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What’s the one thing bestselling writers like Charles Dickens, Agatha Christie, Mark Twain, JRR Tolkien, George Orwell, John Grisham, Stephen King, Lee Child, etc. have in common that greatly increased the odds their books might be hits?
And while true (since they’re the 2 biggest determinents of books people choose in book stores), you’re not allowed to say: a) They picked great book titles, and/or b) they did an awesome job with their book covers! Treat those as givens.
Of course, the clue is in today’s post title: They started their stories with a bang. They found ways to hook their audience from their first lines, paragraphs and pages and built their page turning fares from there.
And what did they not do?
They didn’t start with humdrum banalities nor expect you to wade through a plethora of pages before their stories broke out!
And that’s because they wanted you to be excited, curious and wondering “What happens next?” at once.
What Speakers Can Learn From Bestselling Storytellers
As a speaker, you should aim to do the same thing when sharing your stories – realising that you don’t have the luxury of people waiting many minutes before your story kicks into gear.
If you don’t get audience attention in a matter of seconds, you may not get it at all!
And to help you with some ideas on how to do that, here’s a small selection of methods commonly used by great writers to put your audience into a state of anticipation in a hurry:
3 Great Ways to Kickstart Stories in Your Presentations
Paint a situation where something is happening to somebody
Suggest foreboding or uncertainty
Pique interest in a central character (giving some insights)
Like some examples of these in action?
Here’s an array of opening lines from 3 great writers to help you to see how each of these ideas might work:
When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton.
J.R.R. Tolken, The Fellowship of The Ring
News item from the Westover (Me) Weekly Enterprise, August 19, 1966:
RAIN OF STONES REPORTED
It was reliably reported by several persons that a rain of stones fell from a clear blue sky on Carlin Street in the town of Chamberlin on 17th August. The stones feel principally on the home of Mrs Margaret White, damaging the roof extensively and ruining two gutters and a downspout valued at $25. Mrs White, a widow, lives with her three year old daughter, Carrieta.
Mrs. White could not be reached for comment.
Stephen King, Carrie
Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it. And Scrooge’s name was good upon ‘Change for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a doornail.
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
Have you noticed that none of these beginnings waste the audience’s time with a ton of backstory?
That’s for good reason. Give your audience just enough to know what’s being talked about and then start your story already.
If you’d like help to master the art of high impact corporate storytelling, contact me at email@example.com – I’ll be delighted to hear from you.
Fernando Pessoa was born in Lisbon in 1988, moved to Durban at the age of 7 when his stepfather was made Portuguese consul, and moved back home in 1905 – where he wrote poems he thought weren’t up to much, contributed to a few literary reviews and mostly lived on the meager salary of a commercial translator.
And while he was known by a small number in Lisbon’s writing community and released one book of poems in 1934, few people bought a copy or even knew he existed. He died at just 47 years of age of cirrhosis of the liver.
Perhaps you’re thinking: What a rubbish story Eamonn. I know it’s a bit sad but, seriously, why exactly are you telling me about a man who went unnoticed in life?
Well, that should have been the last anyone heard of Fernando, but it wasn’t!
Too Many Believe Their Stories Aren’t Good Enough or Interesting
Shortly after he died, someone cleaned out his few possessions and came across a large trunk. And inside there was over 25,000 manuscripts, scraps of paper and backs of envelopes – full of scribbled poems, essays, short stories, plays and more. None of these had been seen by another soul.
And it turned out that was to be the find of the century for Portuguese and world literature. And even now, 70 years after his death, his work is still being transcribed and shared. It’s like a treasure trove that keeps on giving and Fernando is now the pride of Lisbon – considered a genius and held in every bit as much esteem as a Samuel Becket or James Joyce. Here’s why.
He wrote under 75 pen-names and gave each of these entirely different personalities, views and voices. And each of his fictional authors is as brilliant as the next.
Today his words are known across the globe and if you happen to take a bike ride along the cycle path beside the Tagus river in Lisbon you’ll see hundreds of quotes from his 3 most celebrated made up authors. What a cool idea and way to remember someone with awesome stories worth the telling.
