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B093: How to tell a compelling story

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What makes a great story (truly) compelling? Whether it’s a part of pitch deck or a marketing campaign or even just sitting around the campfire with a handful of friends, storytelling is a powerful tool to convey feelings, facts, and deepen relationships with the people around us. Story is the lifeblood that connects us. And when you get it right, your audience is not only receptive to your message, they are compelled to take action.

Earlier this week, I spoke with Amber Williams all about how to identify your brand voice and it sparked a new idea in me. When you are clear on the exact role your Ultimate Ideal Clients needs to you to play (as their guide), everything else falls into place. Authenticity is second-nature because you’re embracing your role as an ‘encourager’ or ‘clarifier,’ ‘motivator’ or ‘enlightener,’ or even ‘assurer’ or ‘cultivator’ as you deliver your products and services. 

So, let’s breakdown the five parts that make up a compelling story and discuss how this can help you the next time you’ve got a captive audience. This includes:

  • relatable characters
  • visual setting
  • engaging plot
  • against-all-odds conflict
  • a satisfying resolution

Let’s simplify that…

Here’s how to tell a compelling story – 5 simple steps:

 

  • Relatable characters – 

 

Speaking from the point of view of your business, the characters in the story must resemble people who you’d like to attract as you’re paying clients. If they can’t relate to them, they are less likely to pay attention to the story. They can’t be watered down and generic people, but rather multi-dimensional characters who you describe with enough details that your audience can visualize them. So, think about their physical attributes, their personality traits, quirks and emotions. Go one step further and be clear on their fears, frustrations, and hopeful vision for the future, as well. By getting to the heart of who these people (really, truly) are, your audience will start to see themselves in them, either embracing their journey or resonating with the story on a deeper level.

  • TIP: CLICK HERE to learn more about how to define and clarify who your Ultimate Ideal Client is! 

 

  • Visual setting – 

 

So this is the location of all the action, where the story takes place. Remember to describe it in so much detail that anyone can imagine being there themselves. Find connection points and inside jokes that only you, your characters, and your audience know. This provides an entry way for them to feel more invested in the journey your hero takes. 

  • TIP: Where does your Ultimate Ideal Client like to hang out at? Where do they live? Where do they go on vacation and what roads do they take for their daily commute? Get granular in the details and start to paint the picture of where they like to work, play and build community. And if the story takes your characters to a far-off destination way outside of their comfort zone, what parts of the setting would help them have a little taste of home?

 

  • Engaging plot – 

 

A total snooze-fest is a story where someone says, “this happened and then, this happened. And then that happened,” regurgitating details like a laundry list of nonsense. As you know, a good plot has a very clear beginning, middle, and end… but a great plot is one with twists, turns, unexpected highs and lows all along the way.  

  • TIP: So, thinking about your hero and positioning yourself as their guide (think: you are Yoda, they are Luke Skywalker),
    •  where do they begin their quest, 
    • what are they seeking, 
    • who do they meet along the way, 
    • and what tricky decisions do they have to make, a la “choose-your-own-adventure” style books? 
    • Make it interesting, make it unpredictable in parts and always communicate the hero’s feelings all along the way. Compelling stories are ones where you’re on the edge of your seat within the first 20 seconds and don’t stop until the beat drops.

4. Against-all-odds conflict – 

Every great story has a conflict to solve. Everything revolves around it and the audience is drawn in, curious to see how the characters are going to attempt to tackle and resolve the problem. This is where the climax happens, that one big moment when everything gets super exciting and the hero either gloriously succeeds… or disastrously fails! Either way, the conflict must be heart-centered and felt as a big, big challenge that resonates for the audience as well. No resonance, no one really cares to hear it to the end. 

  • TIP: As you are defining the conflict, it comes back to the fact you need to be super clear on what your Ultimate Ideal Client’s biggest fear is and what their greatest hope and vision for the future is, as well. The outcome is likely one or the other. As with you as their guide, they are much more likely to succeed than not. Why is that? What tools or secret playbook do you provide them? What ways do you help them through the conflict?

5. Against-all-odds conflict – 

Hooray, the hero slain the enemy and the whole world can breathe once again! It’s that giant “phew!” you hear in the movie theatre after the big moment happens. This is how the characters resolve the conflict and come out on the other side. Remember to keep this in the same tone of the rest of the story (no one likes a quick ending that feels a bit left field). Plus, if there’s a cliffhanger or elements of the conflict that haven’t been fully resolved, make sure to elude to the “what’s next” call-to-action so your audience isn’t left high and dry. 

  • TIP: What is your Ultimate Ideal Client’s happy ending? Is it realistic? What would make it possible and more importantly, what would leave the audience feeling totally satisfied once it’s all said and done?

Great stories happen when they flow naturally. 

However, those who are masters at the craft of storytelling know there must be inherent structure and pre-planning in place to make it feel that way. 

So, if you’re finding yourself wanting to tell a story as part of your brand voice on social media or peel back the curtain and share a bit more of your own personal experiences in a talk you’ll be delivering soon, keep in mind the five elements and do the pre-work first.

One final whisper

Having the courage to tell your story is a huge feat, especially if you’re the business owner and face of your brand. Trust me, I know. For the longest time, I kept my personal life (way!) separated from my professional life in all ways, both online and in real life.

But the truth is, if you compartmentalize your life like that, it becomes mentally exhausting to keep up with multiple versions out in the world.

When I began to merge these two worlds together, ever so slowly, I started to simplify. My clients know I’m a mom of two, an expat who moved her business and life halfway across the planet from the US to the UK, and they know I’m a girl who loves tacos just as much as they do.

Even launching this podcast became a vehicle for you to learn deeper rooted details about me, my triumphs in business, but more importantly, my challenges and how I overcame them over time. All of this visibility requires courage and when I was a kid, I was the shyest person you would ever meet. (Actually, we’d never meet because I was too busy playing with my toys, bundled up in the safe confines of my closet.)

At age 13, I realized I needed to make a change and shifted from an introvert to an extrovert, building friendships over time. My story is multi-faceted and there’s certainly been quite a few bumps and curveballs along the way. 

But the truth is, when I’ve been faced with change (big and small), there’s where the greatest growth has happened. And when I share my story and lessons learned, it resonates with so many.

That’s how we change the world.

So in order to tell a compelling story, remember to include:

  • relatable characters
  • a visual setting that touches on all five senses
  • an engaging plot with twists and turns
  • an against-all-odds conflict
  • and a satisfying resolution

Tell your story, peel back the curtain. Do it a hundred times until it becomes second nature. And as a storyteller, you will find your true self right here, in the work.

You can do this, I believe in you.

It’s time to SIMPLIFY.

If this thought of the day inspired you…

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Thank you!

Show credits: Suzen Marie, our Podcast Editor. Jeffrey Lynn, our Video Editor. Lyden Yardley, our Show Notes Editor, Kristin Castillo, our resident Superhero, and Manminder Athwal, our Blogger. Aubri Nowowiejski, Chris Justice and George Mills, our advisory board. And I’m your host, Mary Baird-Wilcock. Thank you so much for joining us.

As always friends, keep things simple.

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