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(Click here to learn about the importance of this photo)

 

Today David Hieatt is holding a DoLecture workshop covering many topics. The tickets are £300 each and you, like me, probably aren’t there. I took a look at the topic list and saw that ‘how to tell your story’ was on it. I thought, ‘I’m qualified to advise on that!’ – on account of me recently completing a creative writing degree and being in business.

So, here’s my cheaper, but equally qualified, version of storytelling with a business perspective:

How to tell your story:

The essence of any story involves the listener as much as the storyteller. We all intrinsically want to feel a sense of connection with whatever is being told. To do this we need to pull the listener/reader into the narrative – the key to this is leaning on emotions and empathy. Telling an emotional story imparts a transition from one ‘state’ to another – and often an arc, or indeed a complete loop.

Example:

 

“I started off happy (oblivious to the challenges), then something happened and things went downhill, then downhill some more, then some more, then I hit rock bottom, then I found hope, then I worked hard, and climbed up out of my hole, now things are great. Today I look at the world differently.”

 

That’s a story! Albeit a very simple generic one.

The arc of the story moves the listener/reader from a happy state to a sad state. The loop comes into play when we bring the narrative back to a happy state again. Finally the true transition is evident with the changed perspective on the world. ‘I was [this] , and now I’m [this]’ (I have learnt! And life will now always be better).

This is ‘story’. Any narrative/text you say or write must follow this template in order to hook a reader, take them on an emotional journey, empathise with you, and leave them feeling differently at the end. If you don’t envoke this journey, your story – whilst being ‘nice’ – will be a waste of the listeners time.

A simple analogy in creative writing circles is to send your character up a tree, then throw rocks at them, until they come back down again. The ‘rocks’ are hurdles. The heroes journey must never be easy. Success is only sweet if the journey is hard. Therefore don’t regurgitate your success by hiding your struggles. It makes for an ineffective story which ultimately means your ‘narrative’ fails.

To make you feel a bit better, 99% of everyones content on-line fails this journey template. This also means once you figure out how to add a narrative to your information you will see a huge, noticeable boost in engagement.

To model this for yourself or your business you simply need to look for the journey and the emotional involvement in a project or event.

Bad example:

You recently held a workshop.
Everything went smoothly with no problems.
The workshop was a great success.

Boring!

Good example:

You planned a workshop, but you worried about attendance numbers and struggled to get the word out, the venue was booked and you knew you couldn’t get a refund if people didn’t show up. Then the catering didn’t work out and you had to find another, then the tube strikes occurred, then the power went out on the day: your reputation was in tatters, but you went on stage and apologised to everyone. Luckily, someone in the audience was a electrician and managed to fix the problem; after that the event went ahead with great success.

 

The difference between the first and the last is the first hides the problems and the second uses the problems to dramatic affect which we empathise with. It hooks us!

Here’s the story formula:

idea + hurdle + hurdle + hurdle + hurdle + hope + action + reflection = success

 

This is storytelling. This is easy to replicate. Don’t hide the struggles, worries, problems, and fears. Use them to your (content/narrative) advantage!

To tell your (brand) story you have to reveal yourself. All those difficulties you have worked so hard to bury or gloss over are ‘brand gold’. You need to dig them back up. They are there. If you can’t see them maybe you should ask your therapist? ;)

Ok, I think that’s enough.

Have any questions? Tweet me, or if you’re old-school, you can get your secretary to type up a dictation in the comments.

About the photo:

This great photo was supplied by Jacob Aldridge and his website http://everydaydreamholiday.com/ It’s a project of love that they sadly had to end and they wrote a great blog post about how it didn’t reach their expectations despite applying a huge amount of effort. I chose the photo for a couple of reasons: 1. his journey is a story because the lows are shared, and 2. for this reason (and you should do the same with all your blog posts – sometimes).