Telling A Great Story

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In this video, I will be talking about one of the most important skills in business development, telling a great story. At first, I want to cover some of the research about why it is important. Then I want to share with you a story telling technique that will help you tell better stories. I will finish our story video by telling a story.

The first thing I want to share is the research. I want to share three different research projects with you.

First is the study by Veronique Boulenger.

Veronique is is one of the most interesting researchers I have run across in the past couple of years. She is from France and she has performed research about how our brain responds when we are the recipients of a story. Specifically, in one study, she had the people in the experimental group read a story about Paulo, a young kid from a small town, kicking a ball and winning a soccer game for his team. As the recipients read this story, she used functional MRI machines wrapped around people’s head, measuring blood oxygenation levels in the brain,  to figure out which part of the brain was firing as each person read the story. What they found out is that as Paulo kicked the ball with his right foot into the goal, just out of the reach of the goalie to win the game, the part of the brain that lit up like a pinball machine was the part of the reader’s mind that controls their right foot.

So, when we are actually the recipient of stories, we are able to become the hero, and the activity in our brains matches what we are reading or hearing. It is so amazing. So, stories carry tremendous power. That’s the first research thing that I wanted to bring up.

The second study was conducted by a guy named Gordon Bower, one of the greatest researchers on memory ever.

What he found is that we remember things when they are wrapped in stories tremendously more than we do when we are just told facts and figures. This is important because if we just tell facts and figures to people they are far more likely to not remember them, but if those facts and figures are wrapped in a story, they have a high likelihood of remembering later. Stories are powerful memory devices.

Thirdly, I want to talk about the independent research of each of these men – George Lakoff and Frank Luntz.

George Lakoff is the top liberal political strategists in the United States. Frank Luntz is the top conservative strategist in the United States. They arrived at very similar conclusions through very different means. Lakoff is a PhD researcher.  Luntz uses focus groups.  What they both found, in their independent studies and research, is that when things are wrapped in a story, it causes people to act far more than if we just talk about policy or things like that. Stories drive action.  

So, to sum up all the research, we find that stories are quite powerful when we can become or connect with the heroes in the stories. Number two, stories cause us to remember the facts or figures much better than we could without the story. Number three, stories drive us to act. All this research points towards one thing. Great storytelling is important.

Here is a simple technique that you can use to enhance your storytelling ability. We go more in depth teaching this in our Creating Curiosity and Curious Introduction modules of GrowBIG Training, but, here is a simple technique that you can apply broadly.

Break your stories into three steps.

First step is the setting. Take a little bit of time to talk about who is in the story. Talk about what they are feeling at the time. What are their issues? What are the core pieces of the story that form the groundwork for the story?

The second step is the struggle. What does the hero need to do to save the day? In most stories there is a hero, a victim, and a villain. Typically, you are going to be the hero, the victims are often the clients, and the villain is often the timeline or a change in something. It does not necessarily need to be a person. It can be something that happens that the poor victim is stuck with and they have to rely on the hero to solve it for them.

So, first is the setting, laying down the groundwork. Second is the struggle, asking, “Oh my gosh. How in the world can anybody solve this thing?”

The third thing is the solution. What happened at the end? How did the hero save the day? How did they come out of nowhere to swoop in and do something that nobody thought could be done? How did they make everything great again? What was the end result? Can you measure it? How did people feel at the end? What was the process? Things like that.

These three S’s – Setting, Struggle, Solution – are an easy way to break down a story.

Pixar, probably one of the best storytellers of all time, has developed this incredibly cool way to tell stories called the video learning system. It is a lot more complex, having around eleven steps instead of three, but you can go very deep with it. If you want to check it out, it is free and fantastic. But, if you want the simple version, just take the time and think about what is the setting, what is the struggle and what is the solution.

As promised, here is a little story for you. 

We gave a talk on this for a really high end group of professionals a few months ago. You can imagine a bunch of people in the room, trying to figure out how to tell better stories. We worked with them on the science and the steps, and they wrote down some of their stories. They practiced them with each other. As we evolved through that process, they learned a ton.

At first, they were not sure that they would be able to become great at this, but, as they practiced and received immediate feedback from the person they were practicing with, they got a lot better. It was really interesting because they realized they were doing a pretty good job with the struggle. However, they were going straight to the solution because they felt pressured for time when they were in prospective client meetings and things like that. They learned that they could fix this if they did a better job of creating the setting. Spend a little more time upfront creating the environment, the characters, the ground work – so the listener can become part of your story and actually feel themselves kicking the ball. You want them to become the hero.

In that storytelling workshop, we found the places where they could improve with practice. They actually followed up with me later to let me know, “This is a tremendously helpful.” So this is a fun story to talk about storytelling.

As with all of our videos, we hope that this will help you help your clients succeed. We hope if you can become an even better storyteller, even by a little bit, you can also help your client become better at what they are trying to do.