May 16, 2017
What is Story Theater?
Story Theater is the science of the art of storytelling and humor for business presentations.
In This Issue:
- “Storytelling and Brain Science: This is Your Brain on Story“ by Doug Stevenson
- Client List: Book Doug for The Power to Persuade – The Magic of Story or for Aikido Selling -Sell it With a Story keynotes or training.
- Watch Doug’s GoogleTalk Video
1. “Storytelling and Brain Science: This is Your Brain on Story” by Doug Stevenson
Why do you think Malcolm Gladwell is so successful? All three of his books, The Tipping Point, Blink and most recently Outliers – The Story of Success, are best sellers. The answer lies in the subtitle of his most recent book, The Story of Success.
Malcolm is a synthesizer, a pattern recognizer. After he’s done his research and compiled lots of examples to illustrate the points he wants to make, he writes his books by telling stories. He’s a good storyteller.
Daniel Pink, the author of A Whole New Mind, states, “Story represents a pathway to understanding that doesn’t run through the left side of the brain.” It is his belief that people who can recognize patterns and make meaning from seemingly non-related events and information will succeed while the purely logical left brain thinker will struggle. In his view, the future belongs to the big picture thinkers – the storytellers.
From my experience of speaking in front of hundreds of audiences, I have learned that stories are memorable because of the images and emotions contained in the story. The lesson of the story sticks because it’s embedded in an image. The image isn’t a still picture; it’s a motion picture, a movie. While you’re listening to a story, you’re simultaneously watching the story on the movie screen in your mind, in your imagination. Furthermore, a motion picture – a movie – works better than a still picture image.
Let’s test my theory. Take a moment now to think about a movie that you first saw over ten years ago. Have you identified your movie? Now, what do you remember when you think about this movie?
I bet that the first thing that came to your mind was an image or a scene. If I asked you to describe the scene, you could do it in great detail. You remember the actors, their clothes, the location, the situation, and the emotions. You can see these images as easily now as you did when you were watching the movie.
What you remember next is dialogue. But compared to how vividly you remember the images, you probably don’t remember much of the dialogue. Maybe you remember a line that has become famous by repetition, like “make my day” or “life is like a box of chocolates.” Your brain remembers pictures first. It then remembers the emotional context, and finally, it remembers language.
In his new book, Brain Rules, molecular biologist John Medina explains this phenomenon. “When the brain detects an emotionally charged event, the Amygdala releases dopamine into the system. Because dopamine greatly aids memory and information processing, you could say it creates a ‘Post It’ note that reads, ‘Remember this.’”
That explains why audience members who saw me tell a story in a keynote over ten years ago approach me like I’m a long lost friend and say, “I still remember your airport story.” But it’s what they say next that proves the effectiveness of my Story Theater Method as an essential leadership skill. With a smile on their face, they say, “I’m still looking for the limo.”
“Look for the Limo” is the branded point of the story. I call it a Phrase That Pays – mental Velcro that makes the point of your story stick. Because they remember the story, they remember the point. When they remember the point, it becomes actionable. What’s the point of developing a presentation filled with great content if no one remembers anything, takes action, or changes his or her behavior?
My Story Theater Method is a synthesis of storytelling form and structure, subtle acting and comedy skills, and message branding. The structure makes the story easy to follow; the acting moments draw the audience into the experience and stimulate emotional responses; and the branded message gives them a call to action they can apply in their lives.
Most people who have ever given a speech, run a business meeting or tried to sell a product or service will tell you that stories are more memorable than facts and data. Yet I still run into business professionals who remain skeptical. “Stories are a waste of time,” they tell me. “I have too much content to cover to waste time telling a story.” In my experience, the story is essential if you want them to remember any of the content. It’s more likely that content without imagery and emotion is a waste of time.
Marco Iacoboni is a neuroscientist, someone who studies the workings of the brain. In his book, Mirroring People, he asks, “Why do we give ourselves over to emotion during the carefully crafted, heartrending scenes in certain movies? Because mirror neurons in our brains re-create for us the distress we see on the screen. We have empathy for the fictional characters – we know how they’re feeling – because we literally experience the same feelings ourselves.”
Aha! Eureka! At last I’ve found a scientific explanation to explain what I’ve been teaching my students for the last 15 years – mirror neurons. We don’t just listen to stories; we see images and feel emotions. We actually experience the story as if it’s happening to us.
“One important area of research,” says John Medina, “is the effect of emotion on learning. Emotionally arousing events tend to be better remembered than neutral events. They persist much longer in our memories and are recalled with greater accuracy than neutral events.”
