Stories are key to effective business communication. They engage us emotionally, facilitate better understanding, create meaning and build personal, trustworthy connections. Simple stories amplify all these benefits.
Simplicity: A Navigation Tool in a Complex World
How do simple stories help us communicate more effectively in an increasingly complex and confusing world?
Simplicity is our best navigation tool for many reasons:
- On a practical level, ‘simple’ is user-friendly, i.e. it’s shorter; quicker; it’s easier to remember, understand, evaluate and use
- It’s the outcome of a process that distils complexity into its essentials – without stripping it of substance to create a simplistic, dumbed-down version
- It helps us easily recognise new ideas, systems, products, brands in an increasingly overwhelming and confusing marketplace
Simple Stories Simplify Communication
Simple stories are not just shorter stories. They clarify and refine complex ideas and data, making it easier for an audience to engage with what is being communicated and eventually act on it. The great physicist, Albert Einstein, gave us advice on how to do just that: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.”
We are complex human beings who live in an increasingly complex world, so our task is to make complexity simple, not simplistic!
Editing, organising and sharpening our ideas are part of a skills-set we can develop and then improve with practice. The benefits of investing time and effort to learn these skills are huge. By making complex material ‘user-friendly’, i.e. simpler, you create immediate access to it, which in turn makes it more relatable, relevant and applicable.
That’s a huge part of my job. When clients present me with a 3/4-page document, I help them create a 2/3-sentence back-story, or a brand stories or a personal profile statement. The work is first of all finding the pattern in all the detail: it’s the pattern that connects it all together. Then creating the simple story to illustrate that pattern.
How to Tell Simple Stories
I. The Story Structure
The structure needs to be simple if you want your story to be simple. That’s easier said than done when most storytelling courses and workshops present beginners needlessly complex diagrams and structures, while at the same time assuring us we’re all natural-born storytellers!
The story structure is the container for what happens: the details of who, what, when, why, how. The structure creates a pattern that helps us grasp and remember those details. The simplest structure and easiest one to use is created around a linear, temporal pattern:
Before – Turning Point – After
II. The Storytelling Structure
Once we have our story structure we then need a structure to tell that story. The same rule also applies here: the simpler the storytelling structure, the easier it is to communicate the story and the easier it is to receive it.
The most natural and effective structure to communicate information is the one we use every day – conversation, or dialogue. Dialogue is about reciprocal exchange, response and interaction, as opposed to the monologue, which is a one-way form of communication.
Another characteristic of telling simple stories is using simple language. That means getting rid of the jargon and the buzzwords because they act as a barrier to real connection. Replace them with personal, straightforward, simple language that supports and promotes human-to-human connection.
The Benefits for Business of Making it Simple
How does keeping it simple actually translate into better outcomes for businesses? The simplicity-index surveys show that simplicity pays. The top brands globally and nationally all share the common feature of offering their customers a simple experience that is communicated as simply as possible. Here’s how Ben Osborn from Siegel+Gale puts it:
“Our research shows us that 55% of consumers are willing to reward brands that make their lives simpler – and penalise those that do not. Simplicity is an important metric for the communications industry because empathy is the cornerstone of the contract between creators and consumers.”
If simplicity pays, how do we recognise it in how other brands communicate and then implement it in our own communication? Start by asking yourself this question:
Do I consciously choose to communicate in a way that is simple, honest, transparent and personal for my audience?
Isn’t it time to simplify?Learn More
If 2020 caused an explosion in virtual presentations, aka ‘webinars’, it has simultaneously created an avalanche of time-wasting, mind-numbing ones.
After attending some really excellent virtual presentations and some incredibly awful ones over the last year, I’ve learned what one thing separates the best from the worst.
I’ll start by giving you some early warning signs of the worst ones. My advice here is leave early!
No Attention given to User Experience
The shared commonality between badly prepared and self-promotional virtual presentations is easy to spot. The presenter doesn’t prioritise user experience:
- You haven’t been given any orientation on the event at the beginning – format, length, options for audience engagement, etc.
