July 6, 2010
Read the Introduction to my Story Theater Book
This is the Introduction to my book, Doug Stevenson’s Story Theater Method. If you want to be a superb storyteller, in business or in your personal life, this is the HOW-TO book on how you do it. I often refer to my method as “Storytelling Technology.”
It was an odd reaction. I was in the middle of a customer service training session when my entire audience put down their pens almost at the same time, leaned back in their chairs and looked up at me with smiles and childlike innocence. It was as if a switch had been flipped in the room and all of a sudden the room was warmer. You know how you can hear the furnace turn on in the winter? It was like that, like the furnace turned on.
Up until that moment, the eighty people that were gathered in our chilly hotel room were listening to me, some more intently than others, while at the same time writing notes in their workbooks. They were listening, but they weren’t really with me. I knew this because when I’d ask a question, it would take a minute for people to respond – like their brains were on screen saver and when I put them on the spot it made them realize they were daydreaming of a beach in Jamaica.
But when I said those magic words, “let me tell you a story about a customer that I had…” and I began telling a personal story, they all looked up and paid attention. They were right there with me hanging on every word. The only thing I can relate it to is a school of fish. You know how an entire school of fish turns left and then right and then left again at the same time as if they all have one brain? Like they are all one? Well the minute I started telling my story, it was as if we were all one. All of a sudden and without warning – we were connected.
At the end of that day, a number of people came up to me to thank me for the training. One lady commented on the story that I told and then launched into her own story about a customer she had. I didn’t think much about it at the time – but it kept happening time and again at every program where I told that story. My story reminded her of her story, but now she understood her story better.
Have you ever channel surfed on the TV? You’re sitting there on your comfy couch with a liquid beverage in one hand and your trusty remote in the other and you’re just flipping channels. Nowadays you can really do some flipping, can’t you? There are hundreds of channels to choose from and they’re all sitting out there hoping you’ll pick them. And you, you’re looking for something that catches your attention.
Are you aware that your audience is doing something very similar while you’re talking? They’re sitting there a few feet away from you and they’re listening to what you’re saying but in their mind they’re flipping channels, waiting for you to say something that catches their attention.
If you’re doing a speech or a training session and what you’re saying sounds anything like high school – lots of facts and figures and numbers that remind them of being bored to tears in chemistry class, they mentally flip the channel. They may be looking at you, but their heads are in Jamaica. That’s right, they’re watching the travel channel imagining themselves on a white sandy beach in Jamaica. Why?
Because they already did the school thing as kids and most of them didn’t like it, so anything that sounds like school turns them off. All the while, you want and need their full attention. You have to be as interesting as Jamaica.
That’s why you’re not finished talking ’til you’ve told a story. When you start telling a story, and you really get into it by having fun and letting yourself go, then they listen with full attention. That’s what it’s all about – getting their full attention. In order to do that you’ve got to have something better for them to listen to, something more interesting than the noise going on inside their heads. You’ve got to catch their attention.
So what’s your story? What are the stories from your life that are just like the stories from someone else’s life that they will immediately relate to. Your first job as a speaker is to create a relationship, which means that you’ve got to find something to say that they relate to. Facts and figures and numbers don’t do that.
Stories do – especially if they’re personal stories, the ones that are part of everyday life. If you can find everyday stories, and then craft them to make a good solid point, you’re a business storyteller. You’re on the fast track to success because you understand something that most people around you don’t – that stories are the best way to deliver content.
What was phenomenal about my customer service training experience was the sense of connection I had with that audience. At no other point during that entire day had I felt anything like it. One minute the room was chilly and the next minute it was warm. One minute the energy was scattered and the next it was focused. One minute I was trying to hold their attention and the next minute I had it.
I think you know what I mean. Every speaker who has ever stood in the front of a room to teach or speak or lead a meeting has experienced it. It’s a palpable feeling. You either have it or you don’t. It’s a sense of connection that you have with your audience – a sense of oneness.
When it’s not there, it’s as if there is a gap between you and your audience. No matter how hard you try to connect, there is a hollow space that separates you. Speakers hate the gap. Audiences hate the gap. It serves neither speaker nor audience. What’s needed is a bridge across the gap – something to connect speaker and audience.
Stories are that bridge. Here’s what I’ve discovered over the years about storytelling in business:
- When training people, a story is the best way to help employees “grasp” an abstract concept. It helps them “buy into” a new idea or initiative. The story brings an intellectual idea into the “real world” so they “get” it. Listeners “see” what you’re saying and visualize it – which means they internalize it instead of just hearing it.
- Using a well-crafted story is the key to winning over resistant audiences. If you have to give bad news, sharing a story often makes listeners understand a decision and accept it, even when they don’t like it.
- Storytelling enhances your powers of persuasion. If you are proposing a product or service and your listeners aren’t “buying it,” telling them a story that paints a picture of how the product or service has been used successfully elsewhere “proves” its merit by allowing the listener to test drive the product or service.
- Storytelling has the power to connect with an audience as no other medium can. It bridges the gap and removes any sense of separation.
- Not all stories work. There are good stories and bad stories. The good ones create a bridge that connects the speaker and his or her audience. The bad stories fall flat or even worse – widen the gap.
- Storytelling is a skill that can be practiced, learned and perfected. It’s like any other skill or discipline – the more you know, the better you become.
This book is about helping you connect with your audience by using stories – stories that are strategically chosen and crafted to make a business point. In these pages you’ll discover a simple storytelling formula that will make you a better business speaker and storyteller.
Part One explains how you can use storytelling to move up the ladder of success and gain instant credibility as the speaker of choice in your organization.
Part Two explains how The Story Theater Method works. You’ll learn how to connect with any audience and how to use the number one secret to being your best when you speak.
Part Three teaches you how to find stories and what to do with them once you find them.
Part Four shows you, in detail, how to write and develop your story for maximum impact using The Nine Steps of Story Structure.
Part Five explains how to take what you’ve written and put it on its feet using insider secrets from the worlds of acting and comedy.
Part Six prepares you to step in front of an audience and deliver your story with confidence and poise.
I’ve coached over 1000 business professionals using the exact steps described in this book. I’ve witnessed some amazing transformations and heard some wonderful success stories.
Now, it’s your turn!