By its very nature, story is an emotionally arousing event that engages listeners and holds their attention. With the advent of Blackberry’s and I-phones, competing for your audience members’ mindshare is the first challenge a speaker or leader faces. Good storytelling solves that problem. Then, using storytelling craft, we can attach meaning to the story with a well-chosen point.
In his book, Things That Make Us Smart, Don Norman says, “Stories are important cognitive events, for they encapsulate, into one compact package, information, knowledge, context, and emotion.” Stories capture the big picture.
Now is the time for leaders to become wisdom sharers – synthesizers – storytellers. Simply “getting through the content” is not only ineffective; it wastes everyone’s time. However, simply telling a story will not make you a better leader. It has to be the right story, crafted strategically to make the right point, delivered at the right time, and in a compelling way.
I’ll let author Daniel Pink make my closing argument on the need for leaders to become storytellers. “Stories are easier to remember because stories are how we remember. When facts become so widely available and instantly accessible, each one becomes less valuable. What begins to matter more is the ability to place these facts in context and to deliver them with emotional impact.”
The Story of Success! Increase your success by choosing, crafting and delivering your stories with the Story Theater Method. Contact me about my inspiring and entertaining keynotes, interactive trainings and Story Theater Retreats designed to help you become a more successful and inspiring presenter and leader.
Until next time, your storytelling-in-business coach, Doug Stevenson
2. Client List: Book Doug for The Power to Persuade – The Magic of Story or for Sell It with a Story keynotes or training
Partial list of Doug’s Corporate and Association Bookings:
- Amgen Biotech — storytelling training for marketing
- Microsoft — general session keynote on storytelling
- US Bank — branch manager leadership training
- Allergan Facial Aesthetics — Aikido Selling — Sell it with a Story
- YPO-Manhattan — luncheon keynote for young executives
- Caterpillar — opening keynote — global human resources conference
- Con Agra Foods — storytelling for managers and directors
- USAA Insurance — storytelling for leaders
- Deloitte — Storytelling for Impactful Results workshops
- Coca-Cola Latin America — storytelling for managers and leaders
- Genentech Pharmaceuticals — future leader workshop
- HCA-NY, Home Health Care Association — annual conference keynote
- Wells Fargo Bank — storytelling training for media managers
Other clients include Oracle, Bayer, Lockheed Martin, Cisco, Verizon, Time Warner, Abbott Labs, Mortgage Bankers Association, TD Industries, National Education Association, Institute of Real Estate Management, American Medical Association and many more…
Book Doug for a keynote or training for your organization. Contact Deborah Merriman at 719-310-8586, or email her at deborah@DougStevenson.com
“I’ve had emails, calls, hugs and hallway howdys from just about everybody who attended your storytelling program, and to a soul they are all feeling energized and excited. You breathed new life into us and validated our skills and deep experience as storytellers; exactly what we needed to go forth, listen and tell. We thank you – Your friends at Wells Fargo.”
– Patty Perkins, Team Leader, Internal Communications Solutions Team
3. Watch Doug’s GoogleTalk Video
Watch Doug’s GoogleTalk Video on The Power to Persuade – The Magic of Story: How to Monetize Your Stories. http://youtu.be/sKUiE9DBkKc. Please pass the video link on to your friends and colleagues, and post it on your social network pages.
“Doug is truly a master in teaching the art and science of public speaking and storytelling. I took Doug’s Story Theater Retreat in February 2009, and saw tremendous results immediately. Over 15 months later, I found myself teaching Doug’s method to the CEO of Qwiki, a San Francisco-based technology startup, the night before a major startup contest. Doug’s system transformed the CEO’s speech dramatically and we WON the contest. Winning increased Qwiki’s profile (NY Times, etc.) significantly and, as a result, we accelerated our fundraising process and raised $8 million in Series A financing. Doug’s Story Theater Method had a direct, measureable, and substantial impact on our company.”
– Navin Thukkaram, Managing Director, NT Capital Partners, COO, Qwiki Inc.
If you are receiving this issue as a forward, and would like to get more great articles from Doug, subscribe online at: http://www.storytelling-in-business.com/newsletter/.
Contact Doug at firstname.lastname@example.org; Or contact Deborah Merriman, the VP of Everything, at email@example.com; 719-310-8586.
May 15, 2017
When you give a speech or presentation:
- Do people look forward to hearing you speak?
- Do you engage the complete and total attention of your audience?
- Do you inspire confidence in leadership?
You can lead, engage and inspire, all at the same time, when you learn the secrets to becoming a better storyteller.
Mistakes, Failures and Small Disasters
Finding stories to tell that are relevant and engaging is simple. Stories revolve around moments: big moments, small moments, and meaningful moments.
