How To Master the Art of Connection and Engagement through the Power of Story
In the beginning years of being a storyteller, I considered it pure entertainment. People loved my stories. End of story. But the more I performed, and the more I watched my audience and heard their feedback, the more I began to see that something deeper was happening. I was doing more than just entertaining. I was connecting with my audience on a deeper level. And THAT started getting me more business. So I began to study how to connect with an audience. I watched anybody on a stage – speakers, preachers, musicians, politicians, anybody with a microphone. I noticed that there are six things they all do. These six secrets became the cornerstone to building my business as a motivational speaker and storyteller.
The first thing to note is that connection is emotional. It’s not about data or facts. It’s not about the transfer of information. It’s not so much about the points you want to make, but more about how you make them feel along the way – about you – and about themselves.
Speakers often ask me if they need to be funny to be a speaker. The answer is no, but your audience does need to laugh. Laughs are currency. We are paid as speakers to deliver an experience, and laughter is one way to make it unforgettable. You don’t have to be a stand up comic, and I don’t recommend doing something that is unnatural for you. So instead of focusing on being funny, focus on being fun. Funny sells. Every time. Everybody wants their content delivered in a fun way.
It is obvious that the speaking business is filled with people bragging about going from zero to six figures in less than a year. There is no shortage of Facebook selfies posed in front of fancy houses and sports cars with tag lines that say “This could be you!” I have never seen more people openly claim to be the “world’s most sought after” in a world that has no idea who they are – claiming to be experts in an industry that has no idea they exist. I am amazed at how many speakers openly brag and boast on social media about how good they are, forgetting that in any other social setting, you would NEVER walk up to a group and start telling them how much money you make and how big your last audience was. Yuck. That is no way to make friends and form deeper connections. Someone once advised me that as a speaker I should never act like I don’t have all the answers. Someone else advised me to “look the part” – meaning I had to invest in the thousand dollar suit. Not my style. My style is not to come into your group and make sure you realize how high I am above you. My goal is to make sure you realize I’m just one of you. I don’t scream my own praises or claim perfection. In fact – I claim imperfection. And THIS is what makes me connect with my audience wherever I go. It is truly my secret weapon. The worse I get, the more they love me. I think it is quite possible to find a happy balance between humility and honoring your achievements.
Not sure I’m using the right word here, but it’s the word I use. The ability to connect with your listener, depends on your ability to become human to them – to become someone they like, trust, believe, and feel like they know. It’s personal. But it’s one step further than just how they feel about you. The true magic happens when you change how they feel about themselves. That’s the secret sauce for motivating and influencing. Speaking is about serving. It’s about the audience. You’re here for them, not you. Yet so many stories are just about the speaker, not the listener. There is a way to do both. Sometimes it’s as simple as asking them to think about how this story applies to them, or finding a story whose conflict mirrors theirs. It’s not about what you want to say – it’s about what they need to hear.
This is a tough one because it’s more of a head thing. It’s hard to teach passion or even define it. But you know when someone has it and when they don’t. It’s about being really excited and interested in what you are talking about. It’s about truly believing that what you have to say can change their lives. If you deliver it the same way you do your grocery list, you have failed. If you disconnect from the passion, so do they. Sometimes people feel very passionate about their message, but don’t know how to turn that into words, or deliver it in a way that reveals that passion. It takes work. No question about it. But the truth is that passion is contagious.
We live in a crowded noisy world filled with messages and people screaming to be heard. The key is not screaming louder than the others. The key is in delivering something different. I spend a lot of time looking at my competition – not to copy them – just the opposite. I want to deliver something the audience hasn’t seen before. If I give them more of the same, I’m just one more in the chorus line. Nobody remembers you if you’re in the chorus line. There are way too many speakers and vendors and sales people that we will forget by lunch. Being different gets peoples’ attention. And they respect it.
There is no doubt that the reason I went from zero to six figures in a year. Okay……in twelve years……..was because I know how to tell a good story. Story is the tool that allows you to do everything on this list and more. Your data and points and information can not connect. It’s impossible. Facts have no emotion and connection is about emotion. People have emotion. Stories have people. Story is the data as it applies to life. I’ve watched speaker after speaker focus on giving the audience as many facts as they could. Not only were we falling asleep after ten minutes, we were completely disengaged from the speaker, and not the least bit motivated to act on this new information or even believe in it. Your information is only as good as the way you wrap it and deliver it to us – the experience. If you just give me facts, you are a lecturer – and not a very good one at that.
Science has proven that we don’t take any action without seeing it first – having a visual image. Therefore, our thoughts are not stored as words, they are stored as images. So if you want your data to make an impact, it must be wrapped in an image. Story is data wrapped in an image.
As with anything in life and business, this all takes work. Connection starts in your heart and works its way out into your script and your delivery. The good news is that it can be done. I am amazed at how the tiniest change to a line can make the biggest difference to an audience. It’s not about how talented you are. It’s about the words you choose and the stories you tell.
If you’re having trouble with your stories, and want to up your game….If you want to master the art of connection and engagement through the power of your story….then join us at my Summer Story Camp. You’ll be glad you came. www.StoryCraftingCamp.com