And that brings me to the reason I penned today’s blog:
Fernando was a shy man with incredible stories but he didn’t have the confidence to share them. In fact he said of his writing:
‘I bear the wounds of all the battles I avoided’
Wow. Like many people he compared himself with others and didn’t share his voice for fear noone would want to hear him…
…And absent a stroke of luck, his stories would have gone to the grave with him. What a loss that would have been.
Here’s just a few of his thoughts I came across and liked in recent days:
‘We worship perfection because we can’t have it; if we had it, we would reject it. Perfection is inhuman because humanity is imperfect’
‘I always live in the present. The future I can’t know. The past I no longer have.’
‘Stones on the road? I save every one of them, and one day I’ll build a castle.’
Cool, aren’t they?
Don’t Fall Prey to Comparisons, Share Your Stories and Your Voice
But this post isn’t really about literary giants nearly unfound. It’s about how often I come across folks with incredible stories but who are reluctant to share them. And if that sounds like you, here’s the message I’d like to give you:
Your stories and voice are precious and deserve to be shared and heard. And there is no better means of sharing ideas and insights that inspire than through your stories. Don’t hide your light under a bushel.
If you’d like help to shape and share stories to create visibility for you, your ideas or your business, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org – I’ll be delighted to hear from you.
Are you ready for how AI or Artificial Intelligence will tranform workplaces in most every industry and demand a widespread upgrading of leadership communication skills?
Here’s what’s happening folks. After decades of fits, starts and false dawns about what robotics or machines could do…
…Recent exponential progress in computing power, big data, analytics, cloud technology, sensors, and system-to-system interaction capabilities are opening the flood gates to deep learning machine capacities hitherto only dreamed of!
A wide array of tasks done by humans today – include seemingly complex activities currently handled by highly paid professionals (think legal, medical, pharmacy, financial services, etc.) or executives – can or soon will be better, more cheaply, and more quickly handled by smart machines!
Building on ways you interact with AI today (eg sensors in your cars, fridges, smart phones, Alexa, etc.), monumental disruption is coming to how things will be done in workplaces in the next 5 years.
Future Corporate Success will Hinge on Critical Thinking And Leadership Communication Skills
Future work will increasingly revolve around things humans can do best, including making judgment calls, collaborations, and social interaction. And tasks that can be automated, likely will be.
This will demand serious upskilling in many soft skills, expecially leadership communication – to manage change, lead teams and connect with customers.
And to help you think your way through the disruptive effects of AI for businesses of all sizes, I’m delighted to introduce you to Microsoft vetern, consultant, technology expert and evanagalist, and predictor of what’s coming down the pike in technology Clare Dillon.
On Artificial Intelligence and Consequent Leadership Communication Challenges Coming Your Way
Lean in as we discuss
Why recent leaps in what AI can do will unleash huge disruption to business models that can’t be ignored
The top 3 ways AI will likely be used (including why it pays to think past opportunities to replace pricey staff)
How to win support for AI adoption in your business
Coping with the challenges of change and why new thinking is needed when it comes to personal development
Why upgrading soft skills may prove tricky (and assessment snags)
The customer perspective and why you need to focus on ‘experience’
Why a failure to recognize the value of human touches and empathy can be a big mistake
One thing every leader needs to have in spades to motivate team members while making best use of AI in any business
Leadership Communication Tips and AI - Challenges Revealed - YouTube
In The Market for a Leadership Communication Skills Upgrade?
If you’d like to learn how to speak more clarity, confidence and persuasion, contact me at email@example.com. I’ll be delighted to help you.
Most investment pitches fail. And that’s because investors, particularly of the venture capitalist variety, tend to be super selective about the very few folks they will ultimately back. It’s a case of many are called but the vast, vast majority of them will be shown the exit door!
While thinking about a good analogy or metaphor for today’s post, here’s what came to my mind:
Most entrepreneurs who pitch to sophisticated investors finish up a bit like the contestants in one of the Hunger Games movies—it’s quickly evident that they’re ‘not long for this world!’
Sure, like in the movie, they may hear encouraging ‘why not give it a go’ words like: “May the odds ever be in your favour”…
…However, truth is, your odds or success in front of VCs are mighty slim (according to the US Small Business Administration, just 1 in 400 startups who pitch VCs get their backing).
But, what of the few who do win? What do they do that’s different or special?