- The host hasn’t done a trial run to pace the event or get familiar with the technology. For example, screen sharing is awkward, internet quality is unreliable, hosts forget to unmute their own microphone or forget to mute the audience, slide transitions are not smooth, etc.
- You have a worm’s-eye view of the host’s face. You’re looking up into their chin and nose – which makes human-to-human connection very difficult.
- The background is a distraction. It’s caused by the regular ‘disappearance’ of the host into the virtual background because the colours lack the necessary contrast. The non-virtual background is either too cluttered, or, so strategically organised to show ‘taste’, that you are constantly drawn into it.
- It’s quickly obvious that you are attending a read-the-slide presentation, with slides that are too full, too rushed, too many, too few, too complicated.
- Everyone anxiously waits for the sales or self-promotion pitch’ – that’s the elephant in the room waiting run loose.
- The only reason you don’t leave early is the promised ‘bait’ at the end – usually a freebie, or a special offer.
I could go on, but you get the idea.
Presenting is about Creating a Relationship
You can’t learn how to create and deliver a virtual presentation that engages and entertains the audience as well as one that gives them value from a cheat-sheet – regardless of the hype! Yes, I do have a check-list below! Those guidelines will help you improve your presentation.
A check-list will NOT create a great presentation, not even a good one if you don’t establish why you’re presenting in the first place – whether it’s online or offline. Sure, presenting online does offer additional challenges and I’ll address those below.
The point I want you to get is this. Every time you present you create a relationship with your audience and it’s that relationship that determines the quality of your presentation and the follow-up. That relationship is what you need to get right.
People are sick of being manipulated and sold to in these curated virtual presentations.
The unsuspecting newcomers quickly tire of the pitch, even when the packaging is becoming more subtle and sophisticated. If you present to sell or self-promote, even if you give the mandatory ‘crumb’ of value to justify your agenda, you’re wasting a great opportunity to build an authentic relationship with your audience.
I’m going to show you how to create a relationship with your audience that inspires, educates, entertains and gives value. And opens a door to doing business.
The worst were curated monologues
The worst online presentations I’ve attended over the past year were self-serving monologues from beginning to end.
They did not prepare the presentation to deliver audience-relevant information in an audience-friendly way. Instead they were one-way communication events, in which the audience was there to listen to the presenter. The presentations were generally driven by a thinly camouflaged agenda – usually a sales pitch.
The presenter talked at the audience throughout and tried to impress with jargon-filled slides and fancy technical manoeuvres. Only in the Q & A after the pitch did the audience have the opportunity to participate. Even that was structured as a follow-up from the pitch.
The best were engaging dialogues
If the monologue-format defined the worst virtual presentations, then the dialogue format was the feature of the best ones.
What defines a dialogue?
It’s reciprocal communication, i.e. two-way communication in which an exchange is happening between those involved as I’ve already talked about here. The best presentations are interactive dialogues that invite and facilitate audience engagement.
Here are some of ways you can integrate the dialogue format into your presentation:
- Make the tone, language and content personal and conversational
- Talk to the audience about what concerns the audience
- Tell short, relevant, personal stories to create ways for the audience to easily identify with you and illustrate the point you are making
- Ask relevant questions to invite participation. For example, use closed yes/no questions at the beginning to get quick, easy responses in the chat boxes. Then open questions to get the audience to reflect and give their opinions. At the Q & A they let the audience ask their specific questions. That lets them control the dialogue.
How to create an interactive presentation
Here are a few ‘basics’ to create an interactive virtual presentation that holds the attention of the audience and helps establish meaningful relationships:
- Create a simple background that doesn’t distract the viewer (Use a plain wall, a blur background option, or a simple green screen)
- Use audio aids, i.e. a microphone with ear pods or a headset. They make a huge difference to the audio experience (There’s plenty to choose from, ranging from visible to invisible, etc.)
