Stories With a Splash: 3 Tips for Surprising Your Audiences

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Stories With a Splash: 3 Tips for Surprising Your Audiences

As most of my friends know, I’ve been following the Golden State Warriors, a professional basketball team, as they’ve moved closer to securing an NBA Title.  By all accounts, the team is outstanding: creative ball-handling, precision shooting and solid defense earned them the best regular season record in NBA history.  But what makes the Warriors so popular among sports fans and the general public alike?

The answer is obvious to anyone who watches the team play: the element of surprise.

The Warriors win games with surprise offensive bursts (i.e. Steph Curry’s 17-point overtime performance) that leave their opponents flat footed and their fans in awe.  To help you tell stories that take shock and amaze, here are “3 Tips for Surprising Your Audience”.  Follow these guidelines and you’ll have your audience cheering you on in no time.

1. Unpack Expectations.  The first step in creating a huge surprise is to unpack any expectations surrounding the surprise in question.  What did you anticipate would happen in the situation?  What actually happened?  Surprises exist in the space between expectation and reality, so take time to unpack both elements.

2. Build Suspense.  Once you’ve laid out all of the events and expectations, begin to reconstruct the surprising moment with the goal of highlighting the discrepancy between what you were lead to believe and what actually happened.  At every turn, ask yourself: “If I were an audience member, what would I be thinking?”.  If you (the storyteller) can “figure out” the surprise, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to pull one over on your audience.  Allow the suspense to build organically by slowly ratcheting up the stakes.

3. Offer A Final Surprise.  After you’ve paid off your audience with the surprise you promised, the last step is to provide a surprise after your audience believes the moment is over.  The final surprise turns the initial expectations on their head and leaves the audience wanting more.

Pretty surprising, huh?

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5 Rules for Telling Stories with Your Pitch

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5 Rules for Telling Stories with Your Pitch

A while back, I attended a pitch event for young entrepreneurs seeking funding for their start-ups.  The room was packed with over 200 business people and there was a buzz in the air.  But two minutes into the first power point presentation, things began to shift.  Spectators started to squirm.  A few of the panelists sank back in their chairs and checked their watches.  Within ten minutes, eyes were glazing over as the unlucky presenter droned on.

Does this situation sound familiar?

Luckily, there’s an easy fix for a dull pitch: tell a story.

To help you pitch a product or sell an idea more effectively, here are “5 Rules for Telling Stories with Your Pitch”.  Follow these guidelines and you’ll have investors throwing money at you before you know it.

1.  Make Your Opening Count.  It’s important to start your presentation off with a a bang, so make your first few lines memorable.  Your first lines should establish (a) the problem you intend to address with your idea or product; (b) the characters, or players, in your world; and (c) a hint at the solution, or where you’re going. Paint a picture for your audience!

2.  Be Vulnerable.  Investors are not expecting everything to be perfect – if everything was perfect, you wouldn’t need help – so be open to sharing challenges.  The easiest way to do this is to talk about what happened in the process of growing your business.  What obstacles did you face? Remember: don’t pass judgement on yourself or your customers.  It’s better to open up about that something didn’t work during your pitch than have it come out in a Q&A.  Your audience will thank you for it.

3.  Build Tension.  As I’ve discussed before, the way to build tension in a pitch is by identifying the emotional arc of the talk. Pitches, like stories, are about the subtle changes in one of the five essential emotions (fear, love, anger, sadness and joy).  What happened to you along the way?  Did you start the business confused and wind up feeling excited?  Maybe you felt confident and now feel frustrated?  Once you know the emotional arc of the pitch, your job is to take the audience on the journey.  Show us what happened and your audience will begin to care about you and the product or idea.

4.  Revisit Your Value Proposition.  The best pitches are organized around a central idea, or theme.  In business, the central idea is known as the value proposition.   One quick way to identify the value proposition is the answer to the question: why should a customer buy this product or service? Use the answer to this question (i.e. to have easy access to the world’s information online), to segue into your vision for the future.Show people how things will change in the world you’re creating with your product or idea.

5.  Have a Clear Call To Action.  Once you’ve taken your audience on an emotional journey and they know your value proposition, the last piece is having a call to action.  A good call to action will give your audience something to do with the information you’re imparting.  Do you need $1.725 million for capital equipment?  Six additional staffers for a new team? The key here is to be specific about what you want and ask for it.  The more specific you are, the easier it will be for investors to understand your needs and give you what you want.

Not so bad after all, right?  Now you’ll just have to figure out how to deal with Aaron Sorkin when he wants to make a movie about your life.

 

5 Rules for Telling Stories with Your Pitch

NYC: A Fresh Batch of Storytelling Workshops is Available Now

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NYC: A Fresh Batch of Storytelling Workshops is Available Now!

By Daniel Schwen (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Daniel Schwen (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

New York is the city that never sleeps, so why slow down this summer? Get a head start on your fall projects, business events, or startup launch by brushing up on some useful skills. Storytelling for Entrepreneurs: Presentations to Elevator Pitches is a great place to start.