And, more importantly, and while realising that there are no hard and fast rules in these things…
…What can you learn from common ‘smart’ tacks used by these folks that could boost the chances you’ll get a thumbs up from VCs versus a ‘thanks for coming to see us, but no thanks’ refrain?
Essential Lessons From Top VC Investors On How to Craft Winning Investment Pitches
For answers to this question, I went straight to the horse’s mouth (as it were) to hear what moves the dial for some of the top venture capital investors in the world.
What does it take to speak to camera in a natural, warm and inviting way – paving the way to more interesting and engaging video marketing content?
I’m going to let you into a secret. Chances are, even if you’re an experienced public speaker (and I include myself and other pro speakers in this comment), few people ace their first few videos.
Truth is…there’s a learning curve involved in getting past common video creation teething/early doors issues – which can include snags like:
Straight-Jacket-itis! – Where you appear overly stiff or formal on camera
This-Isn’t-Fun-itis! – Where you look stressed, uncomfortable or worried
I-Don’t-Know-What’s-Next-itis! You keep forgetting lines you want to say
Bunny-In-Headlights-itis! When your eyes say: “Oh, oh. I don’t wanna be here!”
‘Meh’-itis! – Your words may be ok but lack zip because you sound bored!
Church-Mouse-itis! – Where your voice is so quiet, it’s hard to hear you
If you’re new to video creation, perhaps you’ve wrestled with some of these ‘stinkers’ so far? Maybe?
But, here’s some good news. You can learn from others who’ve cracked all of these syndromes (and more).
And with that in mind, and as a warm up to the GoDoVideo workshops I’m running with international blogging star Amanda Webb in Manchester, Herts and Newcastle in coming weeks – where you can learn ‘How to create more high impact videos that get seen without any fancy equipment’ (see info here on what’s happening and where)…
…I’m delighted to introduce you to email marketing and online course expert, professional speaker, author and consummate creator of videos that ooze warmth, Ian Brodie – who spills the beans on what he has learned about the art of connecting with others through a video lens.
5 Thought on Being More Relaxed And Engaging When Speaking to Camera
What Ian learned about his delivery style by watching early video re-runs
How the odd Post-it note can be a better plan than serious scripting
The relaxing effect of knowing you can ace your opening and closing thoughts
How come more human and relatable experts trump professorial sorts
Why you should learn from role models but paddle your own canoe
Video Marketing - 5 Tips on Achieving On Camera Audience Connection - YouTube
Get the Secrets to Boosting Your Online Visibility Through Great Video Content
To learn more about creating interesting video using nothing more than your smartphone, feeling comfortable in your skin when speaking to camera, apps and tools to make awesome content, and the ‘oh so important’ art of then creating visibility with your video content, grab your seat at one of these GoDoVideo masterclasses:
Fact. With few exceptions, most speakers (including professional orators) experience some level of public speaking anxiety every time they face an audience. But, not all advice on tackling these fears is well founded. Far from it.
So, I had an interesting chat with a senior executive in a multinational I’ll name Bill (not his real name) during a recent public speaking skills masterclass. And truth be told, this is a more common conversation than you might imagine.
As we were beginning to discuss how easily he could use small changes to his body language to boost his audience connection, Bill made an admission:
“Oh, oh! I’ll bet you’re going to tell me I have to look at my audience when I’m speaking to them? But I don’t know how. This is the kind of stuff that used to give me the jim-jams when I was asked to speak in the past!
Then, he continued:
“Is this true? So I heard one of our HR people in London suggesting years ago that if you can just look over everyone’s heads, you’d be like that painting of Mona Lisa – where everyone thinks her eyes are following you and she’s looking at you! Except, they’re not. And then he hesitated before asking: “Any way that could work?”
I shook my head and asked him if had he ever tried this nonsense out and, if he did, what happened.
“Oh man”, he said. “Just once. What a disaster… stupid really! All it did was give me a shocking headache and then I couldn’t remember a fraction of what I was supposed to say! I was mortified.
And then he said, and this was the kicker:
“In fact, I was so embarrassed, that was the last time I tried to speak in public!”
What a shame, right? It’s easy to be derailed or undone by rubbish advice if you don’t know what you don’t know.
Reduce Your Public Speaking Fears By Knocking These 3 Myths on The Head
And, in response, my video in today’s post is about calling out 3 of the most common ‘stage fright reduction’ myths out there that deserve to be well and truly busted.
