How to Tell a Compelling Story
By: Kristine Schoonmaker
How many stories do you tell on a given day? And no, I’m not talking about “little white lies.” The ability to tell a compelling story is a crucial skill you’ll need to get most of the things you want in life. I’ll show you what I mean…
Just last week, I worked with three different clients on three very different goals…
- One on her interview skills and strategy so she could land a job in a consulting firm
- Another on her annual review and promotion opportunity
- And a third on her vision for her new business model so she could share it with potential clients and business partners
And then I myself had to put together a video for a contest I entered. (If you want a super sneak peak at what I’ve been working on and how my biz is shifting, check it out here and let me know what you think).
What was the ONE key for reaching all four goals? A compelling story. And those are just a few examples. As a consultant, this was one of the most valuable skills I honed and was a HUGE key to my success day in and day out.
- Need more funding?
- Need a client to take an action?
- Need people to get on board with a change?
You’ll need a good story…
So how do you craft your own compelling story?
Whatever your goal you, there are 5 things you must do, if you want to put your story to work for you:
- Know your audience. To get and keep the attention of your audience you’ve got to hook them early. And to do that, you’ve got to address what they care about most and keep that top of mind when framing your storyline. While you may think there’s a badass new feature in the application you’re implementing, the VP of Operations doesn’t care about that. She wants to know how that will improve her customer’s experience with the company. So you better connect the dots! Before you even think about putting pen to paper, make a list of the top 3-5 things that your audience will want to know (if they haven’t already told you).
- Nail the headlines before the details. As you start to compile your story, it’s easy to get lost in the details and lose focus on the important points. A simple way to keep focus is to clearly write the 3-5 key messages you want your audience to walk away with before you start lining up the facts and figures. These “headlines” should convey a story on their own and act as a filter for what you’ll use to fill in the details. To keep your message clear, make sure these points give them exactly what they need to know to take the action you want– no more, no less. This will also make sure your story “flows” and keep them grounded as you move through the details.
- Back it up with succinct substance. Once you have your key messages set, you’ve got to back them up with proof, reasons, facts and details that reinforce your case or point of view. Keep in mind your clients and leaders get bombarded with information constantly. A clear and simple message will keep them focused and what you need from them. If it doesn’t fit or make your point, throw it out.
- Build to a climax. Every good story gets you involved and builds anticipation or excitement, propelling you to the climax. As you’re crafting your story and your headlines, ask yourself, “what details, in which order, do I need to share that will get my audience to be on the edge of their seat, ready to spring into action and do EXACTLY what I want them to do?” This will help you organize your information in the most effective way to meet your objective.
- Clearly make your “ask”. Unless you’re writing a fiction novel, there’s something you are after by telling your story – a raise, a decision, a promotion, an action. The best way to ensure the outcome you are looking for is to clearly spell it out. Don’t leave it to chance or make your audience guess. If you’ve done your job up to this point, it will be a no-brainer for them.
If you can do these 5 things, you’ll have everything you need to make your case and get what you want.
So what’s on your “to do” list today that needs a compelling story? Tell me in the comments below and share your tips too!