7 Steps to Perfect Your Story (and Inspire People to Want to Listen!)
Paris Street Scenes – July 2015
“Words that are carefully framed and spoken are the most powerful means of communication there is.” – Nancy Duarte
Have you ever had that awful experience of meeting someone new (whether in a business or a social setting) and shared your story only to suddenly notice that person’s eyes glaze over? Or even worse, they start looking around the room pretending to be listening, and all the while looking for a more interesting conversation…
And did you leave that conversation thinking ‘I’m not very interesting.’ or ‘I have nothing to offer.’ Or maybe you just decided to blame it on others – ‘people are just plain rude!’
Don’t despair. The art of storytelling is not a natural gift bestowed upon most of us. It takes courage and it takes lots of practice but it’s also absolutely fundamental if you’re someone who wants to:
- get your dream job
- connect with influencers
- get a date
- grow your relationships
- create new business opportunities
- make an impact
- build a thriving business
- successfully pitch clients
- speak to audiences
- be memorable!
Your Story Translates to Your Success
As Simon Sinek says, people don’t buy what you do, or how you do it, they buy why you do it. And in order to communicate why you do something, you need to know how to tell your story powerfully.
Communication is a fundamental tool for human connection. And as we listed above, it doesn’t matter if you are trying get your dream job, nail down a new client or meet the man (or woman) of your dreams. If you aren’t able to communicate effectively, you are setting yourself up for failure.
Without a compelling story about who you are, there will be no connection, and without connection, as sad as it sounds, people are not going to remember you. If no one remembers you, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever get what you are going after.
Touch, Move & Inspire: Your Pathway to Power
Have you ever met someone who seems like they can strike up a conversation with absolutely anyone? Have you ever met someone that you just want to talk to forever because they bring so much to the table? On the other hand, have you ever met anyone you’d rather pull your teeth out than have another conversation with?!
Our guess is yes. And you know what? There is absolutely only one difference between those two people… One of them has learned how to communicate effectively (and practiced!), while the other has not. Yes, this is a skill that can be learned! 🙂
You see, people rarely remember what you say, they remember how you make them feel. And in order to make someone feel something, you have to touch, move and inspire them with your words.
So although we’re going to share the structure and the tools for creating a story that connects fast, it will never work unless you first focus on who you’re being when you deliver it.
In other words, are you being excited, passionate, fired up, motivated or emotional? Or are you being bored, apathetic, disinterested, flat or self-depreciating?
Who you are being as you share your story will ultimately determine your success. You absolutely must own your story, even if it feels scary, vulnerable and risky. Because if you don’t, the rest of the steps below will simply make no difference. So keep in mind that you must touch, move and inspire both yourself, and your listener:
- Touch – to create a deeper connection with others through a story and gain their attention (which today is a scarce resource in the brain!)
- Move – to make others feel something (and this is when you begin to connect)
- Inspire – to motivate or uplift someone by showing them your journey.
And the best part is that you already have a story that can touch, move and inspire others right now. You just have to dig it out, know how to tell it and start practicing!
7 Core Steps to Crafting a Story that Connects
“Your ability to shape your future depends on how well you communicate where you want to be when you get there. When ideas are communicated effectively, people follow and change.” – Nancy Duarte
So how do you start to build out a powerful story that connects? Here are 7 tips to help you craft your story into a compelling one:
1. Start With Why
Most people tell their story with what they do, not why they do it. This small shift can dramatically alter how your story is felt and heard. Who would you prefer to talk to?
Question: What do you do?
Answer A: I am a teacher.
Answer B: I teach essential life skills to empower and educate the future generations of the world.
We know who we are interested in asking more questions to!
You see the person in example B did not tell us the process or the how of what they do. They told us the outcome, the result, and the why of what they do. And that is what’s compelling.
Simply telling someone you are a teacher, only tells you what their title is, nothing more. But when you tell someone the deeper reasoning or motivation or outcome, that is what allows people feel and understand you at a deeper level.
Questions to answer:
- What key difference do you currently make to others or want to make?
- Why is making that difference important to you?
- What do you currently help people with that you are passionate about?
2. Embrace your Vulnerability
Being vulnerable when sharing your story is not usually an easy thing to do. But there is no doubt that sharing your deepest challenges (and even your pain!) connects to other human beings at a much faster and deeper level.
Have you found that some of the most difficult experiences in your life have also been the most defining? Whether that’s some kind of disillusionment, hating your job, feeling lost, a health challenge, a major or unexpected life change, an injustice – these moments, when shared vulnerably, inspire others to want to listen because they usually start to scan through their own life history to find similar experiences… hence the shared connection.
Sadly, for many of us, being open about tough times or challenges can be really tough, but it’s an absolutely crucial skill to harness if you are going to tell a story that connects quickly with others.
But remember, being vulnerable simply means being real… it’s not an excuse to have a pity party or place blame on your life circumstances (or other people). Offer up tough times or challenges as a way to be more vulnerable and open, but not to talk yourself down or depress your listener. You want to be real, but still be responsible – remember you are trying to connect but also inspire them, not make them want to jump out of a window!
Most people have a short attention span so don’t skip this crucial step. And remember to find balance.
