Telling engaging, compelling, absorbing stories is at the core of effective marketing communications. From traditional press releases and media relations to blogging, marketing collateral, multimedia and more, creating a narrative is essential to establishing a brand identity and bringing people closer to the business and the entrepreneur. But for many entrepreneurs — especially technical founders of B2B and enterprise startups — storytelling does not always come easy. Here are five simple tips for telling an engaging story about your business:
- Remember that all good stories have a beginning, middle, and end. Start at the beginning — especially if you’re introducing yourself to an audience. Genesis stories help people understand why the company exists. What were you and your customers doing before your solution existed? What problems or pains existed that you’re now solving? What make you, as an entrepreneur, make the leap and develop this solution? By identifying and explaining these pains, people immediately access the emotions they feel when they personally experience these pains — and therefore can relate better. Then move into how you’re solving these problems and move into where you are today. This structure helps to avoid rambling and jumping around, which can lose people and distract from your point.
- To be human is to be imperfect. People don’t relate to perfection. In fact, the best way to bring people in is to show that you’re not perfect. Don’t hesitate to discuss your early failures and mistakes. People want to root for the underdog and love a good redemption story, so highlight what you’ve learned from those mistakes and pivots. As the character of Robert Ford in the HBO series Westworld said, “‘Mistakes’ is the word you’re too embarrassed to use. You ought not to be. You’re a product of a trillion of them. Evolution forged the entirety of sentient life on this planet using only one tool: the mistake.”
- Tap into your emotional side. Maya Angelou once said that people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel. What makes for a good story isn’t all about what transpired – it’s about how you are left feeling about what transpired. It’s one thing to say that your last venture failed. It’s another to describe how that felt, what you learned, and how you intend to use that experience to be a better entrepreneur.
- Start as one-size-fits-all as possible and then get more detailed. When explaining technical information, start by drawing comparisons to universal behaviors, feelings, or products that everyone can find relatable. If you get too into the weeds to begin, some less savvy people will get lost and tune out. Instead of describing big data as unstructured data sets, utilize the imagery of all the personal data on someone’s phone, which could, when analyzed, tell a great deal about the owner. Once you get the audience to understand the basics, you can move into more detailed descriptions. Knowing your audience is key; after all, there’s no sense in describing big data in this way to a team of data scientists at a big data conference.
- Create some go-to vignettes. A seasoned storyteller has several polished, well-received stories on hand to use when needed. Think of it like an elevator pitch, but rather than pitching yourself/company/product, you’re pitching a connection. Having these stories in your back pocket is a sign of intelligence — particularly emotional intelligence — and that’s an attractive quality to everyone.
- Be honest. There’s nothing worse than being duped. There’s no reason to make things up or be dishonest — not least because it always comes back to bite you. Even embellishment can be risky, so find ways to make things interesting without lying. There’s usually more to the story than meets the eye, and some of the most compelling things are in the details. Remember: be human, no one likes perfection.
These quick tips will help to ensure you’re telling engaging stories that keep your audience wanting to learn more. If you have any other storytelling advice, leave your tips in the comments below!