Tips for Telling a Meaningful Story

In Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World, Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler

Kotler and Diamandis

Kotler and Diamandis

provide a wealth of in formation, in sights, and counsel that cover a wide range of subjects of greatest interest and value to business leaders, especially to owner/CEOs of small-to-midsize companies.

In Chapter Eight, Crowdsourcing (Pages 196-198), they share their thoughts about telling a meaningful story, in this instance one that will help secure support from a funding source but the advice has almost unlimited applications to achieve persuasion or obtain approval.

o Make it cohesive: “The best tales follow a logical progression. There’s a beginning, middle, and end. There are only a few characters. Confusing potential backers with too much information — too many facts, figures, and spokespeople — does not make for a viral campaign.”

o Fill a need or desire: “In storytelling, never underestimate the power of emotion. Even if the idea seems silly — like, say, a space selfie — if it’s deeply compelling and fulfills a basic need, the crowd will listen. People want to be associated with cool stuff, significant events, and inspirational people. Humans make purchasing decisions largely based on emotional impulse.”

o Focus on the why, not the what: “With a product or service, the easiest way to tell a story is to focus on the why. Don’t worry so much about what it is and how it works. In other words, remember that the view is different on the inside. If you’ve been working on a product or service for years, of course all the nitty-gritty details are fascinating to you. But they are perhaps sot so fascinating to your audience. Instead, what most people want to hear is why your product/service/idea will improve their life — why it is significant, cool, and important to them and to the world. Think solution and improvement, not explanations or specifications.”

o Connect with your vertical: “Craft your story to target your ideal audience. If your audience is technical, go technical; if they’re humanitarian, emphasize the world-changing nature of your solution. However, as mentioned above, even the most technical of ideas needs to be framed inside a greater narrative. If you can’t come up with one, tell the story of how and why you came to create the product you’re selling. The truth is always the very best story.”

o Use the right words: In 2014, researchers at Georgia Tech published a study in which they examined over nine million words and phrases used on Kickstarter to determine which language leads to success. The most important lesson is that the words and phrases associated with reciprocity and authority produce the best responses, while projects that focus too much on the need for funds fail

I presume to add an observation by a VC whose firms agree to meet with only one of every hundred groups that submit a formal proposal. What were (and remain) the selection criteria? “We have three questions in mind: Who are you? What do you do? and Why should I care? The answer to the last question is always a clincher, one way or another.”

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For those in need of additional guidance, I recommend these two sources:

The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling: Mastering the Art and Discipline of Business Narrative
Steven Denning
Jossey-Bass/A Wiley Brand, Second Edition (2011)

Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins: How to Use Your Own Stories to Communicate with Power and Impact
Annette Simmons
AMACOM (2007)

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