What makes a good, compelling hook? Discover the four most common mistakes to avoid in kicking off your stories, and a much better tactic for how to do it effectively.
- For many people, the most confounding and anxiety-producing steps in telling a story is how to start it. They'll awkwardly dance around the topic of the story for several sentences, hinting at what the lesson was, or the overall message might be, until finally, three minutes later, they get around to actually telling the story. That's obviously not the best way to kick off a story. A better way is with a simple phrase I call the hook. That's a single phrase or sentence that indicates why you're sharing the story.
For the audience it answers the question, why should I listen to the story? But before I tell you how to craft a good hook, let me share some of the wrong ways to do it that I see people use all the time. You'll definitely want to avoid these methods. First, never apologize or ask permission for telling a story. And you've seen this happen before. In the middle of a meeting someone says something like, "I'm sorry, can I just tell a quick story? "I promise, it'll just take a minute." Now, what does that kind of language communicate? It communicates that the speaker doesn't value the story as much as what would have been said otherwise.
And if that were true, then she should skip the story and get back to the bullet points on slide number 72. You don't apologize for your sales pitch, do you? Of course not. Then don't apologize for telling a sales story. Second, don't even tell your audience you're going to tell them a story. Imagine the scenario, I'm your boss and I'm standing here in front of you to kick off a meeting and I say, "Okay everyone, I just wanted to get things going here. "I thought I'd start by telling you a story." Now, what's your reaction to that so far? If you're honest, most of you are rolling your eyes right now, thinking, ugh, do we really have time for this? Can't you just give us the facts.
Now, imagine instead if I kicked off this meeting by saying something like this, "Okay everyone, something really important "happened a couple of weeks ago "and it completely changed "how I think about running this department. "I thought I'd tell you about that." Now, what's your reaction? It's probably the polar opposite. Well, let's hear it. Now, in both cases you're going to hear the exact same story, so why such a difference in a reaction? Many people have a negative, visceral reaction to the word story.
Some think it's a euphemism for lies or fairy tales. Others get a mental image of a librarian reading children's books to a group of kids and are therefore subconsciously insulted. But I think a big part of the reason is that the phrase, let me tell you a story, is most often used by unpracticed and uncomfortable storytellers to introduce their stories. As a result, the stories that follow are typically not very good. They're long, boring, and often irrelevant.
So introducing your story with the word story sets up a resistance you don't need. Lastly, don't introduce the story by giving away too many of the details, or the ending, or even the specific lesson. That's the kind of thing that happens in the nervous patter before getting to the story that robs it of all its power. Imagine how neutered the Pig Island story would be if Chris Gug had started off by telling us, "Oh, the pig, yeah it was the darndest thing. "Apparently the pigs had to learn to swim "to get to some food dumped in the water "by a local restaurant owner.
"Let me tell what happened." Don't bother, I already know how it ends. Okay so, if we're not kicking it off with an apology, a permission request, the lesson, or the word story, how do we kick off our stories? The answer is with a simple phrase or sentence that tells them why you're sharing the story. For example, if someone asks you a question, and you want to answer it with a story, your hook could be, "I think the best example "of that I've seen was when," and then tell them the story.
Or, if you want to give someone advice about a problem, you might say, "That's a tough problem. "Let me tell you what I did when I ran "into that same problem last year," and then tell your story. Or if you want to share a story as an example of something, you might say, "So, for instance, "there was this one time when," and then tell your story. Last, any time in a conversation you want to tell a story, you might say, "That reminds me of when," or, "Something really important happened recently "and I thought you'd like to hear about it." And then tell your story.
It's that simple.
- What is a sales story?
- Why tell sales stories?
- The 25 sales stories you need
- How to get buyers to tell their stories
- What makes a great story great?
- Choosing the right story to tell
- Finding great stories
- Story structures
- Challenge, conflict, and resolution
- Delivering stories verbally and in writing
- The ethics of storytelling