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Let me tell you a story. Those six little words, let me tell you a story, rivet your attention. We humans learn through storytelling Whether you are a two-year-old child or a seasoned professional, the mere promise of a story can capture your interest and attention. But what exactly is a story, and how do you find a story buried in a file of facts, statistics, and seemingly dry information? What you want to do is look for a story trigger, and the most basic story trigger is this: something happens to someone.
That's your simple step one of identifying the potential for a story: something happens to someone. For example, at a quarterly update meeting, you may feel obligated to state the fact that sales increased by 19% over plan. While that's certainly a bit of factual information, but it contains a story trigger, something happened to someone. In this case, sales increased 19% over plan. That's the something, and it happened to someone, your company.
Whenever you hear or see a story trigger, your immediate next step is to ask why. Why did sales jump, and why did it happen to your company? In other words, what's the story behind the number? What did your company do to enjoy that success? Did one of your salespeople enjoy a particularly successful month? What did she do differently? Did one of your comparators go out of business? How did you take advantage of your misfortune? Did something unexpected happen with the weather, the economy, or other social phenomenon? What happened? Using the simple "something happened to someone" inspires you to find out why and then what and how and when and where.
After that, it's a matter of sharing those details with your audience. As you answer these who, what, where, when, and why questions, you'll want to keep your eye out for two kinds of story plots. In one plot you can tell how someone overcame an obstacle. Many timeless classics contain this type of plot. Think of how the small child defeats the big giant, the climber reaches the peak of the mountain, or how your top salesperson defied a failing economy to personally increase sales by 37%.
In another classic plot line, you'll look for evidence of creativity. How did the detective solve the mystery? How did the hero save the town when no one else could? Your audience loves to learn from tails of ingenuity and creativity. They'll certainly learn and remember more from a story than from a dry recital of facts and numbers. When designing your presentation, look for every opportunity to tell a story. As you look at your idea file, you may feel obligated to share a fact with your audience.
Sharing a fact is fine, but every detail needs to tell a story. Make sure to tell a story that supports that fact.
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