What’s your best story? I’m sure you’ve got one. We all do.
Mine is about a canoe trip I took with my brother. It was a great bonding experience, as we hadn’t seen much of each other during that time of our lives.
Wanna hear more? Probably not.
What if I told you that the bugs were so bad that we did what was supposed to be a 10 day trip in just 5? You might be a bit more curious now, wondering how bad the bugs really could have been. (The answer is awful. They were just awful.)
Now…what if I threw in the fact that we dumped our canoe after missing our final portage and had to portage through a seagull colony?
What you’ll probably find most interesting though, is that on the third or fourth day of the trip, we were nearly attacked by a polar bear.
“A polar bear? Tell me more!” you say.
And there it is.
It doesn’t matter if you’re talking to someone face-to-face or telling your story on your website or blog. Knowing how to tell your story is crucial. It can be the thing that separates you from the pack and makes you interesting.
The problem? Telling a story is hard. If you don’t start it properly or focus on the right parts (or, even worse, you just don’t know how to tell a story), your audience will lose interest pretty darned fast.
And, when you’re a business owner, losing your audience by telling your story badly is the kind of thing that can really hurt you.
Fortunately, I’ve been telling stories long enough (I’ve been writing fiction most of my life) that I’ve got a few tips I can pass along to help you tell your story.
Figure Out Your Story
This is something that people get wrong all the time. They think their story is A when it’s actually B.
So, what is your story? Is it the founding of your company? Is it how you started offering the services you offer? Is it something you do that is unique to you?
This can be hard to figure out. It’s easy to just fall into the habit of telling a story the same way time after time after time without really asking yourself if you’re telling the right story.
Ask your customers what it was that drew them to you. What made them decide to hire you or use your services?
If you talk to enough of your customers, you’re going to start seeing a pattern in what drew them in. This is going to be the thing that sets you apart and is the beginning of figuring out what your story is.
Another thing that can be helpful is to have a look at your blog (you have a blog, right?). Take a look at your statistics and see which posts are the posts that get the most interest. The posts that the most people read are going to be a great indication as to the story you should be telling. I do this all the time on my personal blog. I post a mixture of stories and how-to’s and, almost without fail, the stories attract more readers.
You might have a great story to tell, but if you’re not telling it right, you’re going to lose people. Look back to my story at the beginning. I hid the most interesting thing about that trip waaaaaaay down at the bottom. Now, if I was telling you story at a party, I’d start with the polar bear and build the rest of my story around that.
Look at the story you’re telling. Are you starting in the right spot or are you keeping the most interesting details down at the bottom?
From a storytelling perspective, a good story starts off interesting and only gets better. Try starting where you normally end your story and work back from there. Maybe you actually need to start in the middle.
Stories are funny that way. Sometimes you don’t know where you’re supposed to start until you’ve told it a few times.
Find Your Voice
Along with knowing where to start your story, how you tell your story matters more than you’d think.
Imagine a world where every story, even the best ones you’ve ever heard, were all narrated by Ben Stein (Bueller? Bueller?). That probably wouldn’t work, would it? Now, think of the most boring topic possible, and imagine if someone more interesting like Bill Nye, the Science Guy or the Morgan Freeman (who, let’s be honest, could read the phone book and hold your attention) explaining it to you.
Storytelling relies heavily on tone of voice. If you’re trying to tell an exciting story, but you talk like you’re reading the phonebook, you’re going to lose people. Fast.
Even topics that are notoriously heavy and uninteresting can be fun, if you talk about them with enthusiasm. One of my favourite things to do at a parties (I’m not a party person, so this is how I have fun) is to get people to talk about what they do. Most people start off by saying something like, “Well, I’m a molecular biologist over at the research centre,” and kind of leave it hanging. I like to follow this up with a few well-placed questions like, “Oh cool. What kind of things do you do there?” and their faces light up (because I showed interest in their jobs) and they’re off to the races talking about everything that makes what they do so cool.
This is how you want to tell your story. Like you’ve been stuck at a party and someone finally seems interested in what you do.
You can move mountains with that kind of enthusiasm when you’re telling a story.
Throw In A Twist
Sometimes a story doesn’t have to be different to be good, it just has to be surprising.
Go back to my About page and take a look at the guy in the picture. I’ll give you a minute.
Had a good look? Great.
Does he seem like the kind of guy who’d A) Go on a five day canoe trip B) Put up with horrific bugs C) Face down a polar bear?
You’re right. Based on that picture, it’s a story you don’t expect.
Now think about your story. What makes it unique? What is surprising about it? What stops people dead in their tracks and makes them say, “Okay. Now you’ve got my attention.”?
Put It All Together
Even these three little things I listed above can help you make your story more interesting. Telling the right story, starting in the right place and putting a little bit of effort into the actual telling of your story can make almost anything a fun read.
It’s hard, though. Storytelling isn’t for everyone and some people, no matter how much they try, just can’t get a handle on it.
I get that. It took me a long time to get good at telling my own story. A lot of people just don’t know how to write about themselves.. Fortunately for people like you, people like me exist.
If you want to find the polar bear story for your business, reach out to me today.