Public Speaking Anxiety - 3 Ideas You Must Ignore - YouTube
If you’d like to learn how to conquer fears with confidence so you can speak memorably, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll be delighted to help you.
When asked for storytelling tips, here’s one of my favourite questions: “Where can I find a perfect story when I need one for a presentation or talk?”
And that’s because I have great news for you: You’re likely good to go to find exactly what you need right now (and/or can add more awesome material in a really short space of time).
Not sure that’s true? Consider this:
As of this very second, your head is chock full of stories you have accumulated for as long as you’ve been on this mortal coil – from work, rest and play. And, with even a modicum of curiousity and a handy-dandy notebook, you can readily accumulate more great stuff every day (click here for an instant example).
In fact, you are awash with great storytelling material.
…The bigger questions you need to ask when selecting stories for a speech are:
Which of the many raw stories you have amassed should you choose to support any specific message you have in mind?
How can you readily mould these into more riveting and engaging fare?
What steps can you take to make your stories even more relatable, powerful and memorable?
If you’d like answers to these questions, you’re in luck…
…As I’m delighted to be joined today by one of my favourite professional speaking peers from across the pond in the US of A – it’s storytelling master, keynoter, author, trainer and creator of The Storytelling Theater Method, Doug Stevenson.
At Last, The Secrets to Creating Riveting Stories For Your Presentations
Lean in to hear us discuss:
Why stories should be your ‘go to method’ for delivering wisdom you want to share
Surprising truths about where to look for stories your audiences will just love
What you want audiences to feel and experience when delivering stories from the stage
An example of a story that captures attention, educates and then elevates audiences experiences
Where to start when figuring out what stories you’ll use and when in your talks
The secret to honing more magical stories (including 4 must-have ingredients)
Why finding examples of where you messed up can be your ticket to relatable stories
The most important gift you need to give your audiences (and yourself) when sharing a story
Business Storytelling - 9 Tips From Doug Stevenson - YouTube
Over to You
What challenges do you experience when it comes to choosing or honing stories for your talks?
What lessons have you learned by listening to speakers who shared stories that really floated your boat?
If you’d like to learn how to tell a better story for you or your business, contact me at email@example.com, I’ll be delighted to help you.
It’s almost as essential as breathing. Storytelling is by far and away the fuel that drives most meaning or purpose everyone, you included, will ever get or share in life.
As a human, you are hardwired to use stories as your ‘go to’ means of making sense of your experiences over time, your relationships, how you envisage your future may unfold, and on it goes.
All of which should make it a no-brainer to lead with stories when giving talks to inspire others (ahead of likely forgettable details) in business or social settings. It’s a crowd pleasing and winning tactic, right?
…Although storytelling may seem like second nature to one and all, here’s a truism you’ll likely identify with: not all stories are equal in their capacity to captivate, hold attention, or to become truly memorable.
A lot of what causes better stories to soar has to do with choices, moulding and then telling.
As Alfred Hitchcock put it so well in a televised masterclass interview:
If someone has written a script that includes a direction like ‘A man walks through the door’, the first thing he would want to know was “How? How did he walk through the door”?
Don’t you love it?
And this begs a few questions about the art of storytelling:
What makes one story better than another and if you’re looking for a bit of inspiration by seeing good storytelling in action, where might you look?
On the first of these, I’m afraid there isn’t a simple answer to this – largely because there’s no such thing as surefire formulae for awesome stories (as evidenced by the fact that such a minuscule proportion of the countless thousands of novels published year in and year out – which you’d imagine ought to include many a fine tale – ever catch on)…
…But, on the plus side, there are some general principles that you’ll find underlie stories that do wow.
And, in searching for examples of these in action, you’ll find many great for instances in TED or TEDx talks. And today’s post is about lessons you can learn from one of my favourites of these, the fascinating actor, comedian and playwright Julia Sweeney (of Saturday Night Live fame).
4 Storytelling Insights Every Speaker Can Learn From Comedian Julia Sweeney
Lean in as I explain how Julia uses terrific craft to:
Hook her audience lickety split
Lure her audience into caring about her unexpected predicament
Keep your attention from start to finish, as a litany of bad to worse events unfold
Apply a secret sauce that turns a good story into an awesome experience
Business Storytelling - 3 Lessons from an Awesome TED talk - YouTube
Want Instant Advice on How to Tell Better Stories Every Time You Speak?
