Guest blog — Alexia Vernon on storytelling for business owners and leaders
How To Pull Back The Curtain And Become An Effective Business Storyteller
–by Alexia Vernon
(Content excerpted from ForbesWoman with permission.)
When I first started my workplace communication and leadership development coaching and training business, I spent hours upon hours striving to design the perfect website, come up with catchiest program names, draft compelling copy and get face time with the “right” people to champion my work. I was busy curating what I thought others would perceive as my greatest accomplishments, and asking happy clients to share their raves as testimonials — unfortunately, all at the expense of sharing my story.
As business owners and leaders, our greatest currency is our story. Whether we are speaking before an audience of prospective funders or clients, designing an “About Me” page on a website, or getting our hustle on at a networking event, people are hungry to see themselves in our journey and connect with our company’s “why.” And being an effective business storyteller means going much deeper than sharing our product or service’s features and benefits.
It wasn’t until I started pulling back the curtains on my life and revealing my journey to my business and work that I really hit my professional stride and started to garner some significant media attention. Whether it was discussing how I unraveled while giving my first speech the day after getting headgear, or launching a covert women’s negotiation salon in the back office of a former employer, all the moments that I thought might undermine my credibility have proven to be my greatest assets. They make me relatable. They show why I am called to do the work that I do. And most importantly, they illuminate that if I can do it, so can anyone else.
Our stories inspire action, which includes giving people the motivation and permission to invest or make a purchase.
- Explore your vulnerabilities. When thinking about how to tell your story, your why, begin by asking yourself how what you do is informed by who you have been. What struggles have shaped you and your business? How have you transformed your garbage into what I like to call your gems? When you strategically make yourself vulnerable to your audience, you enhance your credibility and trustworthiness. Your authenticity gives you a competitive edge. And you more effortlessly convert prospects into customers and proselytizers.
- Practice your delivery. Once you have your core story down, you want to rehearse it and find the right moments to invite your audience in. There are three key ways to do this. First, when speaking your story out loud — whether it’s in front of an audience of 1 or 1000 — you incorporate vocal variety. You alter your volume, pitch, rate of delivery, and lengths of your sentences in order to build in musicality, sustain interest, and direct audience attention to key moments. Second, you facilitate audience interaction by asking questions that facilitate ‘aha’ for the person listening or reading. When was the first time you can remember stepping into your moxie? is a question I build into almost every talk I give. What would be possible if you could be in your power every time you opened your mouth to speak? Whether your audience members answer your questions out loud or in their heads, they are going to derive tremendous value from your asks and connect much more than when you are simply speaking at them.
- Include a call to action. A final way to finesse your story and deliver it for maximum impact is to use it to make a bold ask. And this does not need to be for money. Perhaps you run a sustainable cosmetics company, and your story is about “recycling,” so to speak, your old limiting belief that you were not beautiful because you had a big nose. Or acne. Or [feel free to fill in the blank]. Challenge your audience to redefine what beauty means and ensure that who they are is incorporated within it. Be a business leader who is known for asking your prospects and clients to let go of that which is no longer serving them and play a bigger game in their lives.
Alexia recently gave a webinar with Ascentis called “The Art of Storytelling.” Click here to watch it or download the slides!