- Make eye-to-eye contact, i.e. look into the camera not the screen and ensure that your eyes are level with the camera. Use books, boxes, or whatever else you have available to raise your computer/camera.
- Ask yourself what does the audience need to hear about the topic, then give them that perspective – not your!
- Create a structure to your presentation (use a simple story structure)
- Prepare well – do a few trial runs to check the technology, timing & the flow
- Prepare your slides as VISUAL aids, i.e. they arouse interest
- Drop the manipulation tactics – NO ‘bait’ to keep people until the end & NO sales/self-promotion pitch! (What, NO sales pitch? If the only reason you create a virtual presentation is to sell, then you are wasting a golden opportunity to engage with an interested audience).
- Give them the promised FREE online presentation, i.e. tell them upfront there is NO pitch. Everyone can relax now and listen to you.
- Give them real value on your topic that opens a doorway to building a sustainable, long-term relationship.
- Have your contact info. on the last slide so people can easily follow up
Some people only want ‘free’ content. They are not YOUR real audience.
Engage only to those who are genuinely looking for someone like you to help them.Learn More
A Response from the Irish Business Community in Germany
I wanted to take the pulse of how my fellow Irish Business Network members are coping with the effects of the coronavirus on their business as we step into 2021. The responses to the questions below are from professionals, small business owners and employees right across Germany.
I What are the biggest challenges facing you right now?
Two major challenges emerged immediately (that are obviously connected):
- On-going uncertainty was mentioned by everyone
- Financial issue by 90%
It’s not just businesses dependent on travel and physical presence that are financially challenged. Even those that managed to ‘switch’ online are as well.
II What kind of support would help you deal with these challenges?
There was an overall consensus on two issues:
◆ The need for more direct and indirect government-backed financial support
◆ The need for more personal and professional support
The personal and professional support required includes:
- informal chats with friends & colleagues
- professional advice on dealing with pandemic-related problems, such as training on how to manage staff working from home
- support in creating more networking opportunities for the Irish business community
The supportive role of the IBN’s bi-monthly, online event, Thursday Cuppa, organised by Edmond O’Donnell, was mentioned by 60% of respondents. As Róisín Russ points out, “It’s one of the upsides of the pandemic. I love how we can connect with Irish business communities across Germany and present ourselves in our professional capacity as well.”
III What effects, both positive and/or negative, have you experienced since March 2020 that are directly related to the coronavirus?
On the positive side, the benefits of remote working are in the forefront & include
- the time and money saved on travel
- the flexibility it offered, particularly for those with family responsibilities
- Over 50% remarked on how the exponential improvement in online tools is making the shift to remote working easier and more productive
On the negative side:
- 70% mentioned the isolation and how that has negatively impacted on motivation & moral
- new communication challenges, ranging from the slower pace of problem solving with colleagues to difficulties connecting with current & new clients
- 50% of the responses mentioned how quickly ‘zoom fatigue’ has replaced in-house ‘meeting fatigue’!
The Personal Effects of Corona
I asked specifically about the effects of the coronavirus on their business. What emerged in the responses is how quickly the coronavirus has erased the divisions between the personal and the professional.
“The pandemic has prompted many to re-examine their identity” was how Margaret Haverty summed up the consequences for the Irish community living in Germany. Margaret, a Historical & Cultural Anthropologist, is writing her PhD on this topic at the University of Tübingen and began her research in March 2020.
According to Margaret, for over two decades the Irish in German-speaking Europe have lived what sociologists term ‘transnational lives’, i.e. they live in two countries. The arrival of Corona put an abrupt end to the “hopping between homes”, as Joanne Galvin describes: “I’ve always had the feeling since moving abroad that I somehow lived in 2 countries and did not have to decide for either! 2020 turned that thinking on its head!”
Margaret’s research is highlighting how “this seismic shift is forcing the Irish to re-negotiate their lives in Germany”. The parameters within which they are doing that are currently … uncertain.
The Road Ahead?
