What’s Your Story
Last week a couple of kids showed up at my front door at dinnertime. They looked like something from a modern version of Of Mice and Men. Directly in front of me was a small kid with combed hair parted to the right, tucked-in school uniform shirt, and slacks with a sharp crease in the front. At his side was a chubby kid with wild-man hair, mustard-stained uniform shirt that barely covered his belly, and pants with an Ironman patch on the thigh (presumably to cover a hole).
“Good afternoon sir. My name is Ronald and this is Bernard. (Big kid smiles sheepishly.) We’re here today selling chocolate bars to help raise money for our trip to Tallahassee. I know other kids will be coming to your house with the same offer and I know it’s hard to say ‘yes’ to everyone. But I want you to know that these candy bars were donated. That means we don’t have to give any money to any company. Any candy you buy will go directly to helping us pay for our trip. I also want you to know that you can write a check, directly to my school (he hands me a card with the name of the school on it and his name – first and last and the chubby kid’s name – first and last) so you can be sure the money will be used for funding my trip or Bernard’s trip.”
I was stunned. A great pitch from a kid in fourth grade.
“How much?” I asked.
That’s when I realized I hadn’t seen anything yet.
“That’s up to you sir. The trip costs $130 per kid. My parents are covering half of my trip and half of Bernard’s trip. You see, Bernard is my cousin and he moved here from Georgia when his mom lost her job. His dad drives a truck, so they moved in with us to save a little money during the winter. We’ve sold 48 candy bars so far and most people give us $1 apiece. But you can give us whatever you want.”
Not wanting to add 82 chocolate bars to my waistline, I flicked away the tear from my eye and bought one chocolate bar for $82.
Yes, I am a soft touch, but that’s not the point.
I share this anecdote with you to illustrate the power of a story.
Each day all of us have an opportunity to make an impression on someone just as Ronald made an impression on me.
When someone asks you why you do what you do, how do you answer?
Do you give them some mundane two sentence response or do you tell them a compelling version of a story that helps them FEEL the emotion you FELT when you decided to get into this profession?
If you don’t have a story that illustrates why you do what you do, tell them a story about your best day. Tell them a story that demonstrates the effect you have on people with your work.
Stories are powerful because they put people into a state that makes them emotionally receptive to your message.
Anytime you ask for money you should start by telling a story.
Anytime you want to connect with an audience during a speech or with direct mail, you should tell a story.
Whenever you want to get people moving in a certain direction, you need to get them emotionally engaged with a story.
Yes, this is work.
Yes, you need to remember the details of the story and rehearse it a few times.
And yes, some people will not believe your story.
But that will not take away from its impact. And, as long as it’s true, and you tell it with passion, you will achieve the desired result.
Want to learn more about adding a story to a speech?
The link below is to a podcast on giving a great speech. Listen to it today and create a compelling reaction tomorrow from your next audience.