Tweet 115 in my career success book Success Tweets says, “Become an excellent presenter. Careers have been made on the strength of one or two great presentations.” This is true. And here’s some more great career advice. Stories are the best way to make your presentations come alive. Stories are a powerful way to communicate. We all learn through stories. If you learn how to use stories effectively, you will become a great presenter – and get on the fast track to the career success you want and deserve.
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.
- Identify your truth – something that in your heart of hearts you know to be “true.”
- Think of the critical experiences you’ve had that have led you to this “truth.”
- 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 – especially when I am doing a talk on the importance of putting yourself in another person’s shoes.
“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.
“As we were debriefing I asked my client what he thought of the meeting.
“He said, ‘It was a great meeting, but I think we were lucky because we were winging it.’
“That frustrated me. I wasn’t winging it. I had carefully mapped out the meeting in my head. I knew what I wanted to accomplish and how I wanted to accomplish it. I didn’t say anything to the client at that point because I didn’t want to damage my relationship with him.
“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. I realized that I want to be influential, I need to adapt my communication style to others, not expect them to adapt their style to mine.
“This was a valuable lesson for me. By adapting my style, I become more influential and powerful. It may seem as if I’m yielding, when in fact, I’m taking charge of the situation,”
The story above illustrates how you can use my 1 – 2 – 3 formula to construct a story that you can use to make a 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.
In this case, here’s what I know to be true – effective communicators adapt their communication style to their audience. I know this to be true because of the incident I described above (as well as several other experiences I’ve had in my career). I can tell this story any time I want to make a point about the importance of adapting your communication style to your audience.
The next time you are asked to do a talk, use this formula to illustrate the main point you want to make. You’ll do a great talk and but yourself on the fast track to the career success you deserve.
The career success coach point here is simple common sense. Successful people are great presenters. As Tweet 115 in Success Tweets says, “Become an excellent presenter. Careers have been made on the strength of one or two great presentations.” Stories make presentations come alive. They are not difficult to create. Follow my 1 – 2 – 3 formula for creating and telling great stories. 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.
That’s my career advice on how to create the stories that will brand you as a great presenter. What do you think? Please take a minute to share your thoughts with us in a comment. As always, thanks for reading my daily musings on life and career success. I value you and I appreciate you.
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PPS: I opened a membership site last September. It’s called My Corporate Climb and is devoted to helping people create career success inside large corporations. You can find out about the membership site by going to http://www.mycorporateclimb.