Stories are a powerful motivator, wouldn’t you agree? You see the world through the storyteller’s eyes, feel what they feel, and rise when they rise to success. It’s emotional storytelling and compelling presentations like these that you always remember. But what’s the secret ingredient to keeping you engaged from start to finish?
The audience’s level of engagement has everything to do with how well you relate to them and how you make them feel with your story. A recent experience of mine is a perfect example of this need for shared enthusiasm.
Making Your Story About Them, Not You
A not-for-profit startup company was born during the pandemic and it had a noble cause. It wanted to save lives with vital health education that it had developed. During its first few months, however, it didn’t realize one critical and important problem.
Its mission was about itself, and not about its clients.
To catch a bigger audience, and to win others to your cause, you need to make your story about them, and not about you.
Creating a healthier world by providing clients with an educational course at a price wasn’t actually about helping others. During the pandemic, businesses were too concerned about their finances and their own survival to spend any money on professional development.
So how did the startup pivot to focus more on potential clients?
The company founder decided to tell the story about why he established the company. He noticed that business owners were uncertain or confused about what safety protocols to follow. Staff were afraid for their health and safety during the pandemic and were reluctant to work. Customers who were fearful for their health stayed home.
The startup founder decided the company had an important role. It had a humanitarian cause to help these businesses stay in business. What it did was offer free education about how to keep employees and customers safe during the pandemic. The startup existed to help others first.
Later, when it established a relationship with the client, the startup had products and services for a fee to continue to help the client through its challenges during an unprecedented, difficult time. The humanitarian role came first.
Confidence and Delivery Over Perfection
Through trial and error, we learn what does and doesn’t work. One of the greatest examples of powerful storytelling that I’ve ever seen was a speech given by a woman who spoke English as a second language. Although she had practiced many times, the speech was far from perfect. But when she delivered that speech, her audience was riveted to her every word.
The speech was the story of her immigration to Canada and the struggles she faced. She had to learn a new way of life and cope with an entirely new language so she could find work here.
The speech was her assignment at a Toastmasters club meeting. When it was her turn to speak, she walked over to the center of the stage, faced the audience, and locked eyes with people in the room.
She admitted her English wasn’t perfect. Her accent made the sentences choppy and her verb tenses were often incorrect. But the strength in her voice cancelled the imperfections in her speech. The tone of her voice conveyed her feelings.
The audience could feel the moments when she had cried when she had felt overwhelmed. We could feel her triumph when she paused to emphasize great moments. Her confidence and her delivery were far more important than achieving perfection in her speech.
It’s been a few years, and I still remember how confidently she walked to the podium and began to speak. Although she had fears about speaking in a second language, that didn’t affect our impression of her. What people recalled was the strength in her storytelling.
Delivering Your Story in Easily Digestible Bites
Technology has taken storytelling to a global level. Influencers and brands are using platforms such as Tik Tok to tell their story in short, easily digestible bites. These video clips can be intriguing, and with the right music, catchy.
For some Tik Tok accounts, I’ve invested time watching all their video snippets, slowly piecing together an overarching story from all the vignettes. Each video can be humorous and reveal a short anecdote about a moment in the person’s life.
Two of the Instagram accounts are influencers who have grown up in two different cultures. In one instance, it’s an Asian American woman who tells people she’s American but people treat her as Asian. For another account, the influencer is half Asian, half Black, but people have difficulty accepting his duo culture.
These videos are an effective way to market their talents. They also tell a story about their identity. I can relate to their duo culture.
They’ve attended language classes to learn the language of their parents. But despite this effort, people question the authenticity of their accent and if they can really speak the language.
Each video is just one experience from a lifetime of experiences as the influencers share what it’s like to grow up in two cultures.
I can relate to their experiences and I’m always eager to see their next video. From comments, I can see some fans relate to growing up in two cultures while others are entertained by the humour in each mini story.
Commanding the Attention of the Room
The most powerful form of storytelling is also the most dramatic. Imagine yourself in an indoor theatre with hundreds of people seated in front, next to, and behind you. The lights dim and you see a woman walk across a stage large enough to fit an entire penthouse condo in it.
When she begins to talk, a PowerPoint slide is projected on the gigantic screen behind her. She introduces herself as Kindra Hall and her brand is storytelling.
In her presentation, she tells us how storytelling is one of the underrated skills in business. It’s the secret weapon of entrepreneurs for building an empire.
Her tips on storytelling make sense and are easily applicable. You’re jotting notes, making sure you remember all these valuable bits of information.
Her delivery is professional and powerful. You can tell she’s rehearsed her presentation many times, making her an enthralling presenter. But she’s also got something in her arsenal that the Toastmasters presenter and the Tik Tok influencers don’t.
It’s the physicality of her presence: the large screens, the projection of her talking points, the lighting, and the audience of hundreds. Both her presentation and the venue grab your attention. She commands the room with her storytelling. This to me is storytelling at its best.
The final proof of the impact of her presentation is how she was able to sell without selling. When I heard about her book, I went to buy it.
Storytelling can be powerful and compelling. A story can motivate people to join your cause, buy into your company, or follow your brand. Just as important as the words in the presentation is the delivery. The confidence you project and the way you deliver your story is what will make it stand out in the listener’s mind.