The Art (and Science) of Telling a Story
Guidelines for Getting to the Point and Engaging Your Audience
“Next to doing the right thing, the most important thing is to let people know you are doing the right thing.” – John D. Rockefeller
It’s difficult to argue that it doesn’t matter how great a story is if nobody knows about it, yet the actual telling of a story is both an art and a science. The most effective way to tell a story is to present complex ideas in a simple and direct way requiring art in the delivery and science in the methodology.
Good content is the foundation for creating and strengthening brand awareness, reputation and audience perception. However, as Rockefeller says above, that’s only half of the battle. Not only must you have a solid story, you have to be able to deliver it to a potentially wide range of audiences using a variety of formats. Whether you’re in an elevator, a lecture hall or the boardroom, you need to adjust to fit the needs of the audience.
While methods may vary, there are some general guidelines to keep in mind when developing a story. The following can help you deliver your message effectively without losing your audience in the process.
Know Your Audience – When you speak to an audience, you must both inform them and persuade them to accept what you are saying. You wouldn’t discuss biochemistry with a group of pre-school children, right? The more you can relate to your audience, the better the chances of them listening to you.
Know Your Message – Seems simple enough – know what you’re talking about – but that isn’t always the case. Think about how you would describe making a cake to a child and then how you’d have that same conversation with your co-worker. While it’s the same message, the words you would use and delivery you would give are very different based on the person you’re talking to. Knowing your message is directly related to knowing your audience and being able to adapt that message to make it digestible to them.
Keep Visuals to a Minimum – Visuals should strike a balance with what you‘re saying and supplement your content, not override it. While some visual elements can enhance your presentation, you still want all eyes on you, not the flashy visuals.
Take Time to Prepare – Practice makes perfect and once you know your messages, practicing your delivery can make or break your chances of success. Practicing fosters a level of comfort and confidence and also gives you a chance to anticipate challenging questions that may come your way.
Captivate Your Audience – So, you know your audience and your message, you’ve prepared an engaging presentation and practiced. Good to go, right? Well, there’s one more step. You have to get your audience interested enough to listen to your entire presentation so you can accomplish your objective. Think like a comedian. You have 30 seconds to make an impression so get their attention by asking a provocative question, sharing a personal experience or offering an interesting/humorous observation or anecdote.
A good story can make or break a presentation, article, or conversation. You only get one chance to make a first impression, so make sure you make a connection. Tell your story in a way that makes your audience walk away thinking about what you said.