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Tell them a story

Liz DeCarlo

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Successful storytelling helps actively engage listeners and move them to action. How you can make it work in your practice.
Why do people do business with you? What makes you stand out? “One of the key skills, if you want to be successful, is to tell stories well,” said Ty Bennett, a professional speaker on the power of influence and storytelling. “People retain information 500 percent better if it’s told within stories. Stories engage emotionally, and people take action because of emotions.”

But successful storytelling isn’t just an off-the-cuff exercise. Bennett recommends scripting it and practicing it, so you can deliver a strong story. Make sure the story is concise. “If it’s not necessary to say it, then don’t say it,” he said. “One of the biggest mistakes is that we talk too much.”

The following techniques can help actively engage listeners and move them to action.

Bring the audience into the story
  • Place them in the scene. Use phrases such as “If you had been there when” or “Imagine…”
  • Create curiosity. “No one cares about your story unless there’s something that relates to them,” Bennett said. “Ask ‘you-focused’ questions at the beginning of the story, for instance, ‘What stops you from achieving your goal?’”
  • Reinforce relatability. Throughout the story, touch base to engage them. Ask, “Isn’t that kind of what you’re going through right now?” or “Have you ever had that happen before?”

Sell yourself without bragging
Don’t make the mistake of bashing your competition. It doesn’t make you stand out when you’re putting others down, Bennett said.

Figure out what you want the client to know and believe about you. Bennett recommends writing down a word that describes what makes you distinct, for instance “integrity.” Think about who taught this idea or concept to you and make them the hero of the story — don’t be the hero of your own story. If it’s not a person who taught you “integrity” or whatever word you’ve chosen, what experience taught that to you, or where have you seen a good example you want to follow?

“Stories have power,” Bennett said. “Whoever tells the best story wins.”

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