Retail Observer

September 2019

The Retail Observer is an industry leading magazine for INDEPENDENT RETAILERS in Major Appliances, Consumer Electronics and Home Furnishings

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Page 47 of 67

RETAILOBSERVER.COM SEPTEMBER 2019 48 C an you tell a good story? I'm guessing a lot of you are shaking your heads, "No." But the truth is, you're a natural-born storyteller, because we all are. Storytelling is as natural to us as eating and sleeping. We tell stories to teach, to sell, to engage, and to make sense of the world. And, of course, we tell stories for fun. Research shows that today you'll tell yourself about 2,000 stories in the form of daydreams, each lasting an average 14 seconds. So there's some irony to the common myth that storytelling is a special skill that's reserved for a talented few. It's true, you may feel awkward standing up before a crowd to tell a story. But it's quite possible to build your storytelling skills, just as surely as you can build muscles with the right training. Here are six simple techniques that will help you become a better storyteller in your business and personal life. 1. Boil it down — Once you have a story in mind, force yourself to write it completely in just six words. It's a lot harder than it seems! By compelling you to distill the story to its essence, it will set a clear North Star to guide your thinking as you build and deliver the narrative. It becomes shorthand for the story – a snappy simple line that you can use in a headline, a title, or a quick summation at the end. Six- word stories require you to make hard decisions about what really matters in your message. And they can pack a real punch. Just consider this classic: "For sale: baby shoes, never worn." 2. Start strong — Recent research reveals that your standard goldfish has an attention span of nine seconds. But the average North American adult loses focus after eight seconds. Yes, your audience is less attentive than a tiny, twitching, inattentive Asian freshwater carp. That means you can't pussyfoot around. When you have someone's ear, you need to wake it up immediately with a provocative statement that generates surprise, tension, or wonder. The business world is a boring one. Disrupt it with an opening line that demands elaboration. Instead of, "I'd like to talk to you about the importance of safety in our national parks," try something like, "Last year I learned, the hard way, that you should never try to outrun a bear." 3. Use the right words — Your job as a storyteller is to create a virtual- reality experience that stimulates your audience both physically and emotionally. You want to take them on a trip that's rich with drama, trouble, and characters. So you need to use concrete words that paint pictures, convey action, and bring a place to life. Describe smells, colors, sounds, and tastes. Use active verbs that connote motion and effect. And don't forget to include the names and descriptions of key people and places. These details are easy to forget because they're so obvious to you. But omitting them can rob your story of the very details that will make it memorable. 4. Deliver a call to action — Your story is not just a moment of entertainment, it's an opportunity to make something happen. Delivered well, it will inspire a feeling in your audience, be it excitement to try something new, or outrage over something that needs to change. You want to use that emotional energy to drive an action that you want the audience to take, whether it's giving a new product a try, clicking a button on a website, or sharing stories of their own. So before you begin, be clear in your mind about the goal of your story, and once you've landed it well, it's time to deliver an invitation to take the next step. 5. Watch yourself — In my consulting practice, I often make my clients do something terrible. I require them to go home and use their smartphones to record a video of themselves practicing a story. It's a painful experience! No emotionally healthy person enjoys watching himself or herself on video. Yet it's the single most effective way to forever improve your technique. You'll notice that you really need to slow down. You'll hear yourself saying "um" and "you know" when simple pauses would be better. You'll see your feet dancing, your hands waving, your eyes wandering, and you'll never do most of these things ever again. Make the recording and watch it. And then – good news! – you get to delete it. 6. Practice, practice, practice — Athletes and musicians who look as if they're performing effortlessly have in fact dedicated thousands of hours to perfecting their craft. Storytelling is no different. I tell clients that if they've got 10 minutes to deliver a critical presentation to an executive or big customer, they must practice it – completely – at least a dozen times the day before the event. Practice in the shower, in the car, and while walking the dog. I had a client who practiced on the gravel stones of her driveway on her knees, just to know what it would feel like to deliver it in pain. The net result of all this hard work is that you'll find the confidence and calmness to be present when you deliver it. And that will give you the most important attribute of all: true authenticity. TRY THESE SIX TECHNIQUES TO BECOME A STORY MASTER Mario Juarez Business Mindset RO Mario Juarez is an organizational consultant, coach, and motivational speaker. He focuses on helping organizations and individuals achieve better business results through strategic storytelling. An award-winning former journalist, Mario led a series of innovative communications initiatives at Microsoft before founding his company, StoryCo, which serves clients across a range of industries.

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