Using Story Telling in your business
I read an excellent article today by Trevor Ambrose today about why Obama was such a powerful speaker, and how he used stories to share his message – and if there is one speechwriter who we know is good at what he does, then it is undoubtably Obama’s team. As I was reading it I recalled the Team Leader training that we had earlier in the week about pitching to corporate customers, and what struck me was just how similar the golden tips are.
We discussed the importance of putting yourself in the customer’s position, about looking at Sand Art not from our perspective of what we know it would do for their customers, but to think about it from the company’s owners and managers perspective. In our training we talk about this frequently, about what is really important to the customer isn’t what you know about Sand Art, but instead about how it benefits them.
Taking this point on, we next talked about thinking about the things that could possibly be a problem for your business customers, space, staff, etc. And about presenting a reassurance or a solution in your pitch to show to the company that it wasn’t an issue that they needed to worry about it.
We also talked about keeping it simple, and said that there was lots of time to talk about the detail later, and that the pitch was about the key messages.
But there is one golden tip from the article below that I never have to worry about – inspiration – because the one thing running through Kids Bee Happy, from the top to the bottom, is Passion – I know how Kids Bee Happy’s consultants completely and utterly “get” Sand Art, and what it can do for customers, be that a single 5year old with a single picture, or a pitch to the biggest corporates, the one thing that I am proud that shines through in all consultants and they way you do business is your passion for the product.
And nothing tells a story better than Passion.
As the article is so good, as well as linking it, I have copied it below – if you have 5 minutes it is well worth a read.
Obama’s Speechwriter Shares 5 Storytelling Tips
There is a great story behind Obama’s excellence in his speeches. Jon Favreau was the director of speechwriting for Obama for 8 years until 2014. Jon shared five golden tips of storytelling that certainly do not only apply in politics, but in business presentations and every speech you need to make.
1. The story is more important than the words
“In my experience communications too often focuses on finding the right words. Of course words are important at some point in the process. But the first question you have to ask yourself is: what is the story I’m trying to sell? That is essential, and should be the starting point.”
Before Favreau started writing a speech, he would always start with simply talking to Obama. “He would give me a few random thoughts off the top of his head of what he wanted to say. The interesting thing about the President is that he always instantly gave the most logical outline of a speech I had ever heard. I was always impressed by his ability to start with clear rhetoric and add arguments and anecdotes later.”
2. Keep it simple
“Long speeches are the easiest to write. They are also the most forgettable”, Favreau explained. “Audiences today can only handle so much information before they start losing focus. You should aim at twenty minutes max. That requires tremendous discipline, especially if you’re in an organisation with a lot of people in the mix. But remember that a speech about everything is a speech about nothing. Narrow your story down to the essential point.
3. Always address the arguments against your position during your presentation, not after.
Especially in politics it is important to think about the objections you will encounter. “You should find them and address them during your speech. When Obama was trying to deliver his Health Care Reform Plan in 2009, the most important part of his speech was to find the arguments that the Republicans would think of and contradict them.”
4. Empathy is key
Just knowing your audience is not enough, Favreau said. “You have to know what the world looks like when you are in their shoes. One of the reasons why Obama’s speeches are so successful is because they are written in the language that his audience understands, addressing the issues they are facing.”
5. There is no persuasion without inspiration
Emotion is the most important element of motivating an audience, according to Favreau: “The best way to connect with people is through stories that are important to people’s lives. In the victory speech in 2008 we had a clear message: sometimes change can come slow, but change is always possible and history has proved that.”
Favreau and Obama decided to use a special story about a woman named Ann Nixon Cooper:
She’s a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing – Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.
She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn’t vote for two reasons – because she was a woman and because of the colour of her skin.
And tonight, I think about all that she’s seen throughout her century in America – the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can’t, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes, we can.
Favreau decided to give Ann Nixon Cooper a call before using her story in the speech: “I told her that man who was about to become President wanted to name her in his victory speech. She paused for a while and asked: ‘Will it be on television?’ I said ‘yes’. She waited a little longer. ‘Which channel will it be on?’, she asked, so I told her. That was when she said ‘I’m so proud of him, I’m so proud of us’. She started crying and so did I and at exactly that moment the results from Ohio came in. That was when I realised that it would always be difficult to bring about change but that it can happen if we believe.”
It is clear that we as humans love stories and the connection it brings to our lives. Learn to tell stories and cement them with facts, anecdotes and logic.