Business Storytelling Tips from TED

Storytelling helps introverted business owners stand out in the noisy online space.

As an introverted business owner, I’m always on the lookout for great ways to connect with my clients. My favorite technique is storytelling. Our brains are wired for storytelling, and this is a huge advantage for introverts- it relies on a tried-and-true relational practice long embedded in the human psyche. TED is a fantastic resource for all business owners, with a treasure trove of tips and techniques like hidden gems in each video. As a storyteller, I was particularly interested in TED’s storytelling advice and how I could apply these tips to my business. Here are the top tips that I discovered from TED’s best storytellers:

#1: Dive right in. No introductions.

Introductions are for game show hosts + college professors. And if you are one – or both – of these things, you’d still do better to jump right in to a captivating story when it comes to writing for your business or giving a presentation. It’s unexpected, and will shake up your audience (half of whom have already started to mentally drift off, because the average attention span these days is that of a flea).

Dive right in to your story. No apologies, no detours. Bonus points if your story starts with an embarrassing and/ or relatable story, preferably from childhood.

Humans – and particularly us introverts – tend to forget that others have often been where we have been. We are not as unique as we think, and that’s actually a beautiful thing if we can switch our lens to see it that way. The truth is, we all secretly live for the moments when others validate our experiences by sharing their own.

Take, for example, the opening of Susan Cain’s TED Talk. Susan’s talk, The Power of Introverts, resonated with so many of us because we can picture ourselves in her shoes.

Here is the story she opened with:

“When I was nine years old I went off to summer camp for the first time. And my mother packed me a suitcase full of books, which to me seemed like a perfectly natural thing to do. Because in my family, reading was the primary group activity. And this might sound antisocial to you, but for us it was really just a different way of being social. You have the animal warmth of your family sitting right next to you, but you are also free to go roaming around the adventure-land inside your own mind. And I had this idea that camp was going to be just like this, but better…” – Susan Cain, TED talk (http://bit.ly/10gmj3t)

Perhaps you don’t have a family whose collective pasttime is reading books, but it doesn’t take much of an imagination to put yourself in Susan’s shoes. I remember eagerly awaiting my fresh stack of secondhand books from my grandparents at Christmastime, happily enjoying the warm buzz of people around me as I sat, curled up with the the first of the stack in a rocking chair by their fireplace. It didn’t appear to be out of place at all – to be at a party while engrossed in a novel was completely accepted and understood in my world. In fact, I wish I could still do this! Susan brought back fond memories for me, and that tied me to her with an invisible ribbon right from the start. She hooked me by voicing her honest experience with our shared world.

#2: Take your audience on a journey.

It’s not enough to start with a story and then let the rest of your business presentation feel like an high school lecture. This is what causes my introvert business clients to squirm the most – how to keep their audience captivated.

I get it, it’s a daunting task to keep people hooked. But it’s no different than reading your favorite book. Now that you have your audience’s attention thanks to a magnetic flashback scene, don’t stop there. Remember you’re a guide, and you will be lighting the path for each person wishing to follow your business story.

Your story’s climax must include conflict.

Craft a clear a beginning, middle, and end when you plan out your story’s content. You can use this story arc as a guide:

Building An Arc: Bringing Narrative Structure To Your Business Story
image via: Dubspot

#3: Delight the senses

Do you remember in grammar school when the teacher would ask you to name what you can hear, touch, smell, or see?

Some mindfulness practices use this technique to bring a person into the present moment. It’s a compelling way to create a scene, and if you put this tip to good use, you won’t have to do the heavy lifting to persuade your audience to come along. They’ll be transported with you.

Use descriptive imagery to tell stories in your business.

If you’ve seen my page before, you’ve noticed this lantern. It’s at the helm of my business. I use it to quickly convey that I am a guide for my clients, lighting the path before them. It contains the whispers of an enchanted woodland full of folklore, another image I intentionally paint for my ideal client as part of my message.

The lamp is an important element in my business story. Well-placed words light my clients’ path just like this beauty.

In his book, 23 Storytelling Techniques from the Best TED Talks, Akash Karia creates an acronym to remind us to use the senses: VAKOG. VAKOG stands for Visual (sight), Auditory (sound), Kinesthetic (touch, emotions), Olfactory (smell), Gustatory (taste).

When telling a story in your business, what can you conjure your listener to see in her mind’s eye? What visual lanterns can you place for her throughout your story? What sounds can you describe? How would you write those sounds using onomatopoeia? Continue on through the acronyms. Taste can be tricky, but I know you’re clever enough to include this if it will add depth to your tale.

#4 Practice the pause.

……

…………..

………………….

There’s nothing like a perfectly placed moment of silence. Whether you’re telling your personal brand story in an email, or you’re standing on the stage at a TED conference. You’ve got them hooked, and you want to heighten the excitement. As an introvert, you’re most likely a lover of silence yourself, but in the middle of a talk?! Yes. Be bold by getting silent. Practice the tempo of your pause in the mirror, with your cat, or on a generous partner. Your pause will have them hanging on your every word.

#5 Leverage your position.

Everyone needs a Miyagi.

Take a breath, and see who’s still standing with you. If you’re writing your story instead of telling it to a live audience on a TED stage, you can tell who is standing with you by the comments you get on your posts or the replies you receive behind the scenes. These are your people. Love them as they love you. Guide them with your gentle yet firm hand.

What is unique about you that makes you able to serve your audience better than anyone else can? If you can’t find an answer right away, evaluate your story. Is there some quirk you’ve overlooked about yourself? Some devastating moment where you were – EXACTLY- where they are now, yet you found a sacred path out with a special formula that you created during a lightbulb moment?

Be intentional about making your potential client the hero, positioning yourself as their trusted guide. If you take away one thing from this post, make it be that it’s not about you. Yes, it’s your story, but you’re telling it in order to make your client feel like they can be a hero. Nothing beats listening to the people who love you to help them with their dearest quest. Use your position to learn who loves you and bring out the best of your little circle. It will multiply in time, but you’ll never forget your earliest tribe. Stay true to them as you stay true to yourself.

Which of these five business storytelling tips will you implement today? Do you use any of these in your business already? Share a little bit of your story for us below!

I’m Angie

your wordsmith + content alchemist

Fueled by ancient wisdom and modern business practices, I spend my days working behind-the-scences to bring your unique products & services to the people who need your sacred medicine.

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