Telling stories about your art is the best way to get the word out. That doesn’t mean all stories are equally compelling to all audiences. It’s the same with public speaking: just because you feel comfortable speaking in front of a group doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting the results you want from your talk. There are three main problems with telling stories. (1) Too long. (2) Irrelevant to your core message. (3) Your audience doesn’t relate to either the characters or the situation.
Here’s a fantastic trick for knowing if you talk too much: At some point in the conversation, whenever there is the slightest distraction, simply shut your mouth and pretend that you are finished telling your story. If your audience asks you to continue, you’re doing well, if not, you’re talking too much. Easy.
The problem of irrelevance is more difficult for the speaker to detect. Often novice speakers tell great and hilarious stories that have nothing to do with their message. So these speakers entertain, but do not persuade or evangelize their art. Getting a laugh is not the whole point.
If you put some thought into it, you may be able to come up with a not-so-obvious tie-in to your main point. But you have to explain that connection. And if you have to explain, it may be better to choose a different story.
Sometimes irrelevance is eay to detect, like when speaking to your kids. For example:
Last Saturday Ruben was telling the girls and me about the Charleston Symphony pops concert we were to attend that evening. He added, "We’re going to play ‘Strangers in the Night.’" I smiled and noticed completely BLANK looks on my daughters’ faces. So I explained, "That was a song your grandmother and granddaddy used to dance to."
Christina lightens up. She clues in. She responds, "Oh, so it’s music from the time of Jesus."
Be careful with your cultural context. But there’s a more dangerous trap that’s even more difficult to detect: characters that are too perfect, too rich, too intelligent, too cool or too something for me to relate to.
That’s why vulnerability + authority = unstoppable.
Authority without vulnerability = not relatable.
That means you get to admit your flaws, what you were really thinking at the time. Probably I would think the same way, too.
One story I often share is the way I discovered life coaching or executive coaching. Prior to my "defining moment" in which I totally changed my thinking about something, which then turned my life around for the better, I was not even sure such a thing as "coaching" existed. If it did exist, it would be for people who must have more money than sense.
You know, those people.
I vaguely remember reading an article in the Wall Street Journal about executive coaching. It mentioned the word "idiot savant." That made me smile.
You want to tell stories that your clients and fans will relate to and that shows the impact of your art. Stories that present some sort of "before" and "after" easily explain what your art is about.
Details make it juicy and relatable, as long as they’re relevant to your art, they make your story more compelling. And that is how you get the word out.