February 2012

Rewiring For Story

“It’s easy for you to tell stories, you’ve been doing it forever, but I’m not creative like you.” If I had a penny for every time, I’ve been told this, I’d be able to take a nice, long, European trip. The funny thing is the same people who say this tell business stories every day, they just don’t know it.  When I was producing a series of films directed by stars, Treat Williams came in to discuss directing one. He was really excited by the prospect of working with the actors, but he was extremely worried about his ability to “frame a shot.” “I’d like to start off the film following the leads in a convertible driving down a desolate desert road. Then, I’d love to be able to fly over the top of the car, come around, see their bored faces and read their body language against the backdrop of the desert,” but I have no idea how to do that. I cracked up. “Treat I said, you just framed the shots you want in that scene, you just didn’t know you were doing it.” Just as Treat saw how he wanted the scene to look, you know what you want to tell your audience. You just haven’t thought of what you want to say as a story. Yet, if I asked you about a presentation someone gave that I hadn’t attended, you would summarize it by telling me the story of the presentation. Story has a beginning, middle and end, a hero, an obstacle, and usually the hero conquers the obstacle. In business, that hero could be you, your product, or your idea. Think about it, what would you tell me after you had attended a presentation on a new device that could be implanted under the skin and triggered by a radio signal to deliver medication on a preset schedule? You’d say, the company has found a way to make it substantially easier for patients to be compliant by taking the need to medicate on a daily basis out of their hands and automating it. “Wow,” I’d say, “sounds like a winner.” The hero in this story is the company, the obstacle is the patient’s ability to be compliant when they have to medicate daily, and the triumph of the company is developing a device that eradicates the problem. You’d never think of this as a story, you’d think of it as synopsizing what you heard, but you’d be wrong. You didn’t list a bunch of facts and figures, you made an emotional connection with your audience, and you told them something that they can remember and repeat. You tell stories like this hundreds of times a week. If you can embrace the fact that you are a natural born storyteller, then it will be easy for you to take the next steps to telling even more effective business stories. NEXT IDENTIFYING YOUR GOAL….BEING HONEST WITH YOURSELF
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