In times of uncertainty, moving forward also calls on us to check our rear-view mirror for orientation.
According to our Celtic ancestors, the beginning of February marks the festival of Imbolc, or it’s Christianised name St Brigid. The significance of Imbolc is that it falls between, what farmers called, ‘the freeze and the thaw’, meaning deep winter is almost over, but spring has not yet arrived.
On a practical level, this in-between phase (lasts until the 21.3) is the perfect time to prepare, to organise, to do the spring-cleaning, to put our house in order for when the thaw is complete. It’s a time to prepare for the changes that are coming; for the emerging ‘new normal’.
How can we apply the ancient wisdom of Imbolc to the current challenges we face at the beginning of 2021? And how can it help us cope with the effects of the coronavirus on our business?
Your Route Planner
Here are a few simple steps on how to use this time wisely to anticipate the road ahead & ready your responses:
- Organise your physical working space (office, desk & computer)
De-cluttering gives you back a sense of control and order in your personal space, which in turn helps clarify ideas, activate motivation, improve productivity & ignite creativity.
- Optimise & Streamline
Have a look at your technical systems & business strategies. Ask yourself what do you need to upgrade or replace? Is this the time to pivot?
- Build Bridges
We’ve discovered the importance of belonging to supportive groups in 2020. Now is the time to strengthen and expand our networks.
- Be easily Found, Seen & Heard
When ‘spring’ finally arrives – and it will! – it’s crucial that your business is perfectly positioned to cut through the clutter of noise that will be released. Now is the time to clarify your marketing message, update your ‘pitch’, revise your content (presentations, profile, website, etc.) and select the most relevant communication channels to connect & engage with the right audience.
Imbolc is a time of stillness AND a time of preparation.
It’s the time to get ready!Learn More
Crafting Your Marketing Message: The ONE strategy that guarantees to connect you with your ideal clients
Maybe you’re like most professionals and small business owners who believe that crafting your marketing message is an easy exercise of arranging basic information about your business into a concise format. There’s tons of advice offering you 30 tips, 20 hacks or 10 steps on how to identify those pieces and combine them to craft your perfect marketing message.
The myth of crafting the quick and easy marketing message
So why then if it’s so quick and easy, do so many marketing messages fail to deliver, i.e. attract the right clients?
The answer is simple
It’s not a quick and easy task to get your marketing message right.
It’s a process; a challenging and time-consuming process, that forces you to reflect on the essence of what you do and how you want to get your business into the market place. But it’s a process that is well worth the time and effort you invest in it, as you’ll discover below. It’s a process that is becoming more and more relevant in a post-pandemic world.
To understand why the process is so importance, let’s cut through the confusion surrounding your marketing message by answering two primary questions.
Getting clarity about your Marketing Message
♦ What exactly is it?
It’s how you communicate what you do to the audience you want to reach.
Here’s where the problems begin.
A lot of people confuse a marketing message with a mini bio, a self-promotional pitch or a catchy tagline. Yes, it’s connected to them, but it’s not reducible to them.
Your marketing message should inform your bio, your pitch and your tagline. It should, in fact, inform all your content, e.g sales letter, social media posts, website copy, etc. It should function as the golden thread running through all your marketing material, that gives it a distinct identity.
Your marketing message is the blueprint for your marketing strategy and all your marketing content.
♦ What does it do?
Some people promise that your marketing message will get you more paying clients, build immediate trust, explain your offer and get people to instantly buy from you.
The truth is it won’t and can’t do any of those things.
It’s the starting point, the cornerstone that gives all that a consistent frame of reference.
The job of your marketing message is to position you to be easily found by the clients you want to reach.
It does that by getting their attention and making them curious to know more so that they then want to connect with you.
How Your Marketing Message Creates Connection
Let’s start at the end and reverse engineer the process.
If the purpose of your message is to connect you with your potential clients, then what creates human-to-human connection?
Communication. Our ability and willingness to talk to each other.
