this story was to show that he came from a place where dreams don't happen in real life, and where people tend not to believe that the world is a big place and that they too can aspire to be big. Today he's a personal growth and achievement coach to Arianna Huffington, Dave Ramsey, Oprah, Deepak Chopra, and many others, so his big dreams were obviously worth something all those years ago.
Through the story of his childhood Brendon Burchard made a connection to his audience. Yet it wasn't just a story to pass the time. Telling his personal experience of growing up with little money in a supposed dead-end town, yet loads of love from a good family, he was able to pull us in emotionally, not altogether, but individually. One by one. By the end of his talk I felt that he was speaking to me personally, even though there were about 1,000 people in the audience. He made himself vulnerable by telling us about his past, and we could picture him as being not so different from us. Hey, he came from a small town and so do I. Or, yes I have ambitions that go beyond the hand I've been dealt in life.
That's what telling a story about your business, or if you're writing a personal story in the form of a book, is all about. There's a lot of talk about telling a good story, yet it takes practice to create something authentic that holds people's attention. You may feel your story's interesting to you, yet what about the rest of the world? You have to make your audience feel what you're feeling, and it may take a few tries to get it right.
Take a few minutes to review the list below. Answering these questions will help you sharpen your awareness of the story you need to tell your audience.
1) What do you want to communicate to your audience?
2) What do you know they want or need to hear?
3) What parts of your story may be similar to their story?
4) What emotions do you want to evoke?
5) What actions do you want them to take?
6) Don't start at the end of the story. Take them on a journey that evokes all the senses and many emotions. What are some elements of your story (i.e., fear, sadness, joy; smell, touch....) that you can make them experience.
Remember that most people don't remember facts, yet they remember how you made them feel. I used to work in an advertising agency and it wasn't always the best pitch that won. It was the pitch that made you feel something. Maybe the person presenting was vulnerable, unpolished or they had a unique take we hadn't thought of that made us laugh or cry.
You know that when you've made your audience laugh or cry, that you're moving in the right direction!