“Say what you need to say.”– John Mayer
If you get hung up on what to say or write, you think you don’t know how to tell a good story, I see you, and today is for you.
An essential element of quality storytelling is not that you create a literary masterpiece. It’s that you engage in a conversation.
The individuals in your audience want to be treated like regular people. Don’t patronize them. Don’t give them a bunch of lip service. They see right through you. Their BS radar is on hard, and you are far too easy to scroll past.
I attended Gabrielle Dolan’s storytelling workshop last year to learn from Australia’s top corporate storytelling leader. She ran an exercise called “Is it a story or not?”
Many brands will include “their story” on labels, and we explored a few to see which ones inspired and which ones got the thumbs down.
Thumbs-down stories tended to be chronologies of events, like a history of an organization where you had to hold your eyes open (from falling asleep) to get through it. Or stories that contain a lot of meaningless words, which I’ll get to in a minute.
Being part of the conversation means what you say is something you’d say in conversation. Conversational language differs from lip service. Lip service is declaring that the community is the center of everything you do. If you rely on words like “world-class” or use terms that don’t mean anything (like award-winning, donor-centric, experiential), you are paying lip service. When you declare you are “thrilled” about something, you are paying lip service. That last one might have just ticked you off. But how often do you read that the CEO is thrilled to announce something, and from the audience’s perspective, I ask you: Do you care if the CEO is thrilled or not?
This is the kind of filler that turns the BS radar on. Your audience knows when you sat down at your desk to fill a screen with content that needs to go out today. And so you did what you could.
When a client I am working with said she needed to work on her draft because it needed more love, I told her it just needed more story. You can’t just put emotion into it. To evoke emotion, you have to invoke emotion.
In my earlier post on storylistening, I showed how stories come through you, not from you.
If you can speak to someone’s experience, you’re telling a story.
Charity: water brings clean water to impoverished communities in Africa. In his book Thirst, author and founder Scott Harrison describes a young three-year-old girl he saw at a muddy pond in Africa. She filled her water bottle, took a drink and threw up on her shirt, stooped to get more water, and repeated. We don’t need the name of this girl. This is all we need to understand the situation. You can talk about bringing clean water to communities in need. But we don’t get it until you tell us about the girl on the shore so thirsty she keeps drinking even though the water makes her throw up. Now we want to help.
My filter for you:
- If you find yourself using filler terms and generic turns of phrase, imagine the BS alarm going off. Stop and ask yourself what you are trying to say.
- Give me an example.
- Are you still struggling? Imagine you are having coffee with a friend, and you are telling him or her about it. What would you say?
I’d like to know what turns your BS radar on?
Take care out there,
Some ways I may be able to help you and your team:
Want help seeing things differently? Ready to make that idea of yours happen? I still have a few spaces available in July for my Take a Big Leap Coaching program for purpose-driven individuals who want to make a big change or level up their career, business/organization, or want to strike out on their own and launch their thing. This four-month, one-on-one program will help you articulate and make your idea of change happen. Respond here, and we can schedule a time to discuss.
Help non-profit team members level up their storytelling. In this three-part series, I can work with your team to help you elevate your organization’s communications and storytelling skills. Want more details? Respond here to schedule a time to talk.
Digital Transformation. Need to bring your work online? I’m here to help. Contact me for details.
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