A proverb says: “Those who tell the stories, rule the world”. Obviously history shows that skillful storytellers can use that skill to either create value for humanity or harm.
Storytelling is one of the oldest forms of art and communication and while the digital revolution introduced a huge variety of new ways to construct and transport information, compelling narratives are still one of the most powerful communication tools out there.
Why are stories so powerful?
Good stories cut through mountains of content, create meaning where there was only data and have the power to change our attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. Researchersfound out that character-driven stories shown on video, increased the oxytocin level in viewers. A hormone that is responsible for our empathy. When we hear or see a good story, we feel connected to it in a certain way and we are more likely to share information that is shaped as an engaging story!
No wonder that Marketers have discovered this powerhouse of influence to engage and win potential customers, build their brand awareness and reputation, court new talents like Heineken does impressively or reduce the damage of corporate scandals.
A recent Harvard Business Review article concluded that in our age of information saturation, telling a good story is essential to being heard.
So no matter what kind of business you are involved in, storytelling is an essential skill to build your own personal brand!
How to tell stories to shape and enhance your personal brand!
Whether you are writing a personal branding statement for your website, writing a key note speech or practicing public speaking: these hacks will help you to harness the power of good storytelling!
- Start with a message
When you plan a story, you should ask yourself: Who is my audience and what is the message I want to share with them? Good stories are easy to follow because they have a good and simple storyline. Don’t try to put your entire life in one story! Focus on the key takeaways and your mission! That’s the core that people will remember after your speech or written story. Draw the basic lines first before coloring the rest in and around it!
Practice: Write down words and phrases that should describe your personal brand. Once you got that, you can start building a story around it that encompassed these words and underlines the key message they carry!
2. Make it stick!
We often think that in the business world, only facts and figures matter. But that’s only a small fraction of the things that actually matter. You won’t be heard unless you’re telling good stories because plain facts just don’t stick in our memory! It’s the emotionstransported via stories that make our words stick!
Practice: How does the story you’ve written so far feel like? Are these emotions in tune with the message you want to share? Share the story beforehand with friends or colleagues to see whether they feel what you feel!
3. Tap into people’s curiosity
Questions can be super powerful, especially in a key note speech. People are genuinely curious. Asking (provoking) questions does not only help you to get attention but also to structure a good story! Build in questions where they make sense to give your story a structure, bring listeners back on board who drifted apart for a minute and keep them engaged throughout the rest of the speech!
4. Picture perfect!
Good storytellers take their audience on a journey – even without video or slide support! They illustrate their stories by describing what they saw in that certain situation or what they could smell and hear. Using metaphors is also a great tool to do that!
Example 1: Upon entering the office building, I made my way to the receptionist who asked me where I wanted to go. I was super nervous!
Example 2: Upon entering the enormous, clean and sophisticated office building, I instantly felt even more nervous. I could hear my high-heels making unwelcomed noise on the cold marble floor. The handsome receptionist greeted me with a plastic smile and asked me where I wanted to go.
Pretty much the same facts but a different feeling, right? Through the visual style in example 2, the audience is basically following me and can “feel” the situation more easily. This is very valuable if you want to underline a certain message or make your story stick! Emotions stick as we learned in #2. Pictures do that, too!
5. Play with your voice!
The voice that transports the story can be just as important as the story itself!
When I was 4, I would watch Hollywood movies that were synchronized in Russian as I couldn’t understand a word in English by that time. The problem was: in the early 90s, Russia didn’t had a sophisticated sync tradition yet and therefore there was only one person for the entire movie synchronizing all the characters! What was even worse than seeing a young girl talking with the voice of a man: the tone and speed kept the same throughout the entire movie! You know people who put their audiences to sleep with such a technique!
The cure: play with your voice. See it as a piano! You’re telling a story with ups, downs, highlights etc. Practice this! I listend to audiobooks that help me to use my voice skillfully and consciously. Most of the time we’re not even aware of the importance of our voice – don’t make that mistake.