6 steps to successful storytelling

At basically every event I attended (digitally or physically), I listened to at least one keynote. Usually, these speakers were boring, they didn’t have anything to say or were beating you over the head with figures and facts, as if they were citing Mendeljev’s table. I tend to forget these speakers before I am on the way back home.

But every now and then, you come across a speaker that grabs your attention from the first second, and keeps it until the very last moment. You hang on to their every word, and you want to know a lot more after they finish. It’s someone you want to catch up with after the keynote. This type of speaker is rare, and they have one thing in common: they tell stories. We already talked about the importance of storytelling before. In this blogpost, we share 6 steps to successful storytelling that you can learn from the best storytellers.

Know your audience

Once, I saw a speaker who talked with a lot of passion about his job: he was a financial expert who helps corporations with complex financial business. The enthusiasm with which he spoke, always stayed with me. But unfortunately, that enthusiasm was linked to the wrong idea of his target audience.

That person clearly had the idea that his audience existed of people with a financial background. But in reality, it was start-ups and freelancers. Most of them could barely read the simplest balance sheets. Like me, for instance.

In a situation like this, you lose your audience very early in your story. And that is exactly what happened. So, adjust your story to your audience in a way that they will understand the point you are trying to make. This is an important step: it’s where you define how long your story will be and what language and words you will be using.

Connect with your target audience

Do you want to convince people of your ideas, services or products? Then you need to connect with them. That is easier said than done, especially if you can’t see your audience. Indeed, this also applies to online keynotes.

But even then, it is possible. Your reader, listener or viewer gives you their time, and they want something in return. A B2B company for example could be looking for inspiration about how they can solve a problem, or insights into trends in their industry. Let them wonder, arouse their curiosity with a quote, statistics, images, something relevant that makes them think. Connecting with them can also mean that you entertain your target audience with fun content.

So don’t be that university professor that just reads the slides and doesn’t even look at the audience, let alone seek interaction. The result would be a total lack of connection and a complete disinterest with the target audience.

At the end of a blog, the reader wants to get something out of it. If they did, you built a connection with them.

Know the goal you want to achieve

At Upperscore, it is a natural reflex to ask what the goal is before we start determining concrete actions. Because what would be the purpose of setting up some marketing activities without a goal? 

It is the same with storytelling. All stories you tell with your organization have a goal and these can be very diverse. So, define the end of your story upfront and build your storyline. Know what point you want to make, and build your story with some carefully chosen elements that will help you make that point.

You can also work the other way around. Sometimes that will even work. But usually, you get a story without much cohesion, weak arguments and an unclear message. Not how you would like it.

Support your story with images and facts

Just like you use body language, PowerPoint, or music during a keynote, you can also use supporting materials in your own stories.

For example, you can use graphs to visualise evolutions or trends. The message of your story will come across stronger with these elements. Or you can go for inspiring quotes or pictures (preferrably original ones instead of stock photos) to make your point.

If you want to use facts and figures in your story, make sure they are correct. If not, you might get the opposite effect and lose your credibility altogether. A bit of research upfront is in order here. I do this for every single blog post, because the internet is full of information, and even more disinformation. Check your sources. This is quite a laborious job, but it pays off: you’ll get a better and more accurate story that will convince people. And that’s the whole point of telling it, right?

Make it relevant and specific

If you know your target audience well enough, you know what keeps them awake at night. That means you know what content is relevant to them. Respond to that. Make your story relevant to your reader. This is not just about the kind of story you will tell, but also through which channel, the punchline you want to bring and what kind of supporting visuals you will need. The more relevant you are to your target audience, the bigger the impact of your content.

In any case, make sure to be specific. You may be relevant, but if you are being too vague, your message won’t land. Use details, frame your story and give examples. This will enable your reader to recognize himself in your story and feel more like it’s made for them.

Use suspense in your storytelling

Don’t let your story be boring. Your reader will not get to the end and therefor will not get to your point. Make it interesting. That does not just happen with some numbers and a nice visual here and there.

Use suspense in your story by giving the hero of your story a mission or creating an opponent. You can start your story with an unexpected, crazy or moving situation. The reader wants to know how the hero of your story will get out of that.

You can also pimp your story by throwing some clichés overboard or by looking for controversy. Your reader knows that not everything is black and white. But by being controversial, you arouse some emotions in the reader that they won’t be able to ignore. They will want to know the full story.

You will never hear us say that storytelling is easy. But if you succeed in bringing your story in the right way, this will have a huge impact. Good luck, we can’t wait to see your stories.

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