At the end of the late night rally in Orlando last week, Barack Obama talked about stories and told the crowd, “Everyone here has a story. I want your stories to be heard.” 

 Marketing genius Seth Godin blogged today about lessons for marketers from the campaign. I’d been noticing how effectively–and ineffectively– storytelling has been used during this campaign. So has Godin, of course. He writes, “Mainstream media isn’t powerful because we have no other choices. It’s powerful because they’re still really good at writing and spreading stories, stories we listen to and stories we believe.”

As everyone knows I’ve become wildly passionate about the power of storytelling as a marketing tool. It’s also powerful in social situations and indispensable if you’re a public speaker. 

Nicole Stone was a participant in the first Compelling Storytelling seminar last February. She’s the owner of Spirited Impact and a delightful young woman to be around. Here’s what she has to say nine months after taking the seminar.

I really feel like everyone who owns a business needs this seminar. Take a break and more than triple your productivity at the same time! It’s working on yourself and on your business all at the same time. It’s the foundation for what we are offering the world.

Take the time to work on yourself and your business. It’s a great way to get a break and be productive at the same time. Built in entertainment, dinner out and reflection, camaraderie and friendships that will last a lifetime.

And I found it was conducive to some real personal reflection and growth which is absolutely necessary for your business to work and grow. I took everything I began at the three days I spent at Compelling Storytelling with Alice and Barbara, and got everything done that I had been putting off for months. 

I also feel that I became connected to my classmates in a deep and lasting way that is coming back to me tenfold.

Compelling Storytelling is a step toward what your heart wants that your mind won’t let you spend time creating.

I found my voice at this seminar and it completely changed my  writing style. I used to feel stuck about how to talk about my business, but now I have the confidence and perspective to write everything myself quite successfully. It’s all because of this seminar.

Alice Barry and I would love to help everyone learn to tell their stories in a powerful and compelling way, but time is running out to join us at the next event which happens on December 2-4. Clear your calendar, book your flight, let us know you’re coming. This could be the most unforgettable trip to Las Vegas you’ll ever take. After all, the odds are much better that you’ll get more back than you spend. Nobody else in Vegas has those odds.

Your job is to make your audience care about your obsessions. ~ Bruce Springsteen

So what does it take to be a great storyteller? The fundamentals are pretty simple.

° Curiosity. Bernice Fitz-Gibbon, who not only produced innovative ad copy, but also trained many successful copywriters, wrote, “I have never known anyone who bounced out of bed in the morning, delighted and astonished by the world in which he found himself, who was not a success. A vibrantly alive curiosity  will put you right up there with the best of them. This intense interest in people and things—this sense of wonder—can be acquired.” 

Without curiosity, you’ll miss all the good stories happening around you that might be put to work on your behalf.

 ° Attention. TV  journalist Steve Hartman  created a popular feature on CBS called “Everyone Has a Story.” He began looking for his subject by throwing a dart at a map. Then he’d go to wherever the dart landed, open the local phone book and pick a name at random. Some of the stories were funny, some poignant, some  buried deep, but he never came away empty-handed. 

Hartman’s premise is that stories exist everywhere, but only storytellers seem to be paying attention. Follow their lead. Listen for inspiration. Listen for evidence. Listen for material. When someone says, “Your teleclass was so exciting that I was awake until 3 AM with all these new ideas,” use it.

 ° Edit.  Editing is critical in all forms of storytelling. The difference between a boring and an enthralling storyteller is in the editing. We all know people who start telling a story and then wander off to side stories about the characters or unrelated events or random thoughts.

So what does an editor really do? According to Sarah Tieck, the job of an editor is to ruthlessly look for what’s relevant and then eliminate the rest. In many ways, editing uses the same skills as are needed to identify priorities in the goal-setting process. 

°  Bring it alive.  Don’t you just marvel at all the ways chef Jamie Oliver describes food? That’s what a great storyteller does. Passion and a good vocabulary are the fuel.

Except for Prairie Home Companion, there’s not much storytelling in radio anymore. If you listen to Garrison Keillor—a master storyteller—you’ll hear how he adds just enough detail so we can imagine the scene. 

In marketing, part of the storyteller’s job is to help the audience of potential customers imagine how products or services will be useful to them. Storytelling can do that more vividly than just listing benefits.

°  Watch your audience. Bores do not notice their listeners fidgeting in their seats or gazing around the room looking for an escape. Alas, the self-absorbed among us are oblivious to this. A good storyteller, on the other hand, understands body language and looks for clues. After all, storytelling always involves at least two people: the teller and the listener. Both are important. 

Polishing your storytelling skills can be as good for your business as it is for your social life. If  you’re ready to make your marketing creative, fun and memorable by becoming a better storyteller, join me and Alice Barry at our upcoming Compelling Storytelling event on December 2-4 in Las Vegas. Special Early Bird pricing ends on October 25th.


Marketing is the act of telling stories about the things we make—stories that sell and stories that spread. ~ Seth Godin

 

I’ve been reading some books written by exquisite storytellers and thought you might want to check them out for yourself (if you can stand all the pleasure).

I was completely enchanted by Geri Larkin’s Plant Seed, Pull Weed. Larkin, an ordained Buddhist and gardener, has created a lovely handbook of life lessons gathered from her spiritual practice and her work in a Seattle nursery. In fact, the subtitle is Nurturing the Garden of Your Life. Larkin notices the stories around her and passes them along. Lucky readers!

I’m nearly finished with another stunner which has been gracing the bestseller list for some time–and it deserves to be read. If you haven’t discovered The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, run, don’t walk, to your library or bookstore and grab it. The book is a series of letters and each one is a self-contained masterpiece of storytelling from post-World War II London.

A few weeks ago, Ode magazine mentioned the six-word story exercise. The idea is to summarize your life in six words. I didn’t know at the time that the inspiration for that is a book called Not Quite What I Was Planning which gathers six-word stories from the famous and the obscure. It’s such fun to read. Here are a few samples:

Revenge is living well, without you. ~ Joyce Carol Oates

Changing mind postponed demise by decades. ~ Scott O’Neil

Followed rules, not dreams. Never again. ~ Margaret Hellerstein

Secret of life: marry an Italian. ~ Nora Ephron

Try it for yourself. It’s harder than it may appear. Then go read something splendid this week!

 

You don’t have to have a dramatic story. It’s all in the telling. ~ Chuck Close