Garrison Keillor, the host of A Prairie Home Companion on NPR radio, says that “your best stories are about mistakes, failures and small disasters”. In the context of my Nine Steps of Story Structure, I call these “obstacles”. They can be big obstacles, like a life-threatening illness or a tragic event; or small obstacles, like a misunderstanding or getting stuck for two hours in traffic on the way to an important meeting.
Think about your life over the last six months. Did any challenges or obstacles cross your path? Were there things that didn’t go according to plan: big things, little things, important things?
The mistake, failure or small disaster is the obstacle that gives your story tension and infuses it with emotion. Think of “the moment” that you encounter the obstacle as the pivot point of your story. This moment causes you to make choices about what to do next. I call this the “The Iceberg Moment.” In the story of the Titanic, everything was going along fine, until the ship encountered the iceberg. If there hadn’t been an iceberg, we wouldn’t have a story worth telling – it would be a boring story about a big cruise ship that got where it intended to go.
The Event Doesn’t Have to Be Tragic
Iceberg aside, the moments that make for a great story don’t have to be profound or dramatic. Most of the stories my coaching clients bring to me to help them with are about everyday events and situations. They’re about things that go sideways at home, at work and everywhere in between.
The power of story lies not in the event, but in finding the meaning in the moment. Often, the story and the lesson-learned turn out to be metaphors. You don’t have to have an interaction between a leader and an employee to have a story about good leadership. The story could be about hiking, traveling, or coaching a little league team, as long as the lesson learned from overcoming the obstacle or crisis is relevant to the business at hand.
Here are a few examples of lessons from stories that are metaphors:
- “Get back on the bike,” is a metaphor for picking yourself up after a product launch doesn’t go as planned.
- “Run your own race,” is a metaphor for being authentic to who you are rather than trying to be someone else.
- “Take the stairs,” is a metaphor for not taking the easy path.
Find the Meaning in the Moment
Just last week I went into a store to purchase something. As I was standing in line at checkout, the person in front of me paid for his purchase and left the store. As I was checking out and paying for my purchase, the man came back into the store, walked up to the clerk and said, “You gave me too much change,” and handed him a dollar bill.
The clerk who had made the mistake was dumbfounded. The guy standing behind me said, “At least someone is still honest.”
It was a nice moment. What meaning can you find in this moment? How could you use that story in a business presentation? What lesson can be learned? What could the metaphor “Bring back the dollar bill” signify in your business environment?
Look for Turning Point Moments
I can vividly remember a moment in my life, from over 30 years ago. I was in rehearsal for a Shakespeare play, All’s Well That Ends Well. I was 33 years old and had been acting for 14 years at that point and had yet to make much headway in Hollywood. I was a typical young struggling actor. No one in the cast was being paid in this production.
As I looked across the stage, my eyes settled on a couple of men in their late 50’s who had small roles as dukes and magistrates. In that moment, I made a decision never to be a 50-year-old actor working for free.
That was a turning point moment in my life. From that moment forward, my life took on a new direction. A year later, I left Hollywood, relocated to Colorado Springs and became a realtor. During 11 years in real estate, I became successful, bought my first house, met my future wife and discovered the profession of speaking.
All’s Well That Ends Well, indeed!
Turning point moments happen to you and me all the time. What really counts, though, is more than the moment itself – it’s your ability to find the meaning in the moment. Stories are teaching tools. When told with elegance and craft, they bring meaning to life. They help people see new possibilities and alternative choices.
Stories have the ability to make sense of the seemingly random obstacles, pernicious pitfalls and happy coincidences that insert themselves into our daily lives. They teach us how to live.
All Stories Are About Change
In the end, all stories are about change of some sort: change that is forced upon us by outer circumstances, like car accidents, health challenges and hurricanes; or change that takes place within us, such as the decisions we make about how we want to live our lives.
Our lives pivot one way or the other at moments of change and choice. As leaders who tell stories, you simply have to find the meaning in these moments, if you want to serve the needs of your audience, employees and stakeholders.
Consider the moments of change and choice you have faced in the last six months. Were they challenging, painful or just plain frustrating? Regardless of how big or small the moments are, your job is to find the meaning in the moment, and share that story.
Find a New Perspective
My job, as a storytelling coach, is to help leaders become the wise men and women their employees expect them to be. I help them become the Yoda in their organization who challenges people to consider a new perspective in a compelling way. Together we identify and craft relevant stories that can change hearts and minds.
When I watch a CEO clicking through dense PowerPoint slides filled with bullet points, charts and graphs, I often turn my attention to the audience. I’m watching to see if they’re engaged or bored.
