Stories are a powerful way to communicate. We all learn through stories. I’ve come up with a simple three-step formula that anyone can use to create powerful stories that will help you make your point.
First, identify your truth – something that in your heart of hearts you know to be “true.” Second, think of the critical experiences you’ve had that have led you to this “truth.” Third, shape those experiences into a story that you can tell at the drop of a hat.
Here’s an example of how I have used this formula. It’s a real story I often tell in my talks.
“One of the things that I know to be true is that if I am going to be a good communicator, I must meet other people where they are, not where I would like them to be. Let me tell you how I know this.
“Several years ago, I had an assignment to conduct a team-building session for a manufacturing plant manager and his staff. The client was a friend of mine. I knew him well.
“I arrived at his office about 5:00 the afternoon of the day before our session. He said, “Do you have an agenda for tomorrow’s meeting?”
“I said, “Well, first we’ll do A, then B, followed by C. We’ll finish up with D.”
“He said, “Do you have an agenda?”
“At first, I thought he hadn’t been listening to what I just said, so I repeated myself: “First we’ll do A, then B, followed by C. We’ll finish up with D.”
“He said, “Yes, I know. That’s what you just said. Do you have an agenda?”
“At that point, it dawned on me that he was looking for a printed agenda. I said ‘No, but we really don’t need one. I’ve done a lot of meetings like this. It will go fine.’
“He said, ‘I’m not comfortable winging it.’ So we created an agenda using PowerPoint.
“The next day, the meeting went off without a hitch. We followed the agenda that I had in my head and he had on the PowerPoint slide. Everyone agreed that it was one of the best meetings of this type that they had ever attended.
“My client said, “It was a great meeting, but I still think we were lucky because we were winging it.
“On the flight home, I thought about what happened. He thought we were winging it, and I thought we were following a well thought-out plan. The difference – he needs more structure than me. The piece of paper with the agenda was very important to him and his sense of order. To me, the paper wasn’t necessary, because I knew in my head what to do and how to do it.
“It became clear to me that if I want to influence not just this client, but anyone, I need to adapt my communication style to theirs. From that day on, I modify my communication style to meet the needs of the other person.”
As you read the story, you can see how I used my 1 – 2 – 3 formula to construct a story that I can use any time I want to help people see and learn the importance of using stories to make a key point.