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Dazzle & Connect With Your Audience with these 7 Storytelling Strategies

Posted By Guest Blogger 14th of January 2015 General 0 Comments
Image via Flickr user Digital Paradox.

Image via Flickr user Digital Paradox.

This is a guest contribution from writer Thai Nguyen.

After finally asking the young lady for a date, the nervous young man asked his father how to avoid moments of awkward silence.

His father quickly responded, “Son, when it comes to conversation, all you have to remember are three things: food, family, and philosophy, and you’ll have plenty to talk about”

The night of the date came, and so did the awkward silence. Recalling his father’s advice, he quickly asked about food:

“Mary, do you like asparagus?”

“No,” she replied. “I don’t really care for it.”

Met with more silence, he asked about family:

“Mary, do you have any brothers?”

“No,” she replied. “I don’t have any brothers.”

With no luck, he turned to philosophy:

“Mary…if you had a brother…would he like asparagus?”

And that, my friend, is philosophy.

That simple story is better than any textbook for explaining what is philosophy. Indeed, ancient cave paintings have long affirmed modern neuroscience—humans learn and communicate best through stories.

People will remember your name when it’s connected with a compelling story; you’ll bore investors with facts and figures but capture them if they’re wrapped in a story.

Whether it’s creating a memorable brand or connecting deeper with customers, here are seven essentials for effective storytelling:

1. Opening and closing the curiosity gap

What if I told you your income could be tripled in less than one month?

It may be snake oil, but it perked enough of your interest to hear the rest of the story and pitch. Storytellers call it an “inciting incident.” We have curiosity wired into us, tapping into that through provocative questions opens the window wide for the rest of your elevator pitch.

2. Evoking VAK

Psychologists and therapists use VAK—visual, audio, and kinesthetic modalities to immerse a person into a desired experience or state.

When the mind begins to imagine and think through emotional and sensory experiences, parts of the brain light up as if they’re actually happening.

Using these cues by describing the adrenaline racing through your body, or the tragedy that brought you to tears, will immerse a person from passively listening to the story, to feeling like an active participant.

3. Conflict and resolution

Whether it’s your business proposal or product demo, two traditional storytelling elements you don’t want to leave out are conflict and resolution.

Have you identified a problem, and explained how your product brings a resolution? Shawn Coyne from The Story Grid says a common mistake for entrepreneurs is presenting heavily from a developer’s angle and ignoring a consumer’s perspective.

Approach conflict and resolution like a consumer, and tell your product’s story like a satisfied customer.

4. Appealing to the higher self

Whether crafting your own personal goals or presenting a vision to a company, we can’t fight our survival mechanism’s self-interest. So why not leverage selfish motives? Fuel for achieving a future goal comes with presenting a better version of ourselves, or a better version of the customer.

The story of the tortoise and the hare will be more compelling if it ends with you celebrating in your mansion by the beach after signing up to your investment plan. The personal image of being an environmental savior is enough for many to spend extra on a Tesla.

5. Shock and awe

Humans think in patterns. We process the vast exposure to information and try to spit out a logical understanding. A break in that linear pattern is like a splash of icy water on your face. That’s why movies like The Sixth Sense, Fight Club, Romeo & Juliet are capturing. The twist endings created a mental pattern break.

It doesn’t need to happen at the end. A paradoxical opening statement for a speech is a common attention grabber. Incorporating pattern breaks anywhere within a story increases effectiveness.

6. Build a catalog of illustrations

Everyone knows the story of the Good Samaritan, perhaps even the Prodigal Son. Jesus’ teaching are known through his compelling parables.

Use personal experiences to build a catalog of metaphors and illustrations and add more color to your stories. The time you drove past three gas stations and then ended up on the side of the road with an empty tank can later highlight to your staff the importance of checking email notifications or, to your investor, how your new app will save people from disaster.

7. Internal and external components

Just as Stephen King said, “Fiction is a lie, and good fiction is the truth inside the lie.” There are layers. A good story doesn’t just present raw content, but uses vehicles to deliver it. That’s the power in allegories and discovering the moral to a story.

Before crafting your story, decide what elements will be latent and what will be obvious. Facts and figures are best delivered under the surface. Promoting your product’s new features as raw content won’t be as effective as layering them underneath a traveling husband talking ‘face-to-face’ with his daughter.

