You probably work in an organisation with products or services of great value to others. You probably have brilliant minds around you, people who inspire you with what they can come up with, and you are excited to share this with the world, convinced you have something of real value to share. And yet, others don’t always see what you see or get as excited as you are. They don’t always call you back or take your ideas forward.
No reason to care
Until you make this about them, the chances are they don’t care about what you do as much as you think they should. Even when you are asked to present pure credentials, a ‘why you’ presentation, there needs to be some consideration given to what each part of your story means to your audience, what benefit they get from whatever point you are making, and how it helps them solve a problem or move forward. You have to give them a reason to care by making it clear why this matters to them.
All about you
I was chatting to a chief marketing officer as I was writing my book, and this particular topic came up and, before I could finish, they jumped straight in to tell me about a recent pitch they had just run to find a new partner.
In a very animated fashion, they went on to say: ‘We could not believe it. It was all about them, some magic process we were supposed to believe nobody else had ever come up with, all their proprietary tools with names that made no sense, of which I think I can recall one but couldn’t tell you what it does or why we need it. And then, they finished off with why they thought they were amazing. They appeared to be oblivious to the fact that there was literally nothing in their 60-odd slides that gave us any reason to give a sh*t. They left thinking they did an amazing job, buzzing and probably slapping each other on the back, and will have no idea why they will never hear from us again.’
Sadly, in my experience this is not a one-off example but a common problem where the seller spends way too much time just presenting ‘about us’ slides with no consideration to the ‘so what?’ for the audience. The issue is not what you do; it is why this matters to them, the audience, the people giving up their time to see your content and how they connect with your content.
What’s it like to be them?
This all starts by being able to see and evaluate your content through the eyes of the audience, you have to be able to walk in their shoes, understand what problem they have that you can solve for them, and understand what it feels like to have this problem.
Successful American screenwriter Chad Hodge, in a Harvard Business Review article about the lessons from filmmaking in relation to creating business content that connects with audiences, said engaging people in your story is about helping ‘people to see themselves as the hero of the story … Everyone wants to be a star, or at least to feel that the story is talking to or about him personally.’*
Screenwriters know that you don’t start writing a movie script until you know whom you are writing for and what matters to them. It is a powerful lesson that holds true for your presentations as well. You need to make this about them, and for that, you need to get to know them a bit better than just a title or a role within a business.
When you can see the problem through the eyes of the audience, you will clearly see the benefits you can deliver for them, allowing you to filter for relevance and make subtle changes to the language, the level of detail and how you craft a story that can bring them in and help them feel it is a story they are a part of.
Balance to the narrative
The goal is to achieve a balanced narrative that delivers what you do and how you do it in combination with the ‘so what?’ for them.
When you can marry what you do with why that’s a benefit to this audience, when you can describe how you do something along with what this enables or delivers for them, when who you are is aligned with what they value, then you can craft a narrative that will have meaning and depth to this specific audience. That should be the goal of every strategic storyteller.
Written by David Fish.
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