“We all have a life story and a message that can inspire others to live a better life or run a better business. Why not use that story and message to serve others and grow a real business doing it?” – Brendon Burchard
What do the most powerful movies, influential books, and engaging communicators all have in common?
They tell a great story.
From ancient cave drawings and religious texts, to Shakespeare and the best series on Netflix, we learn from, and are inspired by, the art of storytelling. The best businesses market through telling stories. The best public speakers connect with us through telling stories. And in order for all of us to be our best, we must be in the story business.
No matter how charming or charismatic you are (or are not), no matter what industry you’re in, being able to tell your story is a must to perform at your best. The art of story telling allows you to convey who you are, what you stand for, what skills you have, and how you can help others in an engaging way so that people want to listen. In order to connect deeper in your personal and professional life, you must learn to communicate who you are in a way that’s interesting and authentic—a.k.a. through delivering your story.
In the past few articles in this series, we have identified your skills, values, passions, and personal brandstamp. These are all the important elements that will help you define your story so you can create relevance and connect deeper with others. The secret to success in building relationships (the #1 most important skill in business) is sharing clear, concise information that conveys your values through a great story. This allows you to build connection and rapport with anyone—customers, managers, employees, coworkers, etc.
Boring presentations are bogged down with dull information. Fascinating presentations have drama and arcs. If you look at the most popular TEDx talks, you’ll notice they have many common threads:
- They build trust and credibility
- They create common ground and connect on a deeper emotional level (humor, awe, inspirational, etc.)
- They give meaning to their journey and make us feel like we’re on it too
- They show humility and wisdom
- They inspire action
You can take away some of these common traits to tell your own great story using emotion, humor, irony, self-deprecation, and drama.
I probably tell 50 stories a day, using each one to make a point to the audience or person I’m speaking with. Whether it’s a Q & A for a corporation, I’m out at dinner with a friend, on a phone call with business partner, or simply out and about, there is a right moment to tell a specific story. You don’t just want to spill out any random story, especially if it’s the wrong situation.
Whether you’re speaking to a room of 100 people or your friend at the park, keep the following tips in mind:
- Take the temperature before sharing: who is my audience and what’s the vibe like?
- What does this person need? How can I share something they will understand, relate to, and as a result lean in…Is it info about a customer? A cool project? A meaningful solution?
- What is special about you and them in the moment? What brings you to together? What bonds do you share? How can you connect to win them over?
The key is using what you have in the moment, and making it relevant (whether it’s a news story or a funny incident that happened during breakfast, it doesn’t matter.) If you’re struggling, there are some common topics that are almost always winners: kids, puppies, sports, and culture.
You can practice the art of great storytelling by paying more attention to the events in your everyday life and asking yourself, how can I bring the things that happen in my life and share them through story-telling to create connected relationships? The more you practice, the better you get. And the more skilled you get, the better you will be able to deliver your own story.
Putting together the puzzle pieces of your story
At launchbox, we’ve trained thousands of millennials and managers on how to tell their own unique story through exercises, workshops, and coaching. Here are three essential questions we’ve distilled that can help you put together the foundation of your own story:
- Who am I? Where was I born? Where do I come from? Who is my family? What is my background—my family identity? What am I grateful for? What and who have made me who I am?
- What is my experience? What work have I done? What am I inspired and motivated by? What am I passionate for and about? What have I had to overcome, and what are my triumphs?
- What value do I bring? What am I good at? What are my special skills? What has made me unique and special? Why do people love me, and what do I do to maintain that? What kind of attitude do I have? What can I do for others? What about me makes me successful that is not about my technical experience?
Look for overlapping connections with your skills, values, and passions. And remember: your story is not a word-for-word script. It is simply a framework for understanding yourself in a manner that allows you to interact with people and communicate who you are. It is a human connection currency.
Obviously, you don’t want to puke out your entire life story and bore somebody to death. You will probably share little parts of your story here and there when communicating with someone. Always keep in mind the specific situation and gauge how much you feel called to share. It’s like building a block tower. Start with the base blocks, and as you connect deeper and talk more, you can add the middle and top layers of your story.
Lastly, understand that telling your story is not bragging. In fact, the secret sauce to telling a great story is exactly the opposite. A powerful story communicates in a way that allows others to resonate with what you’re sharing. It builds trust and connection. When crafting your story, keep that in mind. It’s not so much “what” happened to you, but learning to convey the significance of events and allowing others to feel your emotions (the common ground that ties us all together.)
Curious to learn more about how you can deliver a kickass story in the workplace and life? Check out Chasing Relevance: 6 Steps to Understand, Engage, and Maximize Next-Generation Leaders in the Workplace .