That means we have to abandon the conventional monologue we string together about our ‘who’, ‘what’ and ‘why’ and replace it with an interactive exchange that invites a reciprocal response.
Your marketing message is the beginning of a dialogue!
This is the ONE strategy I promised you above.
It’s a strategy that evolves organically once you have clarified who your ideal clients are and what they want. During the process of crafting your marketing message, your intended audience become the ideal clients you want to reach.
So how do you craft a marketing message that connects you with your ideal clients through dialogue?
Your Marketing Message starts a Dialogue
Because your message starts a dialogue, you have to shift from the monologue mode of talking AT the other to talking TO the other in the form of a dialogue.
How then do you start a dialogue?
You can’t start a dialogue with by ticking the boxes on a best-of list. Nor can you start a dialogue by talking about yourself and promoting your business.
Starting a dialogue forces you to shift your focus away from your perspective to that of your dialogue-partner. You have to know who exactly your partner is – what are the unifying factors in that group – and what matters to them. To know what matters to them, you first have to do the vital preliminary work of listening.
When you listen deeply, you’ll discover what they want e.g. more clients, different clients, increased revenue, more efficient systems, etc., You’ll also hear how they describe what they want, so that you can use their language to explain how you can help get it and create a better outcome. And finally you can tell them why you are the right choice to get them those results.
But if you’re talking to them all the time in your marketing message, how can they engage in a dialogue with you?
They don’t respond verbally. They respond by self-identifying with your message because it shows them you know them and know what matters to them. For example, their auto-response to finding their problem described is, “Yes, that’s me. That’s what I struggle with!” or, when you describe the outcome you provide, “That’s exactly what I want!”
Your marketing message has done its job!
You now have the attention of your potential clients who found themselves and what they want described there. It invites them to take the next step and continue the dialogue.
Have you made it easy for them to continue the dialogue? Can they easily (one click) book a call? Do they know exactly how and where to get more information, etc.?
A Personalised Marketing Message is Authentic and Unique
What I hope is obvious from the above one-step strategy for crafting your marketing message is that you can dispense with ticking the boxes on a best-of list. You can also disregard the typical manipulative tactics and the conventional sleaze-bait in the language of mainstream marketing.
You can drop the language of scarcity, guilt and fear whose only purpose is to manipulate audience response. The ‘irresistible’ buzzwords and jargon are unnecessary as you are not trying to coerce a response from your dialogue partner. Because you’ve listened and responded directly to your potential clients, your marketing message is customised for them and communicates the value of what you do in an authentic, empathic language. Your potential clients helped you craft it after all.
You can learn from other successful marketing messages, not by mimicking their language or the tactics they use, but by understanding how they crafted a message that speaks directly to the audience they want to reach. What works for a corporate brand – no matter how brilliant or successful – does not transfer on a scaled-down version to service professionals, micro or small business owners.
How we communicate is gaining on relevance as we move into a post-pandemic world. People have had the time to reflect on their ‘why’, ‘what’ and ‘how’ and plan for a more personalised, sustainable and authentic way of doing business. Dialogue belongs to the emerging ‘new’ normal.
Your marketing message is your unique identity – it communicates the essence of why your clients choose to work with you.
Why Your Marketing Message is so Important
To understand why it’s so important, let’s summarise again what your marketing message is and what it does:
- It’s the blueprint for your marketing strategy and all your communication
- it positions you to be found by the people looking for what you offer
Crafting your marketing message is the vital first step in your marketing strategy. Think of it as the resonance of a pure tone or the ripples created by the pebble.
You now have the attention of your potential clients and they’re curious to know more. How do you keep their attention, build a sustainable, trust-based relationship and turn them into ideal clients ready to buy from you?
You continue the dialogue you started with your message.
How do you do that?
Watch this space!Learn More
It was the day before Christmas and Nora was not in a festive mood. In fact, Nora had been in a bad mood for over a month.
