Become a better storyteller in an instant
Just last week, a friend and I were talking about a world-famous tech entrepreneur he saw speak at a graduation. Interestingly, my friend claimed that he thought the guy came off as ‘normal’. No ‘magic’. In fact… kind of boring.
Of course when I hear something like that, my eyes go wide and my ears perk up. All I hear is the toll bells of “Problem for Fel to solve!”. And — as usual — I’m fascinated as to WHY this is happening.
Because on the one hand it’s like: This entrepreneur IS incredible. How could you think he’s not magical? He basically has a cauldron of magic brewing in his stomach every second of the day.
But on the other hand, this goes to show what we talk about time and time again here: It almost doesn’t matter what you do (almost). It matters how you PRESENT it. It matters how you SAY IT. And it matters if you’ve captivated your audience.
Otherwise, the response is: “Eh! I’m cooler than tech entrepreneur famous guy, even though I could probably learn 50,000 things from him”
But who actually wants that response?
And how do you turn something that SOUNDS boring…into ‘magic’?
Here’s what I would tell my clients or anyone about what to do:
Recently, I was featured in Inc. Magazine for an article I had written for KISSmetrics about how to write addicting opt-in copy.
But if you dig deeper into what I wrote about, you’ll see that the technique I used wasn’t just about copywriting. It can be used in conversation. In can be used in your stories. It can be used to PERSUADE people to take actions on your ideas and literally hang on to every word that you’re saying, which is doubly important if it’s your job to motivate people, want them to hire you, or even invest in your success.
Case in point:
Several months ago I was in NYC and met up with a good friend. We were talking about relationships (what else is new? Also, here’s my NY Times Bestseller about dating advice) and I used the exact ‘open loop technique’ I discussed in my KISSmetrics article about copywriting. Obviously it wasn’t contrived or forced, but the reaction was incredible.
“Wait..you have to tell me about that!”
“What is that!”
“Stop right now. You need to explain THAT”
Our brains literally CAN NOT handle the ‘open loop’. It’s an easy way to make anything you say much more memorable to listen to.
But I wanted to talk about something more than a tactic today. It’s a concept that hardly anyone takes into consideration — and it’s why people’s eyes start glazing over and why they become antsy to get out of the conversation when you talk.
It’s a simple, yet powerful question:
Who Is Your Audience?
You may have an AMAZING story about how you fell in love with someone on a cruise (wait…is that me?), but guess what happens when you tell that story to a cynic who closed his heart up years ago?
Yeah. Not a good reaction.
But this happens ALL the time.
When you get a sales pitch that doesn’t quite resonate with you…
When your co-worker is trying to convince you to do something…but you’re wondering: Sushi or Cobb salad today?
When you hear someone speak and you’re looking around at everyone else and wondering: “Hey — are you guys bored to tears, too? Let’s high-tail outta here” Just like what happened to this tech entrepreneur.
Basically, not being a good storyteller and communicator kills rapport, sales, connection, and action.
Because what I’ve noticed is that with some people, their stories aren’t necessarily ‘bad’. They’re just not paying attention to WHY they’re telling them, and WHO it would matter to.
Case in another point:
When that friend of yours you now regret asking what they did that day starts speaking to you in technical jargon you can’t understand for the life of you…and yet they still expect you to understand it. Think of how many times you see people doing this, even online! I see a lot of friends in fitness, for example, use a lot of terms that the layman just would not understand, and probably not want to understand if they’re newer to fitness.
I’ll tell you what’s worse. It’s me, sitting at an event the other week, squirming in my chair because the presenters bored me to death. Because not only did they not make me care, but they also had terrible presentation and public speaking skills (which is another topic for another day).
So how do you fix this annoying little problem of no one paying attention to the stories you tell?
First ask: Would this story BENEFIT this person in some way? Yes? Move on to question 2. No? Please do not tell your story if you want people to start figuring out where the nearest emergency exit is
Then: What topics has this person already spoken about before? What have they expressed interest in? Are those things a part of my story? Yes? Move on to question 3. No? Change your story and save yourself the awkward moments.
Finally: Is it full of annoying little details, like what you had for breakfast, or why you decided to go with the blonde highlights this time? Stephen King speaks through me: Kill your darlings. If you need help structuring it, I wrote an article for KISSmetrics on an easy way to put it all together.
And finally finally?
Please, for the love of god, pay ATTENTION to the reactions you’re getting in real time as you’re talking. Are they ACTUALLY interested? Are they open and engaged? One great way to know if your story is bombing is to look at the person’s feet: Are they turned towards you, or towards the exit? That is a tell that will not fail you. That’s an FBI-level body language hack right there.
Now, I’d love to hear from you. What are some of your biggest questions around storytelling
and presentation skills –like public speaking, sales conversations, or giving a presentation at work?
PS: I have a space for one client right now in my private practice and I only take on new clients by referral from people I trust or I make an invitation if I feel someone is the right fit.
If you’re a female CEO, engineer, product manager, or in a senior-level management or executive position who struggles with personal communication, presentation skills, and leadership issues, I’m interested in talking with you. Simply email me at email@example.com and tell me what some of your current challenges are so I can see if you’re the kind of client I’d like to work with.[ztl_optin slug=”bottom-of-blog-posts”]