A refugee from Vietnam, raised in Australia, with a BA from Texas, Thai’s unique background is reflected in his work. He writes for The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, and The Utopian Life. Having been a professional chef, international kickboxer, and spiritual teacher, Thai is passionate about helping people become the best version of themselves. Signup for his free weekly Infographics at TheUtopianLife.com | Connect @ThaiWins | On Facebook  
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  1. Could you please go into greater depth on point #6, building a catalog of illustrations? Perhaps a separate blog post? Thanks!

    • Hi Ruthanne, great idea for a separate blog post.

      With building a catalog of illustrations, have a collection of memorized experiences you can repeatedly use to illustrate a point. I hope that helps, let me know if you have any other questions.

    • Blogging or posting content to your website discussing illustrations from personal experience is a great way to encourage reader comments on your blog or website feedback section. It also allows people to feel you from a personal standpoint as a blogger or website content writer. Most importantly, building a catalog of illustrations is also a great way to quickly get your pages indexed by major search engines and instantly improve long-term search engine rankings.

  2. #4 is way cool Thai. I always enjoy a higher self reference.

    Keep on inspiring!


  3. Great post! This is true for any kind of marketing. To connect with customers or investors, tell your story about your company or product. I especially like tip #3.

  4. Really interesting advice. I’ve been blogging for almost a decade and, while doing pretty well, there are tactics I never considered in my writing, that can clearly make my content even more appealing for my readers.

  5. Interesting you mention building a catalog of personal illustrations. I agree that having stories to connect to is really powerful. And more literally, I think you can do a lot with illustrations — pictures! My favorite blogs are those that don’t just tell a story, but also show one.

    Readers know the difference between a stock photo and a real one. Having your own, unique photos goes a long way.

  6. Telling stories online is always a good thing for driving long-term traffic to a site or blog. It increases shares on social networks and more.

  7. Great post! This is true for any kind of marketing. I especially like tip #2.

  8. I agree, totally true.

  9. Excellent blog! yes indeed weaving an interesting story around the central message in your blog always works and eventually leads to more people flocking to it. I think using VAK is a tact, which needs to be cultivated with lots of practice. Conflict and resolution never fails to work, if perfectly executed.

  10. Hi Thau Nguyen, this is very informative. I like the way you connect with your audience. I love the idea “evoking VAL” – visual, audio and kinesthetic modalities.

  11. I think the first point is best for introducing a different product, service, invention, etc. People should first know what the need has been and how the topic has become a solution for them. Thanks for sharing! It helped me very much.

    • Glad you found it helpful Rahman. Great point, “Problem — Solution” certainly stands at the base of any effective service.

  12. Hello Thai Nguyen, first of all the post is great and secondly I wanted to ask you from where and how do you get ideas for writing such awesome posts? Thanks have a nice day.

    • Thank you AS Prince. I’m always scanning my news feed on social media to see what articles are popular and trending, and then ask myself, “What can I write that is totally DIFFERENT?” Hope that’s helpful.

  13. Truly intriguing counsel. I’ve been blogging for very nearly 10 years and, while doing really well, there are strategies I never viewed as in my written work, that can obviously make my substance considerably all the more engaging for my perusers.

  14. Hey Darren I am reading your blog for the first time and now I think I will be a regular visitor here. These tips are awesome, storytelling is an art and every blogger/writer should learn this art to drive the attention of the people to whatever he wants.

  15. Awesome post. Telling story is the best way to bring long term traffic. I specially like #4.

  16. Thank you Arslan, congrats for being such a consistent writer, I hope this can take your writing to the next level!

  17. Hi Thai Nguyen,

    WoW. It is great list. I like no. 4 and 6. I like your style of writing.

    Have a great weekend ahead :)

  18. Thanks for the kind words umapathy! Glad you were able to gain some valuable tips for your writing.

  19. I am having hard time brainstorming about my blog. Thanks Darren, this obviously helps – guess i should read ProBlogger more often as i am trying to build my first site online.

    3. Conflict and resolution, is the part that impressed me a lot.



  20. The number 1 now make me think what i want to make my next article in my blog.. tq Thai :)

  21. Great post! I think for businesses, evoking a response is crucial- you need to be able to shall we say, hit them right where they’ll feel it- by doing this in a positive way the customer is more likely to remember you and stick with your company and what you have to offer

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