Far too often, the CEO has lost their audience. They’ve failed at the most important job of a leader – inspiration. If you know you can be more engaging and inspiring, let’s talk.
May 15, 2017
It’s been said that people buy on emotion and rationalize their decision with logic.
A study done at University of Florida revealed the following: “The national study of 23,168 people shows that no matter what people may presume, feelings and emotions, not Spock-like logic, drive consumers to make even big-ticket purchases,” said Jon Morris, an advertising professor in the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications.
By their very nature, stories contain feelings and emotions. If you understand what kind of story to tell in the appropriate situation, you can use emotional triggers in the story to sell your product or service.
So, if it’s true that people buy on emotion, and stories are the best way to make an emotional connection with a buyer, perhaps you need to flip the script. You’ll get better results if you lead with a story, and follow with the data. If you want to engage your audience or customer, establish trust, and build relationships all at the same time, you have to become an effective storyteller. Storytelling is the magic ingredient for high-closing-ratio sales presentations.
The kind of story that I use to sell my speaking, training and coaching services is called a Credibility story. It’s a story that sells without selling. Think of it as referral selling, but the person doing the referring appears in the story, rather than in person.
We all feel more comfortable buying something on the recommendation of a friend. That’s the principle behind the Credibility story. Instead of trying to sell yourself, you let the story of a past client who has already bought your product or service, do the selling for you. The story is also like giving the prospect a “test-drive” to understand what it’s like to work with you or to use your product.
The unique twist is that Credibility stories are customer-interaction stories that include the customer’s point of view using the customer’s words. It’s the dialogue between the salesperson and the customer that makes this type of story work.
To find your credibility stories, first identify the three most common objections or challenges – the ones you hear on a regular basis. Here are a few that my clients tell me they hear often:
- Your price is too high.
- We’re happy with the company we’ve been using for years.
- We don’t have any money in our budget for this.
Do you have a current customer or client who initially had one of those objections or challenges? Did you find a creative way to get past the objection? Are they now one of your “happy camper” clients who sing your praises?
The story of one of your current customers who told you your price was too high, but ended up hiring you anyway, is a perfect Credibility story. However, it has to be carefully constructed in a way that triggers an emotional response. It’s not just a touch-feely story, however. It also contains facts, data and percentages.
For instance, one of my coaching clients came to me for help with his stories. He was making presentations to small groups of potential clients to get new business. He’d made five presentations to a total of 200 people. Out of the 200 prospects, he got 2 new clients. That’s a closing percentage of 1%. Pretty lousy, wouldn’t you say?
That’s what he said, too. And he admitted that he was telling stories, but they weren’t working. So, he came to my studio to work with me on his 30-minute sales presentation. We worked together for one hour.
I asked him to identify the three most common objections he hears from prospective clients. He answered immediately. Then we identified stories about “happy camper” clients that had released those objections and ended up working with him for a successful outcome. By the end of one hour, we had designed a new presentation with three new stories.
A couple of weeks later, he came back for another hour of coaching. Before we began, he was ecstatic to share with me that he had made one presentation to a small but important group of 10 prospective clients. Four of them are now his clients.
He went from a closing ratio of 1% to 40% after only one hour of coaching. He said, “Doug, you were right. It’s like you said: emotion is the fast lane to the brain. The difference was the emotion in the stories. I hooked them.”
With a “happy camper” client like that, I don’t have to sell myself. I let that client do it for me with that Credibility story.
Using stories to sell is even more important when your product is technical in nature. While salespeople love to talk about how their product works, going deep into the technical details and data often makes the customer get lost and slip into a content coma.
Bullet points and dense technical slide decks tend to serve the needs of the salesperson, more than the needs of the customer.
After you finish reading this article, take a minute to watch the Pill in the Peanut Butter video on my website. It’s a short story about trying to give my sick dog a pill. Every time I shoved the pill down her throat, she spit it back out. When I hid the pill in a scoop of peanut butter, she swallowed the pill very easily.
This metaphorical story explains what I teach salespeople to do. The pill is your content, data and product knowledge. When you overload your sales conversation with too much “pill”, your customer can’t swallow it. They get bored and check out on you. But when you embed just the right amount of “pill” in a story, it sticks like peanut butter.
Storytelling is a learnable skill. It’s a craft. My Story Theater Method is storytelling technology. Like the iPad, that is capable of doing amazing things, storytelling is likewise capable of doing amazing things. But you need to know how to work a story, just like you learn how to work an iPad.
In conclusion, Story Selling is an effective way to conduct a sales conversation that balances the need to make an emotional connection while effectively communicating product value. Rather than leading with facts and data, the script is flipped. Now, your salespeople lead with a story, follow with facts and data, and close more sales.