Nick Bowditch is the only person in Asia-Pacific to have worked at both Facebook and Twitter and is a thought-leader in using social media as a storytelling tool for businesses and individuals. Below he shares some of the insights he has learnt in the art of effective and compelling storytelling.
The 4 biggest storytelling mistakes people make and how the fix them
I am a storyteller. That’s what I do. Whether it’s as a professional speaker at conferences in Australia and around the world, as a best-selling author of two books about my own journey living with mental illnesses, working at Facebook and Twitter; story is what binds us all together. Story is how we communicate effectively, and sometimes, it’s also what can do us more harm than good.
Whether it’s in a business or a personal setting, there are 4 big mistakes that a lot of us do every day in our storytelling. It can render what I think is the most effective way to be compelling, persuasive, and communicative, less than effective, not beneficial or even harmful.
1. Telling the story we think they want to hear.
Whether it’s a business telling a branding story to the market, or a person telling their own personal story to their friends and family, it’s easy to get caught up in just telling the story that we think people WANT to hear. Don’t be too challenging, don’t be too honest, just tick the boxes and go through the motions and fit in, don’t rock the boat. There’s only one problem with that, eventually it has one of two negative outcomes: people become disinterested because they think you are just like everyone else, or YOU become disinterested and resent people for not wanting more from you.
Solution: Tell the story you want to tell, regardless of what you think they want to hear.
2. Telling other people’s story all the time.
I have a friend who is a great storyteller. He is compelling and engaging, and holds an audience’s attention really, really well. The only problem is he rarely, if ever, is telling his own story. I don’t mean he is claiming someone else’s story as his own, rather he just focuses on other people’s achievements, other people’s dreams, other people’s challenges, and shares nothing of himself.
Solution: Be proud of your own story, it’s yours.
3. Telling the meek story instead of the bold story.
Boldness is one of the most compelling and attractive traits a person can have. We are enamoured by it, we love it. Meekness, on the other hand, is kind of rubbish. It’s not engaging, and it doesn’t encourage people to ‘buy-in’. Rather, it’s just something that blends into the greyness, without providing any colour, or light and shade. In the same way, storytelling that is bold and loud and confident and purposeful is really, really great. Tell me the story of your bold vision, and I will invest in it. Tell me a meek story, and I will stop listening pretty quickly.
Solution: Embrace boldness when telling your stories. There is nothing more attractive to a listener.
4. Telling the story without any structure or planning.
No doubt you have heard people tell stories that go on, and on, and on, and never really come to any conclusion? If you have young kids (like me), you may be able to relate! They don’t have any structure to their story, because they haven’t really planned it out. They just start talking … and keep talking. If you plan your storytelling, particularly when it’s your business or brand storytelling, with a beginning, middle and end, you are much less likely to get side tracked. Another way I think of this storytelling structure is ‘tell them the way it was, tell them how it is now (because of how we have changed it), and tell them how it will be in the future (because of these changes). Sometimes as a business, we get stuck on the middle part (how it is now) and neglect to include the really interesting stuff: how it was, and how it will be.
Solution: Plan your storytelling, have a structure (start/middle/end) and in that structure talk about how it was, how it is now, and how it will be.
Those 4 mistakes aside, every time you step out of the shadow and tell your own story, proudly and confidently, you win. The more people who hear your story told proudly and confidently, the greater impact you can have on the world. Tell the world your story, start today.