Who else loves getting absolutely lost in a story?
Whether you’re reading the final novel in your favorite series or sitting cross-legged and listening to someone tell their story, storytelling has the power to transport and connect us.
Not only do people pay attention more during stories, but they’re also 22x more likely to remember facts when they’re embedded in a story. Plus, stories have been proven to increase oxytocin levels as well as reduce cortisol levels. The former of which helps us connect with people while the latter causes stress.
Clearly, this magic is backed by science.
Now, imagine taking that transportive power into the boardroom, conference hall, or your next sales pitch.
So, let’s move on from “Once upon a time” this, and “once upon a time” that. It’s time to learn how to tell your story, so you can nail that presentation and connect with your audience.
Here are seven Moxie Hall of Fame tips on how to tell a memorable, impactful, and resonant story.
#1: Begin With the End in Mind
Now, this does not negate the importance of a strong beginning. Not at all. In fact, you have, on average, seven seconds to make a good first impression.
But part of the way you can make a positive first impression when telling a story is to begin with the end in mind.
A more accurate and less dramatic way of saying this is, “Begin with your goal in mind.”
Once you’ve discovered your goal, your story will fall into place. Eventually, your goal will also lead you to your bridge, which is the lesson or call-to-action you’re leaving your audience with.
If you can understand why you’re telling this particular story, then you’ll know you’re telling the right one.
Essentially, you need to choose your goal before you choose your story. If you can figure out the goal behind telling a story, then you can decide what story you need.
Try and ask yourself the following questions when you’re figuring out your goal:
- Are you aiming to change minds?
- Are you trying to teach your audience something specific?
- Are you trying to inspire them?
- Do you want them to buy your product?
- Do you want them to change their behavior or do something different?
Of course, there are plenty of other questions out there, but starting with these few will help narrow down the seemingly limitless possibilities.
#2: Audience Analysis
Once you’ve determined your end goal, it’s time to apply it to your specific audience.
Audience analysis narrows down your goal even further, so you’re left with a clear and defined purpose.
Think about it this way: the goal behind every story is to teach them something, make them feel something, and inspire them to do something.
After asking yourself the following questions, you’ll know exactly what kind of story your specific audience needs to hear.
- What do I want my audience to know when my story is done?
- What do I want them to feel when my story is done?
- What do I want them to do when my story is done?
The “know” tends to come easily to most people, so it’s usually what we focus on. However, the often overlooked “feel” and “do” are just as important.
Do you want your audience to feel anger? Do you want them to turn inwards and analyze their own experiences or behaviors? Do you want them to feel inspired by your story?
These feelings are crucial because they will propel the audience forward once the presentation is over. These feelings lead to the “do.”
Humans act based on feeling. We’re empathetic creatures by nature. When we see a crying baby, we rush to comfort him or grab a bottle. Or when we’re inspired by a movement, we may volunteer our time or money to the cause.
These feelings act as the stepping stone to the “doing,” or your call to action.
Finally, you need to decide exactly what you want your audience to do once your story is done. Do you want them to buy your product? Promote you on social media? Or do you want them to understand your services better?
With the “do” in mind, you’ll be able to bridge your story back to the larger topic and the audience themselves.
Audience analysis is crucial for masterful storytelling as it informs the content of your story as well as the way you’ll deliver it.
#3: What Type of Story Do You Want To Tell?
Now, it’s time to start piecing together your story. Woo-hoo!
With the end goal and your audience in mind, you can pick what kind of story will serve you best.
Moxie uses the following five categories:
Story of Me
This could be a story about an obstacle you overcame, a personal failure, or a challenge that pushed you past your limits.
Story of Us
These stories will center around your company or your team. The “humble beginnings” theme always lands well. One of the most iconic examples of which is how Apple was founded in Steve Jobs’ garage.
Story of Them/Others
How about a story surrounding a client who benefited from your services? Or, on the flip side, a story about someone who didn’t buy your product and the resulting consequences.
Story of an Idea
Now, this one is a little more meta, but it can be just as effective when done right. Stories of ideas can really tug on people’s emotions, which will lead them to action.
Maybe it could be a story detailing why and how your company has persevered despite profound hardship.
Story of “Why These Results”
Finally, there is the story of “Why These Results,” which is trickier than the other ones.
This story helps the audience understand the results of your product or service and how they came to be. So, how did your service produce these results of change, success, shockingly good looks, etc?
