I recently had the pleasure of listening to a speaker, Rob Biesenbach, share his insights into story telling. And because I correctly answered his trivia question about an ‘80s movie set in Chicago “About Last Night,” I was awarded with his book, “Act Like You Mean Business – Essential Communication Lessons from Stage and Screen.”
Biesenbach has 20+ years of experience as a public relations executive, and he also happens to be professionally trained as an actor. Using his PR experience and acting talent, Biesenbach talked about how we can better connect with our audiences and communicate more persuasively and effectively by learning how to tell stories. He wasn’t suggesting that we make things up or stretch the truth; rather, he talked about, and his book goes into great detail, how by expressing ideas and messages visually, appealing to the audiences’ emotions, and framing our information in the form of a story, we can be more successful as communicators.
How to Find Stories
According to Biesenbach, a story, in the simplest terms, involves a character struggling to achieve a goal in the face of difficult odds or obstacles. So, how do you find great stories in your company or organization? Following are some questions to ask when you’re interviewing people in your organization to try to build a great story:
• What is it that you love about your job?
• What makes you jump out of bed in the morning?
• What do your kids think you do?
• What are you most proud of?
• What do you love to do outside of work?
• What are you passionate about?
• What keeps you up at night?
• What did you want to do when you grew up?
• Describe a challenge you’ve faced.
Most of us have trouble talking about ourselves, but when we’re asked the kinds of questions that I’ve listed above, the stories will flow. Every company or organization has great stories; these stories will be much more interesting and resonate more with the audience than simply using facts and data or the dreaded PowerPoint with slide after slide of bullets. And everything communicators write – case studies, speeches, news releases, bios – should be organized as a story. And in all great stories, less is more. Get straight to the action. Don’t get bogged down in meaningless details (words) or you will lose your audience.
In a follow-up blog, I will cover more of Biesenbach’s book, including: tips for connecting with the audience, plainly speaking, and how to be a better listener.
~ Barb Jones