In this class, you’ll learn how to utilize storytelling techniques in business settings. You’ll begin with the three types of business stories and learn tips for telling them effectively. Relaxation techniques will be taught to help improve your ability to perform. We’ll also cover ways to become a better listener, and much more.

This workshop is available now throughout the summer at General Assembly.

There is no success without a story. Sign up to reserve your spot today!

http://ow.ly/OZS5o http://ow.ly/i/bzx4K

Going Up in Chicago: Storytelling for Entrepreneurs Workshop

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elevator pitch

Wednesday, June 3rd 2015

6-8pm

Join Andrew Linderman at General Assembly Chicago for 

Storytelling for Entrepreneurs: Presentations to Elevator Pitches

About This Class

Not all elevator pitches are created equal. You may think you’ve got a can’t miss pitch, but if you can’t explain your idea in a compelling and interesting way, your message may get lost in translation. In this class, you’ll learn how to utilize storytelling techniques in business settings. You’ll begin with the three types of business stories, then learn tips for telling them effectively, relaxation techniques for performing them, ways to become a better listener, and much more.

Takeaways

  • Learn tips for uncovering stories in everyday life.
  • Discover ways to make your story more persuasive.
  • Find out how to use stories in pitches, presentations, and meetings.
  • Learn ways to incorporate stories into mission statements and product launches.

Prereqs & Preparation

No prerequisites. Students should bring a pen and paper to complete the handouts and assignments.

Not in Chicago? Can’t make it to this workshop? Click here for an up-to-date list of upcoming classes and events

May 28: Storytelling for Entrepreneurs

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The Next Storytelling for Entrepreneurs: Presentations to Elevator Pitches is coming up on Thursday, May 28th at General Assembly

Not all elevator pitches are created equal. You may think you’ve got a can’t miss pitch, but if you can’t explain your idea in a compelling and interesting way, your message may get lost in translation. In this class, you’ll learn how to utilize storytelling techniques in business settings. You’ll begin with the three types of business stories, then learn tips for telling them effectively, relaxation techniques for performing them, ways to become a better listener, and much more.

Takeaways

  • Learn tips for uncovering stories in everyday life.
  • Discover ways to make your story more persuasive.
  • Find out how to use stories in pitches, presentations, and meetings.
  • Learn ways to incorporate stories into mission statements and product launches.

Prereqs & Preparation

No prerequisites. Students should bring a pen and paper to complete the handouts and assignments.

RSVP today to reserve your spot!

Can’t make it to this one? Check out upcoming shows and workshops from Andrew Linderman & The Story Source here.

Design in Mind: 5 Steps for Telling A Design Story

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How to tell a great a design story

Over the last three years, I’ve worked with a number of designers who have great ideas, but struggle to get colleagues or potential backers to see the power of their vision.  So if you’re a designer, how do you talk about your work effectively without falling back on blueprints or drawings?

The answer, not surprisingly, is pretty straightforward: tell a story.

To help you share compelling design stories, here are “5 Steps for Telling a Design Story.”  Check out our handy infographic, follow these guidelines and you’ll have yet another tool for amazing potential clients or fellow designers.

 

1. Start with Your Values

As designers know, good design starts with values, or core principles.  The first step to articulating your values is to answer the question: What is the experience you want your end user to have of the product?  Are you trying to achieve efficiency of space or economy of motion?  Is the goal to save time or increase the number of clicks on a particular page?  Start with a big idea (i.e. efficiency) and then break it down into its component parts (look, feel, etc).  The clearer you are in answering these questions, the clearer you’ll be in articulating the overall journey, or experience, you’d like a potential reader, listener or user to have of your design.

2. Identify a Moment of Vulnerability

Since there are no shortage of vulnerabilities in the design world, this part is pretty easy.  The challenge here is to try to find a moment where the failure hit a nerve on a personal level.  To do this, identify a moment or experience in which the value you want your design to demonstrate (i.e. efficiency) was absent, and the impact that absence had on you.  For example, if the experience you want people to have is about spatial layout, think about a time when you were jammed against a wall and couldn’t escape, or a time you created a space that had that same effect on someone.

Once you pinpoint the moment, take time to highlight each of the design failings (be specific!), how you reacted (be honest!), and any feelings you experienced, either in the moment or afterwards (make it personal!).

3.  Demonstrate a Shift

After you’ve clearly identified a moment of vulnerability, outline how you responded.  What did you do? Did you have any conversations about this design failing? Again, be specific about these conversations and actions.  For example, after seeing a cabinet that was placed improperly, did you research and discover any trends in cabinet design?  Did you share your experiences with your team?  These moments and conversations will provide context for your listeners about both your solution and the design process.  Many designers gloss over important details out of fear of bogging the audience down, but a detailed description of your response will actually draw people in by making design comprehensible.  Again, be specific!

4. Present Your Solution

After you’ve created context for both the design vulnerability and outlined your response, walk the audience through your solution.  This doesn’t need to be a complex breakdown of the idea (unless you’re speaking to fellow designers who want to hear it), but it does need to address the vulnerability identified in part 2 and the shift in part 3.  Describe how the solution speaks to the initial problem and realizes the design value laid out in part 1.

5. End with a Call to Action

The final part of a good design story is to end with a compelling call to action. Your call to action should articulate what’s possible in this new, well-designed world.  If you’ve already implemented your design solution, tell people what happened afterwards.  Did the industry embrace your ideas?  Did anyone offer praise or feedback?  What became possible for users and designers in this new world?  Did your solution provide secondary benefits that you didn’t initially anticipante?

If you haven’t implemented the solution yet, get people excited about the future and you’ll be amazed at the response.

How’s that for a design hack?

How to tell a great a design story

Second That Emotion: 3 Tips for Telling Emotional Stories

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Second That Emotion

A few weeks ago, This American Life (TAL) broadcast an episode entitled “How I Got Into College”, which included a story told by a man in his 30’s about his early life.  In the story, a 13 year-old boy escapes from war-torn Bosnia, only to face violence and isolation at an inner city high school.  One day, the boy’s high school English teacher brings him to an exclusive private school and introduces him to an administrator.  The boy impresses the administrator, is accepted into the private high school, graduates from Harvard and later becomes a professor at the University of Chicago.

Moving story, right? The only problem: the story isn’t entirely true.

To be fair, everyone is guilty of a little exaggeration for dramatic effect.  That bully who beat you up in middle school probably wasn’t 6’7″ tall (unless the bully was Lebron James).  But This American Life’s “too good to be true” story got me thinking: How do you tell a story that’s both honest and heartfelt at the same time?

The answer is actually pretty simple: ground your story in emotion.

To help you tell true tales that will move an audience, here are “3 Tips for Telling Emotional Stories.”  You’ll be amazed what happens.

1. Map Your Emotions.  The first step in telling a good, true tale is to identify how your emotions changed as the events in the story played out.  Did you start out feeling combative and end up feeling collaborative? Were you initially confused before you wound up feeling confident? One trick is to make an emotional flow chart to show your progression.  Your emotional journey will eventually be the journey you’re going to take your audience on, so be as specific as possible.

2.  Show Emotion Through Action.  Stories often fail because the emotional content doesn’t match the physical actions, so once you know the emotions at play, ground your story in what happened.  For example, instead of saying, “I was really sad,” tell us, “I got a text message in midtown and cried until snot was dripping onto the floor of the D train as it pulled into the Broadway-Lafayette station.”  More interesting, right?  The more specific you are about what happened, the more emotional the experience becomes for the audience.

3.  Offer a Moment of Transformation.  Stories aren’t just a series of events – they’re journeys of personal transformation.  To leave your audience moved, all you need is to provide a final moment that shows how far you’ve come.  As I discussed in an earlier post on resolutions, the easiest way to do this is to return to the opening scene.  Maybe you were evicted from your apartment of thirty years after a long fight, only to find an apartment directly across the street?  Bring us full circle and we’ll see the impact directly.

Pretty moving, right?

10 Ways to Use Storytelling to Improve Creativity at Work

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Office stories

It’s Tuesday morning.  Your boss shows up at your desk two minutes after you arrive and says that he needs a “creative solution” to a problem.  You rub your eyes because you were up late catching up on Mad Men and Game of Thrones and now you’re slamming coffee just to stay awake. But just when you think your boss is gone, he pats you on the back, smiles and says, “I need your answer in an hour.

Situation sound familiar? This is where storytelling can help.

Here are “10 Ways to Use Storytelling to Improve Creativity at Work” that will open your creative mind to re-examine everyday issues.  You may even mend your relationship with your boss in the process.

1.  Embrace the problem.  All good stories (and good businesses!) have problems.  Embrace them.  Take a moment to write the problem down in detail.

2.  Understand the stakes.  Write down what your company stands to gain or lose as a result of dealing with the issue at hand.  Be specific.  What would be possible if you address all components of the problem and the client gets more than they bargain for?

3. Ground the problem in your surroundings. Understand the institutional forces at play.  What prevailing attitudes are present that may be contributing to the problem?  What attitudes can you tap into to fix the situation?

4.  Identify sources of tension.  Take a moment and reflect on tension with clients and within the office.  What are the sources of tension for your boss? What about for the company?

5. Look at previous conflicts.  Write down a few other conflicts you’ve had in the office relating to the issue at hand.  See if you notice a pattern developing.

6. Look at previous crisis moments.  Crisis moments offer the biggest breakthroughs for companies.  How did people in the office react during the last crisis?  How does your boss handle a crisis? What about your boss’s boss?

7. Pick apart the themes.  You may notice themes (i.e. accountability, trust, integrity) appearing.   Write them down.  Pick them apart.

8.  Don’t judge yourself.  Judgment is the enemy of story and a hindrance to problem solving.  Make note of your judgments of yourself.  Then quit it.

9.  Don’t judge your boss and/or the company.  It won’t help you.  Seriously.

10.  Embrace the problem again.  The precise solution may not be there, but the problem will seem a lot more manageable.