Why & how to step up with your story…
What would be your superpower of choice?
Flying, telepathy, being Beyoncé? I suspect many of us are quite adept with invisibility…
I’m a master of staying invisible, avoiding the vulnerability of my stories shared.
Let me tell you about one of my fave evasive maneuvers. When telling a tale that wasn't really going anywhere, or I couldn't remember the punchline, or maybe I was worried that I was losing my audience, I would simply complete my sentence with the immortal line, “and then I found 50 bucks...”
And inevitably everyone would smile or laugh, and the conversation would move on. Even though it was flagrantly obvious that I didn't have fifty dollars and this was completely irrelevant to the story I'd been attempting to share!
In my time, I’ve honed lots of nifty tricks to deflect attention, evade storytelling, sidestep a fumbled punchline, and ask others all the juicy questions. But it has been way more powerful - and empowering - to drop the invisibility shebang and begin sharing my story.
Over more recent years, I have applied all of my storytelling tools that I've long helped others with, to help me to tune in, to feel confident and create purposefully, and to power up with my own story.
So rather than sharing all the tricksy evasive maneuvers, here I'm going to give you fundamental insight into why storytelling is important and some basics to help you power up with storytelling.
1. We humans are hard-wired for stories
Our brains, our bodies, our hearts and our emotions - we just love a good story.
As we engage with trials and tribulations you share, and feel the suspense of your story, cortisol is stimulated in our brains. We produce oxytocin too as we identify with you and feel connected with your values shared with the story. Good narrative helps bring these wonder neurochemicals on board, we pay more attention and remember more, and if you ask us for something we are more likely to invest our money or time.
Science tells us that the facts you present within in a story are 22 times more memorable (thanks to Cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner). I'm not going to get into more science here (not my expertise - check out the extraordinary research in this space!), but it's clear that storytelling is a powerful part of being human.
2. Your story is a gift
Your own journey, encompassing all the mediocrities, the worries, the challenges, the triumphs and more. All unique to you, and immensely valuable to your ideal audience, at this time right now.
So share that storytelling gift with confidence and with generosity!
3. Storytelling is helps us create wisdom
With stories we weave meaning from all the data, the information, our imaginations and intuition, and all the stuff that's just going on and competing for our wits.
“A great storyteller helps people figure out not only what matters in the world, but also why it matters. A great storyteller dances up the ladder of understanding, from information to knowledge to wisdom.”
With stories we can create and share meaning across cultures, across differences, across generations. It is a powerful gift that we all have.
4. Storytelling sells
Let's face it. Great stories make powerful marketing.
"People do not buy goods and service. They buy relations, stories and magic."
You can see some interesting evidence of the selling power of good narrative with this Significant Objects Project, which gave 'unremarkable, castoff thingamajigs' far more value by commissioning talented writers to create stories about each thing, advertised on Ebay. Thousands of dollars were raised for charity, with goodies such as this ashtray with a story from William Gibson, originally bought for $2.29 and selling for $101 (up 4,311%).
5. Expand with your story
Connecting deeply with yourself and why you do what you do, your storytelling is purposeful and valuable in the sharing. Your stories are incredibly empowering for you and for your ideal audience and clients.
“You learn from the part of the story you focus on”
This expansive approach is a key component of the foundational steps outlined below.
How to start powering up with your story!
Let's start with the basics.
Take some time, create some space, grab a pen and a piece of paper or your journal, and start exploring why you do what you do. Write about your sense of purpose - what is fueling you to create your business, and what gets you out of bed each morning?
Trace that why back through your life. More likely than not, you can find many powerful moments of resonance or resistance, right back to your very early days. There will be key moments, relationships, challenges and epiphanies in your life - when you've felt utterly aligned with your purpose, and when you’ve faced internal and external blocks.
Be mindful of the difficult and discomforting stories you have. Embracing your vulnerability and visibility is not about sharing everything with the world. Rather, your compassionate awareness will help you seek support and healing, and to clarify which lessons and wisdom you seek to share through your stories.
With reflection you can generate a wealth of stories to draw on, including triumphs, moments of hilarious absurdity, and poignant realisations of gain and loss. I recommend unpacking such stories with a trusted ally, seeking some external perspective - or we can work together with this process. I am forever inspired by how much powerful storytelling gold we all have!
Hone in on a particular story to share, and make clear who it is for. What value you want to share with this ideal audience or client (aka your HERO)? Where are you going to share it?
What do you want this hero of yours to do, to feel, to think, and to notice when you share your story?
When you are clear and intentional about the purpose of your story, you gain great foundations to get creative, to talk from the heart, and to feel confident. You know that you are sharing a story that is valuable and aligned with your business.
Here is a lil memory aid I've developed to help you DARE to power up with your story!
D is about diving in - how can you plunge us immediately into a juicy unexpected narrative detail? What moment of gripping suspense or of emotional power can you start with, to catch our attention and stop the scroll?
Avoid starting with a traditional preamble or lots of background details, like “Hi my name is ___ and this is the story of ___ and it started 13 years ago and then this happened and then that happened and blah blah blah…” We tend to tune out when things are conventional or cliched, and there’s too much competing for our attention in the online market space. So please start somewhere super compelling, and dive right in! With our attention grabbed, you’ve got a great headstart with your purposeful story.
A is for activating your story. This is about your purpose, value shared, and that special sauce of yours!
I encourage you to be warm up the energy you bring to the video, and to uplift your intentions as you write or create storytelling content. Practising is also invaluable, and so you may want to get feedback and support to finetune the story. Trust me, storytelling gets so much easier, more fun and magnetic as you develop your planning, purpose and practice!
R is for the rich experience you create. Think of your most treasured storytelling memories from childhood, perhaps when a family member wove an incredible story that enchanted, terrified or delighted you. How can you create such a powerful narrative experience through digital media?
Obviously the richest media right now is video. We don't have smellovision at the moment, but video is such a handy tool for conveying a sense of who you are, in real time. You can work with audio and music, along with all sorts of graphic ingredients, design and branding, as well as interactivity via your online platform of choice. Your story doesn't have to be a smorgasbord of all the rich media you can muster. But I encourage you to explore creative elements that resonate with you, your story and style, and so develop a palette of evocative media that you can draw on to amplify your story.
E - is about getting expansive with your story!
E is for enabling your ideal audience, so they get real value that will help them take the next step.
E is for encouraging your ideal clients to take that call to action, so that they call you or join up to your mailing list or download or buy that thing. It doesn't have to be a big sale pitch that you tack on like a happy ending, but make the CTA easy and appealing for them to do.
E is for also for empowering - by focusing purposefully on a particular chapter or learning from your story, you're expanding and empowering your ideal audience to grow with you!
I'd love to hear from you, about your insights with some of these storytelling basics. What stories do you love sharing or hearing in the online marketplace?
Here’s to you creating, connecting and thriving with the power of your story!