What Do You Mean by ‘Story’ – Storytelling 101
Maybe you’ve heard that the secret to standing out, making people care and selling online is telling stories.
Possibly you even heard it from me on my podcast, The Speaking Club!
That’s because I believe that this Native American Indian proverb is spot on…
“Those who tell the stories rule the world.” — Hopi American Indian proverb
Maybe you think this proverb might be overstating the power of stories just a bit?
In 1838, through the story of Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens made the rich care about the suffering of the poor in the English workhouses leading to reform.
In 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe radically altered the perception of slavery within America with her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin; and
In 2011, EL James, with her book Fifty Shades of Grey…single-handedly increased the sales of rope across the world.
Whether it’s books, film, television, newspapers, or the internet, it is true that those who tell the stories have enormous power to influence.
But why are stories so powerful?
Firstly, it’s because we’ve been conditioned for millennia to listen to stories – before the advent of writing we used stories to make it easier for people to remember important information. That conditioning means we intuitively ‘lean in’ and the storyteller today has the benefit of that hotline to our subconscious.
It’s also because us human beings are the only creatures that can imagine something outside our direct experience. We can actually imagine something that does not exist or hasn’t yet happened, and it permeates everything…stories are the source of all religion, all passionate belief, and all sense of community.
One of the big reasons the early human tribes grew, was because they could feel a connection to someone that they’d never actually met in person but had heard a story about.
Stories are so powerful because they exploit this human ability. We feel like we’re taking the journey with the hero, enabling us to share the emotional experience and imagine different possibilities and futures for ourselves.
“Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell.” – Seth Godin
And all of that is why I believe that in business today, structured in the right way, stories are one of the most powerful tools you have to break through the noise, reach your ideal customer and make your business stand out.
Ok… hopefully I’ve convinced you of the enormous power of stories…but now you’re probably thinking… “yes that’s all very well Sarah, but last time I looked I’m not JK Rowling and as an entrepreneur speaking online, I don’t know…
“What exactly you mean by ‘story’?”
“Whether there are different types of story and if so, which one I should use.”
“How long a story should be?”
“Where should I use stories?
“Where do I find the stories to use?”
“How I should use them?”
Don’t worry…because that’s exactly what I’m going to take you through now.
What do I mean by story?
My definition of a story is the retelling of an event or experience in a way that captures attention, creates an emotional connection and inspires a shift in perspective that leads to action.
This ‘event’ doesn’t have to be anything earth shattering, it doesn’t have to be a Hollywood Blockbuster with towering infernos or earthquakes, but it should be the catalyst for some kind of ‘change’ in the hero of the story. That change could be a change of emotional state, or financial state, or learning something new, or having a shift in perspective, or finding something out about themselves.
Recently, I did a video of me unboxing a stand-up paddleboard. That is a story…it had all the right ingredients…
- it captures attention…we want to know what’s in the box;
- there is an emotional connection…people can relate to the excitement I felt at getting a new toy; and
- it inspires a shift in perspective…this part happens because I’m sharing the unboxing as part of a bigger message that older women can start doing something adventurous in middle age.
In terms of the change I experienced…I’m was even more excited to get out on the water!
I told that story through a video in real time so people could see and hear what I was feeling in the moment, but if I was re-telling that story, I would still find a way to show the audience what I was thinking, feeling and experiencing so that it was engaging and relatable for them.
I have many short, snackable stories from my life to share and so have you!
These are simple little stories that will capture attention, resonate with people and shows some growth and will give your audience food for thought too.
What are the different types and lengths of stories?
Ok, let’s take a look at whether there are different types of story and what these are.
To me and what I teach are three main types of story…these are hooks, anecdotes, and transformational stories.
Hooks are the shortest stories and are normally just one sentence long, and these are what draw people in to read, watch or listen to your story and message.
Anecdotes are snackable stories, like the one I mentioned, that are shorter vignettes of life that you can tell in around three minutes or less.
Then transformational stories are your origin story or ‘big idea’ stories that are usually found at the start of webinars and keynotes and last around 10 minutes to tell. These stories show both the internal and external transformation of the hero which links to the product, service, idea or change you are trying to sell.
Your origin story is one of the most important assets you own. Get this story right and it could generate thousands in revenue for you. There is a definite structure to follow to create it in a way that will make it more compelling for your audience. That’s why I have a whole bonus course dedicated to finding and creating your origin story.
Now let’s take a look at where you should use stories…
Where should I use them?
For me the answer to the question of where you should use stories is related to this quote…
‘Stories are the currency of human connection.’
So, the answer is anywhere we’re trying to connect with other human beings…which means as an online entrepreneur, business owner or speaker you should be using stories in:
- Facebook lives
- Sales pages
- Instagram stories
- Coaching sessions
- 121 meetings
- Social media posts
(Let’s just say everywhere!)
Lastly, I want to answer the question of where to find your stories.
Where do I find the stories to use?
As you know from the ‘Big Mistakes Blog’, one place I don’t think you should find your stories is on the sales page of someone selling ‘done for you’, ‘word for word’ story scripts. Their promise is that it will make it easier and quicker for you to get results because you’re sharing content that works… except that just because it worked for them, doesn’t mean that it will work for you.
And I don’t think it will…and that’s because if you’re using the same exact content as everyone else, chances are you’re getting lost in the crowd and switching your audiences off. It might get you so far, but it won’t make people connect with you… because it’s not your voice, those scripts reflect the personality and brand of the person you bought them from…not yours.
So, for me the answer to where you should find your stories is… YOU!
I’m going to be sharing more about how you do that, along with how you should be using them to maximise impact, engagement and sales here!
See you there!
By Sarah Archer