How To Get Your Message Across with a Story
A Simple Question to Ask Yourself
Think of any film you’ve seen that grabbed you. What about a TV series you follow, or a book you read and re-read or share? They’ll all have grabbed your attention and kept it with a story. The story that’s threaded and woven throughout any attention-grabbing book or film is what we remember, long after the titles and credits.
Stories have the power to move us and make us act. We all tell stories – to ourselves, to our friends and families and to our clients, customers and colleagues. That phrase “so what’s the story on that?” – we want to know the story. The facts are just that, basically a list of details or information. The story is what makes the difference, how the facts are all pulled together and the 'meaning'. It sways people and is often the turning point as to if – and how – they take on and accept your message.
When you work with clients, customers or colleagues, or when you’re simply chatting with friends we’re always looking for stories to be able to use to convey a message.
Here's a key question to ask yourself which helps pull out a story to use. 'If you had to compare your message to something you’ve done in life, what’s it like?’ An analogy - ‘a comparison between two things, typically on the basis of their structure and for the purpose of explanation or clarification’ is a great way to start to build a story. Always ask yourself “what’s this like?” and up will come the potential for your story.
Here are three quick examples for you:
- A career – it’s like a journey – if you know where you’re going when you start out, it’s easier to get there. If you just set off in any-old-direction, who knows where you’ll end up?
- Running a business – it’s like bringing up a child – it’s a creation of your very own and you invest passion and love, boundaries and rules into the relationship. You nurture it and want it to flourish and yet be independent of it sometimes too.
- Preparing a presentation – it’s like putting on a show – a clear message and a purpose must be brought out quickly, the audience needs to be attracted to that message and know what’s in it for them and they want to be entertained by you.
Using stories to describe a message, to help people understand is one of the most time-tested ways of engaging others. The facts stick and become more powerful when they're used in a story. If you think about the audience and what you know about them, then express yourself with the "it's like when you…." using something you know they do or experience, then you're always going to be more engaging, memorable and influential than the person who lists a load of facts.
Think how as children we loved being told stories, ‘read me a story’ ‘tell me a story please’ – if you have children they probably ask you that now and remembering being a child, you’ll have loved hearing, reading and learning stories. Why stop? In truth, if you think about it, we still love being told a story and so does everyone else too.
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