People are naturally drawn to stories. Audiences spend millions of dollars in movie theaters, engrossed in a good storyline. Millions of novels are sold to those who want to jump into a fantasy world in an effort to follow an exceptional plot. The popular “This Is Us” television show has sky-high ratings every week because we have grown to love the Pearson family through their individual stories. Chances are high that even if you don’t watch “This Is Us” you know all about it from the commercials and people talking about it. This is the effect of telling compelling stories with characters that you grow to love. THIS is what you’re aiming for with your own stories.
Stories can be powerful if you know how to grab your audience’s attention. You have a short amount of time to pique their interest but then it takes much more effort to keep them interested. It’s quite easy for me to say, “Tell a story to connect with your ideal audience,” but where do you begin? Do you start from the day you were born and continue through your awkward middle school years? Most likely not. First, you need to create a plan, then you need to decide which details and how many details are warranted.
1. Make your story compelling. Do you have a “hook” that will catch your audience’s attention right away?
2. Know the purpose of your story. Don’t just talk for the sake of talking. Point out the connection before your audience gets bored and questions why they’re spending time listening.
3. Use vivid descriptions and strong words. Avoid passive voice or sounding wishy-washy. Avoid using too many statistics. Instead, paint a striking picture in the minds of your audience to draw them deeper into the story.
4. Don’t brag; connect instead. While your accomplishments may be impressive and will set you apart from the vast majority, don’t bore your audience with them. Keep these impressive feats on your resume. When telling your story, relate to your audience by telling them about all the times you messed up. Everyone messes up so that’s a common thread among all of us. How you came out of your mess is what will impress your audience.
5. Connect emotionally. Decide which emotion you want to tap into during your story and provide information to your audience that will elicit that emotion. People will remember you better if you add emotion to your story. Think of all those times you cried at those sappy romance movies.
6. Avoid coming across as Ferris Bueller’s boring teacher. OK, this is a throwback from the ‘80s but in the movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” his teacher has the most monotone voice in the world. You can imagine just how awful it must be to sit in his classroom after just hearing a moment of his dialogue. Avoid this at all costs! You want to engage your audience, not bore them and make them run for the doors.
7. Give your audience what matters. Learn to edit the details to avoid putting them into a boredom trance. You’re not fabricating anything, you’re simply picking and choosing wisely which details to share and which to keep locked up.
You’ll notice that these tips progress naturally from grabbing their attention to making a connection to providing a satisfying conclusion. With some tweaking and practice, you’ll have your story perfected and ready for the audience.