Why We Do What We Do, Part 4: The Art of the Story

So, we’ve about beaten this dead horse into the ground now. We’ve talked about why you should understand your underlying reasons for doing what you do, how to uncover them, and when to use the information you obtain. Now we just need to talk about what form it will take.

Before we go on remember that you should give this story at the beginning of a presentation about you and/or your business. If the talk is informational or educational in nature, let whomever is introducing you tell the group about your credentials. This lets you jump right into the topic.

This story’s goal is to bring in your audience by showing that you are human and vulnerable. It is not meant to engender pity. Different audiences are going to have different levels of comfort with what you have to say and how you say it. You are going to have to decide how far is far enough.

That all being said here are a few tips to follow when crafting your tale:

  1. Keep it concise. No more than two minutes. Anything more than that and the emotional impact will be diluted by the sheer length of what you have to say. Imagine telling a five-minute joke. No punchline could ever make up for the weight of the setup. The same holds true for your story.
  2. Make it active. No passive voice. Passive voice is an attempt to distance yourself from the story. Which sounds more interesting “The king was murdered by an assassin” or “The assassin murdered the king”
  3. Make it current. This is a hard one, but it adds an unbelievable amount of power to your personal story. Using past tense again distances you from the story. Making it present tense helps everyone in your audience become a part of what’s going on. “I walked through the door” doesn’t create as much tension as “I walk through the door”.
  4. Keep it simple. Avoid jargon and 75-cent words. Again, these appeal to the intellect and we want to connect with the emotions
  5. Vary your voice. Pretend you are talking to a three-year-old. Voice inflection, volume, tone — vary them as appropriate to the emotions you are trying to convey. Approximately 35% of your message is the tone you use, compared to only 10% from the words you choose.
  6. Be silent. You don’t have to talk constantly. Let the occasional pause come in to emphasize a point. Pauses give the audience a moment to digest what you’ve been saying.
  7. Practice. Unless you’ve given the exact same presentation a thousand time (which probably won’t happen), if you want to sound natural, you need to rehearse. Practice in front of the mirror. Practice in front of a video camera. Practice in front of your long-suffering spouse or significant other. Just practice.

So, those are a few ideas that might help you tighten up your story. Remember that the goal of this whole activity is to get your audience to like you. Anything after that is gravy.

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About Greg Peters

Greg Peters, president and founder of The Reluctant Networker, LLC, is a business networking specialist. He works with trade associations on both the local and national level to create a culture of better connections and greater opportunity. Find out more at www.TheReluctantNetworker.com or gpeters@thereluctantnetworker.com.

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