The strain of working from home with two small children and an unemployed partner had pushed her to the brink a few times. She was exhausted. The parts of Christmas she loved had been cancelled – no carols, no visiting friends or family, no parties. All the hard work she’d invested in her consultancy business since March had barely managed to keep it afloat. Right now, Nora doubted whether she has the stamina to keep it going much longer.
A wave of anxiety washed over her as she stared at the blank screen. Nora shut her laptop and hurried out of the room. She could easily explain why her motivation was gone, she assured herself, zipping up her jacket.
“How can I plan for next year in a world getting more unpredictable by the day?”
Dusk was falling as Nora headed for the nearby park. A walk there normally calmed her worries. But today her mind raced faster then she could walk, so after 20 minutes of being pursued by her worst fears, she turned for home.
The Christmas tree caught her attention as she rushed past the local square. The lights were turned on now and their warm glow had a strangely calming effect on Nora. She walked over to the bench opposite the Christmas tree and sat down. For the first time in weeks, the endless chatter in her head stopped.
“You do have a choice, you know. Instead of filling your mind with stories about the past and the future that make you agitated and despairing, you just have to be in the moment. Live the story unfolding now!”
Nora wasn’t aware of anybody sitting beside her until she heard the voice.
She turned to look at the woman, who continued to stare straight ahead. Nora followed the woman’s eyes until both of them were sitting side by side, looking into the lights.
“How can I live a story that is all about losing everything I’ve worked for”, Nora asked, watching the small beams of light illuminate the green branches,
To break the silence between them, Nora explained just how hard she’d worked, for years now, and how this on-going uncertainty had exhausted her and crippled her ability to think and act.
The Christmas lights shone brighter into the deepening darkness. The woman’s voice seemed to come from the glow of the lights in front of Nora.
“All you have to do is this. Just show up for yourself every day, do today’s work – without planning for tomorrow, without an agenda for next year, without trying to fix what’s not yours to fix. That’s the story to live now. Can you do that?”
Nora wanted to tell that woman how wrong she was; how she didn’t know what it was like to struggle every day; how planning ahead was what helped her cope.
She didn’t say anything.
Nora knew she’d tried everything since March, only to see her efforts come to nothing, like sandcastles washed away on a beach at high tide.
“I don’t know if I can really do that. I feel so lost,” she mumbled eventually.
She stared into the yellow lights looking for an answer to the question that filled her head – how do I get through this uncertainty?
“You just show up, like I said, and live the uncertainty of today, instead of trying to control it, or run from it, or deny it. That’s how you create the new story that is unfolding right now,” came the soft reply.
Nora looked around her.
“Who are you?” she asked when she saw that the bench beside her was empty.
“I’m the spirit of Christmas” came the reply. “I’m always around at Christmas, even during a pandemic.”
Nora slowly got up from the bench.
“Happy Christmas to you” she whispered into the darkness.
Turning for home she was certain she could hear bells ringing in the distance.Learn More
Your brand story is not just one story.
You brand is made up of multiple stories and each one plays a crucial role in connecting you with the right audience.
Why do we think of our brand story as a singular story?
Because we are bombarded with advice that reduces branding to a single brand story. Your personal story – “Tell your story!” – is the advice dished out by every branding and storytelling consultant. As I’ve pointed out here, it’s bad advice for a number of reasons.
So, everyone rushes to tell their Brand Story – their Hero’s Journey, a story formula so predictable, it falls straight into the black hole of ‘heard it before’! The most common one is the final instalment of the journey, i.e. how, after many struggles & challenges, you are now successful. And that success is measurable in your current earnings – at least 6 digits, more likely 7 digits.
Are you a unique personal brand or an iteration of a standard template?
If you want to tell an individual personal story, skip the template and tell a story about what makes you unique & what is relevant to your clients.
Here’s one possibility. Tell the story of how you embody your values. For example, a lot of professionals brand themselves as ‘honest’, ‘caring’, ‘authentic’, etc. Instead of making a list of values, choose a value and tells them that story because it actually shows them something about you that could build trust and credibility.
