Here are the final three of the six types of stories that Annette Simmons shares in her book Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins. (Last month you saw the first three: conta.cc/1dmMSw9).
Goal: To inspire hope
Use: You stimulate action and raise morale by reminding people why they are working together
Example: A professional whose mission is global cooperation to save the planet from ecological disaster was at an airport. Her plane was delayed for the third time. Rather than taking her frustration out on the airline staff, she used the importance of helping others work collaboratively to calm her frustration.
Values in Action Stories
Goal: To explain what a value really means
Use: You clarify an intangible (such as integrity) in a working relationship or situation
Example: An optical chain values customer service. Its advertising campaign offered to replace glasses with a new style if customers didn’t like their frames when they got home. This increased the cost of the transaction. A store manager told his staff about a customer who — apologetically — took advantage of the offer. This person remained loyal to the store for years and also recommended it to family and friends. This small loss on one transaction bought the store many profitable purchases.
“I Know What You’re Thinking” Stories
Goal: To show respect for others’ viewpoints while sharing your own
Use: You recognize objections and then show why they don’t apply
Example: A saleswoman in children’s shoe store convinces a mom to buy a pair of premium-priced shoes. She does this by explaining that if her child doesn’t find his new shoes comfortable after a week, the mom can bring them back for an exchange or refund. This is the case even though the shoes would be worn and couldn’t be resold. The saleswoman backs this up by telling about one customer who did that just last week, although she was the only customer whose child hadn’t loved the shoes.
I was lucky enough to create a retreat on storytelling for a regional law firm. After showing how this could make all of them better rainmakers, each practice group created a story to share with prospects and current clients. This process worked for them:
Step #1: Think about why you want to tell a story. Here are three good examples: 1) build rapport with a potential/new/current client, 2) illustrate a core belief to differentiate yourself and your company, 3) “break the ice” at a networking event and lead to a deeper conversation.
Step #2: Consider your audience. The first tip centers on you. But don’t linger too long there and risk boring or alienating the people. Become a “method actor” and put yourself in their place by answering WIFFT: what’s in it for them?
Step #3: Determine the best type of story to meet Steps #1 and #2. You now have six: 1) who I am, 2) why I’m here, 3) teaching, 4) vision, 5) values in action, and 6) I know what you’re thinking.
Step #4: Brainstorm stories that fit. You can do this with others (good ideas are energizing and contagious!) or on your own. If you do the latter, consider using freewriting: getting a pen and paper, setting a timer for five minutes, and writing every story idea you can think of — non-stop and without grammar/punctuation/sentences. Go back and pick the best ones.
Step #5: Outline your story. The easiest way to do this is to think about it in three scenes: 1) what was the issue/conflict, 2) what was the action taken, and 3) what was the result.
Step #6: Add local color. Details help listeners picture a story as you’re telling it — and make it more memorable. Think about the characters (including you) and settings involved. Flesh out your story by adding these.
Step #7: Practice with purpose. Pay attention to these factors and get feedback on them: 1) pace (speed of delivery), 2) voice quality and tone, 3) body language and hand gestures, 4) eye contact, and 5) story delivery (descriptions, use of emotional context, progression of beginning/middle/end, final context).
When you take a strategic approach to story, you become a person worth listening to — which will help you better reach your goals.