Once you’ve narrowed it down to whichever category fits your end goal and audience, you can move on to the structure of your story.
TED talks have changed the world of presentations with their casual yet deeply informative style. What makes them so wildly engrossing and addictive to watch? The stories.
Cohesive storytelling connects ideas and events together in our brains and helps us remember them better.
So, a flowing narrative either makes or breaks a story.
There are many narrative arcs out there to explore, but the following basic structure is a Moxie tried-and-true.
The main structure is as follows:
It’s a rainbow, people! Follow the curve till you reach that final pot of gold.
Let’s break it down even further.
In the introduction, you want to set the scene and build your world.
Who are your characters? What’s going on? Consider this the “Once upon a time…” section of your story.
If you want your audience to be invested, you have to give them something to invest in.
You’ve set your scene, you’ve introduced your main characters, and you’ve hooked your audience. Now, it’s time to add in the real meat of the story: the challenge.
What obstacles do your characters have to overcome? What drama will take up the remainder of this story? This is the build-up to the climax, so make it good and juicy.
It’s time for your “happily ever after.” This is the moment where you tie it all together, wrap up that big, beautiful present of a story, and deliver your final message to your audience.
This is also where your goal comes into play. Your conclusion not only offers a satisfying resolution (or maybe a sad “Oh no!”), but it will also lead your audience to action by evoking a feeling in them.
Applying this narrative structure to your story will prevent long-winded rambling and help you inspire and captivate your audience.
#5: Story Placement
Where your story goes is almost as important as the content of the story itself.
Imagine listening to someone tell an incredibly heartfelt tale about a client’s success with their services right after talking about their taxes. That simply wouldn’t make sense, nor would it carry the same emotional impact it could have in the right place.
You can ask yourself the following questions if you’re not sure where your story should go:
- Do you want to start your presentation with your story?
- Does the story belong at the end of the presentation?
- Is the story your entire presentation?
- Does it relate to or address specific facts or slides in your presentation?
Remember, you want to tell your story in the moment where it matters most. Maximum impact!
#6: The Bridge
This is where the magic happens. This is the bridge that will lead your audience to mystical, magical lands–wait, no, no, this isn’t the bridge to Terabithia. Backtrack….
The narrative bridge is where you get to connect the dots for your audience and lead them to why your story matters.
Think of it like a plane landing on an airstrip. If the pilot doesn’t make that final connection or the weather is just too rough, the landing will be bumpy, turbulent, and wholly unpleasant. Everyone on the plane will be desperate to get off, and they’ll leave with a sour taste in their mouths.
But, when the plane lands smoothly and effortlessly, the cabin will burst into raucous, jubilant applause! Well, not actually, but you get the picture.
You’ve taken the time and effort to tell this story, so make sure you stick the ending.
For example, here are some questions your bridge should answer:
- What does this story have to do with the presentation?
- What does this story have to do with the audience?
- What is the audience’s call to action?
- And, finally, why should this story matter to them?
Now’s not the time to refer back to your copilot–take charge and land that plane!
#7: How To Tell a Story
You’d be surprised at how many people forget the final step in telling a good story: practice!
Practicing your story can look like a number of things, but it’s crucial for lessening the processing zone for your audience.
Now, what does that mean? When you practice, you can add in pauses and emphasis that will give your audience time to digest everything you’ve been saying.
You can also practice connecting with your audience by intentionally making eye contact. Look them in the eyes, but try not to stare them down.
And, to top it all off, add some movement to your words. Act your story out with your body, get your hands involved, and give your audience a whole new set of things to look at.
Creating your gesticular vocabulary (Moxie talk for movement dictionary) is the icing on the cake of a good practice session.
Here’s a little tip: telling your story in the present tense is more effective, since it makes the audience feels like it’s happening to them right then and there.
Rehearsing will help build your confidence and powerful executive presence.
So, carve out some time in your day and tell your stories to colleagues, peers, or friends. It never hurts to practice speaking clearly, especially when there’s an emotional plotline involved.
We’re surrounded by archetypal stories–the boogeyman, Santa Claus, the witch down the road–because they work.
Stories will help take your presentation up a notch. They’re effective for visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners alike, so you’ll be able to connect with almost everyone in the room.
They will influence, persuade, and resonate with your audience. And, if done right, they will even sell for you.
So, if you put in the time to practice and learn how to tell a story, the story will do the work for you.
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