Questions to answer:
- What were some of the crucial turning points in your life?
- List 1-3 top defining challenges you’ve experienced in your lifetime.
- Why were those times so difficult for you? How did those challenges make you feel?
3. Become a Ruthless Editor
Basically what this means is… get to the point as fast as you can! Know what is worth telling and keep to the very best juice you have. We all have boring parts. Would you want to hear those from others? Then leave them out.
Think of the things in your life that are unique, that would hook your audience. Maybe it’s the details about winning an award, quitting a secure job to pursue a passion, moving out of the country, owning only 100 possessions or constantly seeking out wild adventures – it’s your call. Your everyday activities may grab others more than you’d think.
Ask someone you trust and feel safe with to give you feedback on your story – give them full permission to be your editor and point out which bits add depth to the story and which bits are ‘fluff’ and can be removed.
Questions to answer:
- Which part of this story is crucial?
- Which sections of the story make no difference to the outcome?
- If you were directing a blockbuster movie, which scenes would be left on the cutting room floor?
4. Share Vividly and in Present Tense
One of the most powerful ways to share is by using a technique we like to call ‘vivid sharing’. It takes practice but it is guaranteed to get people more engaged with your story. Vivid sharing brings the listener straight to the heart of the action.
“It’s Monday morning and I’m sitting at my desk staring out the window. The fluorescent light is flickering overhead and I’m dreading the next phone call, the next PR mess to clean up, the next complaint to deal with. And I think to myself ‘Is this really my life?” I feel so deeply filled with despair and I literally can’t remember the last time I felt truly alive inside. I’ve been faking like a pro with a smile plastered on my face. But the truth is: I’m exhausted and I’m fed up. I can’t take this for much longer. I hate my job. And I have no idea what to do about it.
And when I collect my son later that day from daycare and watch him sleeping peacefully that evening the tears just started flowing. But for the first time they were not tears of despair, they were tears of determination. And in that moment I made a decision: I will not be a victim to this situation, I owe it to my son to be the best damn example of what it is to feel truly alive.”
This is how you touch and move people – it’s like they are watching the blockbuster movie of the most interesting parts of your life on replay and it brings the story to life again.
Don’t be surprised if you find this is challenging (we do!), because often it means you are reliving a painful story from your past but it’s actually even more powerful if you are genuinely moved. Start to practice leaning into your own courage and vulnerability and let the tears flow again if you need to.
Questions to answer:
- If you were creating the trailer for the movie of your life, what scenes would be included?
- As you remember those moments, what was it really like – close your eyes and remember the feelings you had. Find the words that best recreate those feelings.
- Which part of your story would you describe as being the ‘heart of the action’?
5. The Turning Point
Now you can share the turning point of your story – what specifically did you do that started to change the game?
Also remember that people connect to grounded specifics, so avoid conceptual sharing like “I just started to feel like I could take on the world and that I wanted to make a difference.”
Nobody knows exactly what you’re talking about! Instead get specific: “So I decided to take an online course about property investing and found the courage to ask my parents to help me with the deposit for my first property. It finally felt like I took back control of my life for the first time in 10 years!”
Questions to answer:
- What was the turning point of your story?
- How did you take a step away from the pain you were experiencing?
- What was your ‘ah ha!’ moment?
- What did you decide?
6. Share the Delight
Hooray! Now you get to share the ‘delight’ or the success you’ve experienced. Share specifically what the outcome was for you and what became possible as a result of getting through this tough time.
For example: “So I now run a global online property investment business and get to coach and train thousands of people on how to gain financial freedom through property investing and even better than that, I now get to feel fulfilled each and every single day.”
Questions to answer:
- Specifically what is the outcome that you get to experience now?
- What has become possible for your life?
- What new belief do you now have on board?
7. Hone Your Craft – Practice Makes Perfect
Don’t miss a chance to share and practice your story. Test different versions out daily if you can — whenever you meet someone new or are asked for a background piece or bio. And if you’re game, tell those people that you are in the process of practicing the best way to share your story and ask them “Did that resonate with you? Which parts? Which parts did not resonate as much?”
Psst…Our Live Your Legend World Party is happening on February 9th 2016 – a perfect opportunity to hone your craft! Find the nearest group of passionate, like-minded people here.
Questions to answer:
- What opportunities will I have this week to share my story?
- How am I going to capture feedback either from myself or others (i.e. in a journal, audio recording, notepad)?
- Which versions of the story resonated with which groups of people most?
- How many different stories do you have ready to practice on people? Do you need more?
Own Your Story, Influence the World
Once you know your story, the world will start to feel it: in your voice, in your posture, in your way of being, and in your words. When you share your story with complete and utter certainty, you will convince others of the same. There are simply few other skills that have the kind of immense power that a good story, well-told embodies.
And when that story is yours and only yours, people will notice and truly start to listen. Whether you realize it or not, you have lived the experiences worthy of a book. We all have. It just comes down to choosing the right chapters.
So start to find and own your story today. Tell it, live it and spread it. Spend 15 to 30 minutes going through these core steps and crafting your own story. Then go tell it to one person!
– Leah, Naz & the LYL Team