Your personal story is just one story & your brand story is not reducible to that story.
Your brand story is where your story intersects with other stories.
It’s also your clients’ story – the story of a problem they struggle with & how it impacts on their business.
It’s also the story of how you can help them solve that problem.
And it includes the outcome you create for them after working together.
Which story will get the attention of your potential clients?
The one in which they find themselves most easily. The one that makes them say, “Yes, that’s me!”, “That’s where I’m stuck!”, “That’s what I want!”
Your personal story is one of the stories that makes up your brand story. If you want to attract a new audience, it’s not the story to lead with.Learn More
Many years ago I attended my first formal networking event. It was a baptism of fire on many levels. I came away from it with a number of essential networking tips on how to communicate in a business setting and beyond.
During the first half of the evening we sat around tables in groups of 8 and introduced ourselves – a kind of warm-up for having to do it later in front of the whole room.
I introduced myself as a Storytelling Strategist. The man sitting next to me responded by assuring me he would never need my services as he was a “natural born storyteller”!
For the next hour he told us story after story after story … about himself. He interrupted others, he didn’t listen when others spoke. His endless anecdotes were of no relevance to us or the event.
Ever been in the company of someone like that?
When his turn came to pitch to the whole room, he swaggered to the front and talked & talked & talked … about himself. He went over his allotted time of course. He sat down next to me and proudly announced “See, I told you I’m a natural storyteller!”
In the mix & mingle session afterwards he floated from one group to the next, to the next, shoving his business cards into the hands of everyone he came in contact with.
The essential networking tips I learned that eventing:
- Telling random stories to impress is NOT storytelling. It’s waffling.
- Sharing anecdotes about yourself is NOT connecting. It’s a verbal selfie.
- Interrupting others with your opinions is NOT having a conversation. It’s a monologue.
- Pushing your business cards, ideas & views at people is not communication. It’s self-promotional hustle.
- Going over your allotted time is NOT respectful of other people’s time. It’s rude & selfish.
- Talking non-stop is NOT networking. It’s broadcasting.
The same tips apply to networking online. The form is different, but the behavioural norms are still apply. The advantage of online networking is we can discreetly disconnect!
Then some people wonder why they don’t find networking effective or useful!
When we net-work we are creating a net, a web of connections in our field that will help us in a variety of ways.
I connected with two people that eventing and I’m still in contact with both of them Neither became clients of mine. One became a trusted mentor and friend. The other has referred clients to me over the years.
It was a very successful networking event for me on two counts:
- the networking tips learned
- the two lasting connections I made that eventing.
There are many reasons why the race to embrace storytelling in business has often ended up being a swift race to the bottom. Here’s just one example of bad storytelling advice:
“Tell YOUR story”!
The idea behind this advice is that ‘your’ story will inspire people who don’t know you to do business with you! Think about this. Would you want to do business with someone you knew absolutely nothing about after you heard them talking about themselves? No, you wouldn’t.
Why the rush to tell your story?
Plain egoism is a biggie here. There are lots of people who love talking about themselves and live under the illusion that others find their stories interesting. How many times have we been cornered at a party or a business event by someone like that? Another popular argument put forward for telling your story comes from Simon Sinek’s theory Start with Why. As I pointed out in a previous post, he applied his theory to established, well-known businesses and he has since revised his theory.
One of the keys to successful storytelling is correct timing!
No one is interested in YOUR story until they are almost ready to buy from you. So telling your story too early is bad timing and bad storytelling advice! Basic neuroscience helps us get the timing right.
When we talk to strangers, we are operating from the reptilian brain. That‘s the part of the brain that is responsible for our survival mechanism. It knows only yes/no and fight/flight responses. When we are in the reptilian brain we cannot hear the other’s story. We can only ‘hear’ someone else’s story, connect with it and respond to it after we have moved into the part of the brain that is responsible for our emotional and logical response, located in the front lobe.
How do you move someone out of survival mode into receptive mode?
Tell them THEIR story.