If you’d like to learn how to tell a better story for you or your business, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll be delighted to help you.
Recent studies have shown that contrary to some conventional wisdom, empathetic and compassionate leaders are strong and courageous; they promote trust and collaboration; promote well-being in others; and at the same time, they produce positive results.
In other words, leaders who foster and earn collaboration and trust get more done and create better working environments/cultures.
And yet, despite these truths, as Ray continues:
Every day, in politics, and in our institutions and business, we see the polar opposite of empathetic and compassionate leaders—individuals who are narcissistic, self-serving, and power-hungry—who create havoc in our society.
Does that strike you as odd?
If you said yes, maybe it shouldn’t.
Here’s Why Achieving Leader Empathy is Harder Than You Might Imagine
Research shows that the vast majority of bosses don’t rate highly when it comes to achieving empathy – to the extent that 70% of US employees don’t feel engaged and valued at work! Wow, right? And if that has you wondering ‘How come? Don’t most bosses try their best to engage others?’, here’s something to chew on…
…Regardless of good intentions, many leaders find it’s hard to break free of ‘my way and for my reasons’ communication habits when they know their job performances will likely be assessed according to ‘individual results’ for those areas/roles in which ‘they were in control’.
Aha. And there it is folks, the ‘control’ word. If control is expected of you, it can be mighty hard not to seek to control others! In fact, it’s human nature.
And yet, that’s exactly what is required to influence others – encouraging them to believe they can and should make decisions and take actions of their own volition versus ‘because you said so’.
All of which begs a few questions:
How do you fight the good fight, what does it take to take to achieve leader empathy, and how would you know when you’ve cracked it (while bearing in mind this fundamental truth: If others can’t see it and feel it, it didn’t happen)?
How to Crack the Leader Empathy Code (And Why it Matters)
Check out today’s video where I share 3 easy ways to boost your leader empathy in most any role:
Why leaders/bosses may unwittingly be compromising the ability of others (direct reports, peers or senior audiences) to trust a word they say
How the way in which you frame your communications dictates how audiences react to your ideas
Why giving control away is a ‘heart and soul’ secret to motivating others to get things done
Leadership Communication Tips - Let Your Empathy Shine Through - YouTube
Like to Achieve Greater Leader Empathy and Impact?
If you’d like to boost your ability to engage, inspire and influence any audience at a heightened level, contact me at email@example.com. I’ll be delighted to help you.
Here’s a non-secret spoiler alert: Storytelling is the single best means a speaker has to excite an audience and inspire them to remember their ideas long after they step away from a podium.
Unlike facts and figures which are typically forgotten lickety-split, well crafted and delivered stories have the power to engage the human brain at an entirely different level – making it monumentally more likely your ideas can be recalled weeks, months or even years after being shared.
“Big deal. Surely everyone, including any leader worth his or her salt, must know that”, I hear you cry!
BUT – while most executives do indeed appreciate the latent potency of first rate storytelling, here’s something that might surprise you (and this is based on having worked with thousands of business leaders to hone their speaking skills over many years)…
…The number of senior executives who are both confident in their storytelling capabilities and give mostly story centric talks that engage at a heightened level is remarkably low!
Very odd, isn’t it? And it begs an obvious question:
Why would anyone not adopt and hone their use of this far superior means to win and keep audience attention – especially since storytelling is such a natural thing to do and, per research, is responsible for 75% of all meaning you, I and everyone gets and shares in life?
Curiously, even for those who don’t think they possess much of a storytelling prowess – which incidentally, with a little coaching, is NEVER true – the issue is rarely that:
They don’t have oodles of raw material they could potentially fashion to share ideas with others, or
They never include stories in their talks (albeit story free talks are more common than you might imagine)
But, all too frequently and disappointingly, the stories they do tell fail to connect with audiences at anything near the level they could.
How come? What’s going on and what could be done about it? Here’s what you should know:
3 Secrets Every Speaker Should Know About Stories That Engage
Listen in to this recent video when I delve into the perils of sharing what I call ‘drive-by’ stories and the secrets you need to avoid this sorry syndrome:
Business Storytelling Techniques - Why Drive-by Stories Don't Work - YouTube