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Ira Koretsky, The Chief Storyteller, has delighted audiences around the world turning communications into tangible, top-line results. From your elevator speech to your presentations, proposals, website, capability statement, and everything in between, Ira develops and implements high impact strategic messaging programs. With 23 years of experience, he is a sought-after speaker, consultant, columnist, trainer, and professor. Follow him on Twitter @chiefstorytellr.
To read other articles in The Chief Storyteller Blog, select the category, Articles.
Great Leaders are Great Storytellers: Five Tips to Improve Your Leadership Effectiveness
Copyright © The Chief Storyteller ® LLC. All rights reserved.
Ira J. Koretsky
July 2013, Published with The Latino Hotel and Restaurant Association (LHRA)
With today’s communications so fast and furious, do you have the time to really process the multitude of messages demanding your attention? Of course you don’t. You pick and choose based on what resonates.
So as a leader who has to communicate your own vision, how then do you ensure your messages resonate and generate the right actions? By surrounding them with compelling personal stories. Together, they make a business story.
If you were to look back over your career at the leaders that inspired you, I would bet part of what makes you smile when you think of them was their ability to connect to both your heart and your mind. Truly, only through business stories can you accomplish both.
During my career, two leaders have really stood out. When I think of Mike C. and Colonel M., I smile and remember fondly my time working with each of them. They stand out because of how each treated me—they were great listeners, they were great advisors, and they were great supporters. Over 26 years later, I am still friends with Mike C. Unfortunately, I lost track of Colonel M. when I left the US Army.
Why did Mike and the Colonel make such powerful and indelible impressions? Our shared experiences. Experiences define us. And it’s the stories we share about these experiences that help shape the world around us. We live through each other’s stories. The best stories have several key characteristics. They are simple; are easily understood; have immediate resonance; are delivered passionately; and have a positive outcome or learning experience.
Great leaders are great storytellers.
Whether you are speaking at a small, informal meeting; in front of investors; or before thousands at a shareholder’s meeting, use these five tips to improve your own business storytelling.
Identify the One Thing You Want them to Remember
Ensure your business story has only one key message. In the absence of a clear message, audience members will either forget what you said or create their own interpretation. Think of your message as a headline—about seven words in length. To see the potential power of a headline, try this: Type a phrase into your favorite search engine. You will be greeted with hundreds, if not thousands, of examples of pithy, short phrases all vying for your “click me” action. Which one will you click?
“Texture” Your Story
Use a variety of language styles. Imagine you were in an audience listening to some of our greatest contemporary storytellers. They use a variety of techniques and styles such as metaphors, alliteration, and repetition. Be deliberate in your word choices. Be deliberate in using character dialogue. Be deliberate with your rhetorical devices (by way of example, starting several consecutive sentences with the same words is a repetition figure of speech called “anaphora”).
Make the Journey Relevant
Make your story pass the “so what” test. Invite your audience into your experience by sharing the WIIFM?What’s In It For Me. Well-told stories create a shared experience, which enables your listeners to understand your business message on a personal level. Your words should crystallize common values and experiences. Be sure to answer the audience’s question of “Why is this important to me?”
Only Share the Good Parts
Edit ruthlessly. You have at most, three minutes to share your business story. Don’t think the whole story has to be shared. It doesn’t. And it shouldn’t. Instead, rethink how you tell your story in a business setting. Typical personal stories told at parties involve boring parts. Lots of boring parts, with the good parts interspersed. The good parts make your story interesting. If you need a little help identifying the good parts, ask your friends and colleagues for feedback. Or next time you tell a favorite story, listen for questions and look for favorable body language. Now edit or omit everything else. Then texture your words around the good parts.
It’s All About Them
Once you have identified your stories, think carefully about the words you are using. Words conjure feelings and emotions. The words you use and the stories you tell can elicit positive and negative feelings equally well. Words and stories have context and perspective. Many words have multiple meanings, and tone and delivery can be understood?or misunderstood?in a variety of ways. For example, the expression “You’re crazy,” can be playful, argumentative, or even condescending.
Leaders are constantly looked to for guidance and advice. Remember it’s all about them? It’s all about your audience. So Mr./Ms. Leader, what personal stories are you telling to inspire action? Do your audiences respond the way you intended?
With our easy global access to diverse cultures and experiences, your words and stories matter to those around you more than ever before. Be deliberate with the stories you tell and the messages you share. Follow the advice of famous novelist Joseph Conrad: “I have no use for engines. Give me the right word...and I will move the world.”
I just received this LinkedIn note soliciting my attention and business. I thought to share it as it is an excellent example of what not to do...Following the note, I shared some thoughts and suggestions.
How are you today? I just came across your profile and thought I would reach out real quick and see if you would like to connect further here on LinkedIn.
I don’t usually reach out like this, but thought you may be a good candidate for my advanced leadership certification program and wanted to personally invite you to take a look at it.
If you are interested in learning more, let me know and I will introduce you to the right person on my team who can provide you with more information.
Here is a link with more info in the meantime: www.abc-offer.com
Keep up the good work.
Here I share my impressions and offer some suggestions. My comments are preceeded by "Ira>"
How are you today? I just came across your profile
Ira> You are selling me a product/service. I automatically have my “cautionary antennae” up. When you use such a phrase, it sounds as if you casually, by accident found my profile. Since you are obviously selling me something. I really question the sincerity of the phrase, “just came across"
I don’t usually reach out like this
Ira> Anyone and I mean anyone, who uses a phrase like this, loses all credibility. Delete the phrase all together. Just start with “Based on your experience and profile, I think you might be a good candidate for [blank]"
wanted to personally invite you to take a look at it.
Ira> Messaging disconnect. You are personally inviting me to connect. In reality, you are going to connect me to someone else on your team. To me, if you are the face/name behind the brand and you reach out, you become my point of contact. You are not simply an inside sales person making and asking for an appointment. The relationship starts with you. This phrase further works against the credibility of the sender.
Keep up the good work.
Ira> Another throw away comment. You and I have never met. Leave it out.
Ira> Another throw away comment. Friendships take time, they don’t come in the form of an unsolicited commercial email, which is the legal term for spam. Perhaps this is a code word?
Moral of the story: If you are going to send an unsolicited sale emails, irrespective of the medium:
- Do your homework
- Use relevant language that will absolutely resonate with your target audiences
- Avoid clichés and throw away phrases
- Excite my mind, pique my interest quickly
- Share with me one or two benefits. Tell me why I should become invested in you
- Respect your audience's time. Send well-written notes
Today is the third year people can say to me, "Happy Father's Day." As an older parent, having children makes you (I believe) more acutely aware of your personal and family life. For me, it also makes me think of how grateful I am for my good friends, trusted colleagues, and loyal clients.
What positive things does it make you think of?
I received this advertisment from Flickr. I like the content, style, layout, and message.
I would prefer to see a smiling person(s) instead of a flower. The message, in bold white letters, is "Smile." If the folks at Flickr really want to use a flower (assuming a connection to Spring), then use smiling people holding flowers or running in a field.
Your photography and imagery should always match the picture. Otherwise you run the risk of creating messaging disconnects. Messaging disconnects reduce click-throughs, success of call-to-action buttons, signups, purchases, and so forth.
Irrespective of your accomplishments or years of experience, everyone should personalize a LinkedIn request.
Here is a great example. Yesterday I received this request from a recent graduate. It was to the point, personalized, and short.
I gladly and quickly accepted.
If you can help Jimeisha, please reach out, especially if you in the Wash, DC area. She is seeking opportunities in disability services, education, outreach programs,and health care.
Jimeisha's profile: www.linkedin.com/in/jimeishamcbride