Until that shift in the brain has happened, the only story you should tell your potential clients is the one they are able to hear, i.e. THEIR story. That’s how connection happens! To get their story right, you have to know their story. To know their story, you have to have listened to them so closely that when you tell it, they can say:
“That’s me!” “That’s exactly what I struggle with!”, “That’s what I want now!”
If that’s not their response, you need to go back and listen again so that when you tell them their story you are holding a mirorr in front of them in which they see themselves more clearly than without it.
Only when you have successfully done that, are they are ready to hear your story. Otherwise, your story will fall on deaf ears!
If you could do with some help with telling the right story at the right time to the right audience, I’m here to help you!Learn More
If you’re still struggling to create a post-Corona business model, don’t worry. Change is coming. Lots of it and it’s heading our way!
Change is the new normal!
The Corona crisis has marked a major turning point. As the weeks and months pass, we’ve come to realise that the changes it introduced are not temporary. What’s actually happened is that Covid has destroyed existing templates for the ways we live, think & work.
For example, in our pre-pandemic world, employers dismissed working-from-home arrangements as unworkable and untenable. These arrangements are now fully operational and here to stay! Wearing masks in public and speaking through glass partitions are also part of our daily ‘normal’. Some jobs that were ‘lost’ due to the pandemic are gone for good and more are about to disappear – forever.
And that’s only the beginning! We’re getting mere glimpses of the magnitude of the changes that are shaping our future. Changes that will see robotics and AI as part & parcel of our daily life.
How do we prepare for the changes ahead?
It’s no longer about managing the disruptions, it’s about preparing for the beginning of a new era – without a roadmap. We have to be willing to re-imagine our lives in an emerging world. And one of the best places to start is to ask yourself a simple question.
What can I bring to the table that is uniquely ME?
If we’ve learned one lesson from this crisis it’s this. Our ability to survive and succeed is dependant on our willingness to connect with others. The days of the solo super-hero, braving a hostile world alone are over.
What’s needed now is knowing how to express our individuality AND connect with others.
One way to do just that is in the way you communicate with the world.- your ability to listen deeply to what’s being said around you, the words you choose, the stories you choose, the ways you tell those stories. That’s how your response to this changing world is shaping the outcome.
Developing your storytelling skills is a good place to begin exercising your unique perspective on a changing world and creating connection with others.
If you want to know how to begin, I can help you get those storytelling wheels moving.Learn More
Do we talk to get a reaction or a response from others?
Our intention defines the quality of the exchange and it’s outcome – whether the audience reacts or responds to us. That difference can be explained in terms of whether our communication is a ‘monologue’ or a ‘dialogue’.
Even when the trendy communication props are in place, it isn’t difficult to spot the self-serving monologues – often masquerading as interactive dialogues. You’ll get an insight into how the ping-pong game of monologue is played out by watching two politicians talking, or the typical political interview – each side is simply delivering their respective sound bites and not engaged with the other’s arguments.
To help you spot the difference when you talk between getting a reaction or a response from others, here are a few guidelines.
Some typical characteristics of a ‘monologue’:
- talking AT someone
- a closed form of communication, i.e. one-way messages & viewpoints
- curated comments and explanations that push a specific agenda, i.e. create a REACTION
- no ‘real’ attempt to listen to & reflect on what the other is saying
- impersonal language filled with jargon, sound-bits and buzzwords
Being in a ‘dialogue’ with someone is about a deeper, richer and more textured form of exchange.
Some typical characteristics of a ‘dialogue’:
- two-way exchange
- talking/engaging WITH someone
- an open exchange of active listening & deep reflection that can lead to a shift in opinions – on both sides
- exchange is the result of mutual RESPONSE, i.e. actively responding to what the other is saying rather than waiting for the opportunity to speak
- direct, personal language that is jargon-free
Here’s a short quote by Andy Sivell that will help you understand the profound difference between getting a reaction (monologue) and a response (dialogue) these two forms of communicating: