When it comes to storytelling, many people have one of two problems: too many stories or not enough.
For those with too many, they know they have great stories, but get caught up in the details of when to tell them and how to tell them to get the desired result.
Those with too few stories, meanwhile, feel they don’t really have any interesting stories to tell and are blind to the value of what they have.
These two problems keep people from sharing their stories to their full potential or at all, whether they’re on a stage speaking, on a podcast or sharing on a live stream. Beneath these two problems there’s something deeper. It’s not a lack or overabundance of stories that’s the problem–it’s an understanding of how and when to use them to get the best results.
Knowing how and when to use stories solves the “too many stories” problem by giving you a way to filter and search through your stories to know what to share.
For the “too few stories” person, knowing how and when to use stories allows them to get clear on how to communicate and recognize the value in their stories.
As experts, we’re always presenting. Whether we’ve got one listener or one thousand, our storytelling and presentation skills are being put to the test. Here’s a few (but certainly not all) of the situations in which a presentation is happening.
- Sales calls
- Social media
- Podcast interviews
- Writing articles
- Conversation with a potential customer
Here’s the thing: Like driving a stick-shift car, you need to shift between different types of stories as you move through a presentation. You can shift smoothly through your stories and drive your point home, or you can burn your clutch out if you try to put the wrong story in the wrong place.
In this article, we’re going to explore some of the key storytelling strategies and frameworks that make up a great presentation and will improve the results you get from your marketing and sales efforts. We’ll look at 3 different types of stories and when to use them effectively.
Story 1 – Unforgettable Origin Story
Whether on a presentation, podcast or social media, the first question your audience will face is “Is this worth paying attention to?” They’re not yet open to learning or taking in information like this is the beginning of an intense college lecture.
The Unforgettable Origin Story is meant to share who you are, establish your credibility and to show us enough about your solution to make us want to stick around.
While there are many frameworks and formulas to create a great origin story, I find it most simple and effective when this type of story is divided into 3 acts. In each act, I recommend focusing on a specific moment that you can describe that can build into each act.
Act 1 – In the first act, you’re experiencing the problem firsthand (or possibly secondhand, watching a colleague, customer or loved one suffering with it). Share about the moment when you decided you weren’t going to live like this anymore. Even though you didn’t have it all figured out, you committed to finding a better way.
Act 2 – You set out on a journey to figure this problem out. This act is essentially your “montage” that illustrates the long process and the costly and painful mistakes you’ve gone through to figure it out. If you need more help understanding a montage, study the lyrics of this song.
Act 3 – You discover the secret, and use it to solve the nasty problem and pain from act 1. Your struggle and pain has transformed into alignment and empowerment. That’s when you realized that this secret can help more than yourself–you can help many others with the same problem.
The 3 act play teaches a lot about you in a very short time and allows you to establish a human connection with the audience as well as demonstrate your expertise. If you do this properly, you’ll have an engaged and rapt audience for the rest of your presentation.
Simply getting clear on your origin story can empower you to start speaking as an expert–it’s amazing what you can do once you know how to use your story. Jenny Pandol worked with me over the last year after hearing me speak at Microbiome Medicine 2018. She was brilliant in her methods of how she helped her clients, but had a hard time communicating the real value in what she did and who she was, which made it hard to attract and enroll new clients.
Once she had her unforgettable origin story dialed in, things started to click for her business. Over the last year, she got enough clients to leave her nursing job and go full time on her business. She’s now speaking from stages and on radio shows about her area of expertise, gut health and fermentation.
How To Use Your Unforgettable Origin Story To Teach About Yourself
Many of the people I work with discount the value or the utility of opening with a story in a presentation. Often they feel their teaching is just so dang good that they should just jump right into it. They think the story is boring fluff that is just glazed over. If you don’t know how to properly use an Unforgettable Origin Story, this may be true.
People need to connect with the essence of who you are. They need to know they can trust you before they start learning from you. Once they connect with you as a person, it creates a new context for what you have to teach them that will keep your audience much more engaged through the rest of the presentation.
A great Unforgettable Origin Story teaches three things about you:
You understand them – You’ve been where they are now and understand the challenge or gap they’re experiencing.
You’ve found the solution – By choice or necessity, you went on a journey to figure out how to solve this problem, and now you’re here to give us the shortcut.
You care about them – You don’t just have a solution that you’re trying to sell–it is your passion to create this transformation in people just like them. You care about making them successful.
How To Use Your Unforgettable Origin Story To Show The Transformation You Create
While the story you tell is usually your story, the story is not really about you. It’s about your listener. As you share your journey, your audience will take a walk in your shoes. Hearing your Unforgettable Origin Story is your audience’s first opportunity to experience the transformation you create, the transformation that they’re desperately seeking.
You want to start your story at a point where your life and the problem you’re facing mirrors your audience’s current problems. It’s best to pick the 3 qualities or traits to show in your story. Describe your journey of how you had to find a better way to solve this problem. Then we need a picture of you with the problem solved. The 3 qualities you list at the start of your story are now transformed into positive ones that your audience desires.
- “I once didn’t have any cashflow. Now I have plenty to keep my business growing.”
- “Where I used to be busy and stressed all the time, now I have tons of free time and can relax and enjoy it.”
- “Where I once was ashamed of my body, now I barely recognize the sexy beast I see in the mirror. “
We want the story we tell to illustrate the same transformation and result that our audience is seeking as well.
A great example of how you show the transformation is by Nicole Jardim. Nicole came to me with the goal of launching a new book Fix Your Period. She was working with a publisher, which meant she got a nice advance on the book, but it would be tough to make a lot of money on the launch with the book alone. With this in mind, we put together a group coaching program and a presentation to celebrate the book launch and invite readers to join the program. Nicole had presented many times in the past, but had never used stories in this way before.
Nicole’s book, Fix Your Period, helps women with all kinds of period problems get back in control of their lives. Her story showed this transformation perfectly. Here’s some quotes from her Act 3:
Within 45 minutes I had answers to questions I was seeking answers to. For the first time I had hope I was going to be able to address these problems. I went from feeling frustrated and defeated, to feeling hopeful and encouraged and empowered. This was a pivotal moment for me…
I was working in film production, my dream career at the time, and finishing up an extremely difficult Monday Night Football ad with Faith Hill. I was so proud of having worked on that and what I achieved, and then it hit me. For the first time in years, my period problems did not get in the way of my work or my life.
This simple transformation shows a world of possibility to her audience, who have been struggling with the same problems without any hope of a solution. They can see themselves and feel themselves in her story.
This presentation helped Nicole launch her new program and fill it quickly, even in the midst of the COVID crisis.
But what if they already know me?
Maybe they’ve met you and have heard your origin story before. Nevertheless, it is still essential to teach about yourself with a story that specifically relates to what you’re teaching about today. Origin stories aren’t limited to your origins as an expert– your origin story could be about how the problem (and ultimately the solution) originated for you.
You can create an origin story around a specific problem and how you relate to it. How did you discover the problem? What are some new stories that would allow you to teach about yourself in a new way (assuming this is not the first time people have listened to you before)?
If you understand how to apply this formula to a problem, then you can always create new unforgettable origin stories to capture the imagination and attention of your audience.
Story 2 – Success Projector Stories
Now that you’ve connected and established some trust with your audience, it’s time to start teaching. Though webinars, speeches and podcast interviews all revolve around great teaching, most presenters don’t understand exactly what to teach or how to teach it to get the best results.
There’s a careful balance between selling and teaching when storytelling or presenting that you need to maintain to successfully convert your audience to customers. You can’t oversell– nobody is going to stay tuned to a webinar full of product pitching and no value–but most people tend to err on the other side of the spectrum.
If you teach too much, you may leave your audience overwhelmed, or with a feeling that they can now go do what you taught them on their own. This is a disservice to them, because they likely won’t take action, or it won’t be as effective as it would be to work with you.
The balance is teaching to sell. Instead of teaching people “how” to do something, you teach them “what” to do and “why” it’s important. Instead of teaching them a step-by-step process, teach to help change their beliefs about what’s possible in their world.
For most people, this shifts the question around “what to teach?” from “How do I cram as much information as possible into these next 10 minutes?” to “What’s the one thing I could teach in these 10 minutes that would have the biggest impact? The right Success Projector Stories can help with this.
A Success Projector story takes your teaching content and wraps a customer story around it. Done properly, this can add multiple benefits to your teaching:
- The example allows the audience to relate to your teaching by helping them step into the shoes of someone just like them. It helps the audience process and visualize being successful with the information you’re teaching.
- It’s a subtle and powerful way to overcome your audience’s biggest objections. By the time you make your offer, they can no longer raise those objections.,
- It allows you to mention detail and build desire for whatever you’re offering at the end of the presentation in a way that has your audience leaning in and taking notes.
The best way to do this is to add in teaching stories about people just like your audience who faced the same problem or objection you had. Here’s what this might look like:
One of my clients in my [program you’re offering] came to me with this problem [key problem your audience faces], and here’s what I told them… [teach what you have to teach] [add how this teaching impacted or changed the client].
It’s a simple enough formula on paper, but make sure you only sprinkle little hints of how the client works with you and what that looks like on top of your great teaching. Adding in too much will start to feel salesy and will disengage your listeners. I often have to work with my clients on finding the right balance, because it’s difficult to manage when you’re so close to what you are teaching. I often say it’s like salt in chocolate chip cookies–you only need a little. If you don’t add it, the taste is off, but if you add too much, it ruins them.
There’s also the art of choosing the right story for the teaching. You want to choose stories based on the biggest objections to your offer.
- Too expensive – Tell a story about how someone got an incredible return on investment from working with you.
- It’s too difficult – How did someone just like them find a way to overcome the difficulty?
- I’m too busy – How did a past client find the time to be successful, or how did their perspective on what was making them “busy” change after working with you?
- I’ll do it later – Show how a past client delayed and then, once they finally started working with you, realized how much they missed out on by not starting sooner.
Here’s an example of a Success Projector Story from one of my clients. This handsome guy in the image below is Dr. Greg Eckel. He’s the leading expert Naturopath in the U.S. on neurodegenerative disease, plus he’s one of the kindest, most brilliant people I know.
He recently put on an online event called The Parkinson’s Solution Summit and worked with me to create a presentation to turn those summit attendees into high-ticket customers for his clinic in Portland.
It’s a big challenge to get a digital subscriber open to traveling to Portland, so we needed some stories to open his audience up to new possibilities.
One of the biggest objections his clients face is, “My doctor told me I don’t have any other options and I’m doomed to just get worse.” Nobody is going to head to Portland to see Greg with those thoughts in their head, so we crafted a Success Projector Story to show his audience that there are possibilities beyond what their doctor may have told them or is even aware of.
One of my clients, Bill (name changed for privacy), came to my clinic after being tired of being told he was “getting worse” by his doctor every visit. With a few tests we found that heavy metal toxicity was behind most of the symptoms, not Parkinson’s. Which means he was treating the wrong problem. Here’s what we did… (Teaching) … Bill left my clinic feeling much more empowered and in control of his health and had many new options for treatment.
If you get the teach-to-sell balance right, people will be leaning in and taking notes when you’re talking about your offer in your teaching. They’ll start rehearsing working with you and going through the same experience. This is exactly what we want them to start feeling and thinking well before we get to the point where we make an offer.
Here’s one more example. Many of the thought leaders I work with have great case studies of working with people with big names and businesses. I recently helped Dan Kuschell refine the stories in his presentation to improve his sales for his Perfect Client Blueprint program.
While having stories of creating millions of dollars for big influencers is certainly eye-popping, many entrepreneurs in earlier stages of business may feel excluded if you’re only talking about the big players in your Success Projector Stories.
Dan addresses this problem beautifully with this story of how he helped a painter reach way more people with his art and teaching:
The thing with Bruce is, when we met he was talking about all this gobbledygook in tech overwhelm. He had been on a dozen webinars and started all these training programs but never finished them.
I said “ Bruce, time out man. Is it ok if I coach you for a second?”
He said “Dan, heck yeah”
“What if we could just simplify the model for you? I don’t want you to worry about any tech at all and we’re going to bypass what the traditional experts say and here’s what we’re gonna do. Its all about return on implementation, don’t let tech get in the way of you making money.
A lot of the people we end up working with feel this way, even sophisticated entrepreneurs.
We put together a simple platform and system to allow him to teach and I asked him how big his list size was. He said 400.
He put this thing together and started inviting people. He was a little nervous at first. This was very different than what the other experts had been telling him.
His first educational event went long, which is not the best for enrollment, but on that very first call he enrolled 4 new clients into his program. And this is where most people would stop. I helped him refine his teaching and move his offer 45 minutes in, and on the second week he got 19 new people in his coaching program.
There’s so many brilliant ways Dan differentiates himself from his competition and overcomes some of the biggest objections his audience has in this simple and relatable story.
Projecting Success In Your Proprietary Process
Success Projector Stories work very well when built into a proprietary process. The magic of a good proprietary process is that it gives your prospects a way to visualize being successful with you. It creates a roadmap to working with you–they have every step outlined for them and understand how each step will serve their goals. Instead of being bogged down in details, they’re imagining themselves experiencing the success and satisfaction of working with you.
For every step of the process, you can build in a Success Projector Story. Your process will make it easy for you to figure out which story to tell for each step, and the stories will supercharge the perceived value of your process.
I’ve gone into how to create a proprietary process at length in the article and podcast below.
Story 3 – Aligned Ending Stories
In the third phase of your talk, you give a call to action and share the next steps for your listeners. There’s a great deal of nuance that goes into making your offer beyond just telling a story.
The Aligned Ending is a story that resolves your talk and leaves your audience with the right feeling or emotion you want them to take away. By now you have described your offer, told us the next steps and long since stopped any teaching.
Every story has a “moral,” a message within the story that gives it meaning. An Aligned Ending Story’s moral emotionally guides your audience to the right decision. A good Aligned Ending Story takes a moment from your life that has nothing to do with your business / work / what you’ve been teaching and leads us to that moral.
- Take action now – Talk about a time when you resisted doing something at first, but when you did it, it changed your life.
- Hire an expert – Everyone has a good example of one of these. Talk about a time when you tried to solve a problem on your own (installing a new toilet, fixing a dishwasher, etc.) instead of bringing in an expert, but instead made it worse.
- Try something new – Talk about how you always did something one way, and then realized there was a new and better way.
You share a story like this and then close as if you’re realizing the parallel between the story and what your audience is experiencing right now. “It was then I realized how much time and money I could have saved by hiring an expert to help me… You know, just like I did with that dishwasher, it’s easy to think that we can solve [audience’s problem] on our own, but with an expert, you can get there faster and with fewer kitchen floods.”
Here’s an example from one of my presentations that I use at health and wellness events where I discuss how to use storytelling to grow your health practice:
Since my own health transformation, I’ve returned to the outdoors. I love rock climbing and hiking in the deserts of Southern Utah.
One of my favorite places to visit is Zion National Park, a gorgeous landscape with multicolored rocks, narrow canyons and amazing panoramas.
I took my bike down and got out of the common circuit of stuffy shuttles. I had a completely different experience of the park.
I passed by deer and small grottos and dipped my feet in the river. I kept riding deeper and found a small stairway far from any of the shuttle stops. The stairway led to this amazing waterfall nestled in between two cliffs. It was an oasis of sparkling water, lush ferns and green trees that shaded me from the hot desert sun. Of all the parts of this gorgeous park that people travel from all over the world to see, this was the most beautiful for me. I see the shuttles pass by, one by one, with nobody inside having any idea that they’re missing out on this hidden gem.
There are many of you who are also hidden gems…
You could help so many people if they knew you were out there.
I tell your story so people know that you’re out there
Now is the time to let the world know that you’re out there.
Join me, and let’s let the world know that you’re out there.
A good Aligned Ending Story is often deceptively simple or mundane. These are stories about trying to fix your own dishwasher, or waking up early to enjoy a sunrise with someone special, or discovering a better way to make popcorn. Many people have the misconception that their stories have to look like Hollywood movies to get people’s attention, but what you really want is for someone to come up to you (or send you a message) and say, “Something just like that happened to me,” or, “I had the exact same experience trying to install a new toilet.” They’re relating to you, they feel understood, and if they’re doing this, then they’re well on the way to becoming a customer.
Conclusion – Your Story Matters
After coaching hundreds of thought leaders on storytelling and presentation, I’ve heard a ton of stories. Though I’ve heard some wild and harrowing ones, the thing that has impressed me the most is not the stories themselves, but how people transform once they learn how to use their stories properly.
The stories that were once a source of pain or a roadblock on their journey become the stories that connect with the hearts of their ideal audience. The stories that they were once ashamed of and tried to hide are now a source of pride that energizes them.
Sometimes we’ve been sitting with these stories for too long and need another point of view to reveal the treasures they hide. I’ve spent as much time personally working on my “inner stories” as I have with my “outer stories” like the ones we’ve explored in this article.
What I know to be true is that working on these inner and outer stories simultaneously creates opportunities for huge growth.
Up until recently, I’ve only offered coaching for the tactical and practical forms of storytelling. This year I’ve realized that I can make a bigger impact by coaching clients in both.
I’m looking to work with 7 people in an exclusive program where we work
together 1:1. This is a transformational program where we will create a presentation together and use it as a tool to achieve your most ambitious goals for your business. I’m calling it the Full Story Transformational Program.
This program will be a combination of tactical storytelling and presentation coaching designed to help you enroll clients and achieve inner game mastery by rewriting the stories you tell yourself about what’s possible and what you deserve.
Please reach out to me if you’re looking for a Full Story Transformation.