How Not To Start A Story

How Not To Start A Story

Imagine a salesperson is about to start a presentation you’re attending.
The room grows quiet. He stands up, clears his voice, and looks out to you and your colleagues. After thanking everyone for attending, he clasps his hands together and says, “Okay, I’d like to start with a story.”

What are you thinking or feeling right now?

When I ask this question during workshops, most people cite feelings of expectation or anticipation i.e “This is going to be good,” or “This is going to be relevant, interesting, funny, etc.”

Starting any presentation with a story is an excellent way to engage your audience. However, when you precede the story with an announcement that you have a story to tell, you are taking an unnecessary risk. Now you’ve got everyone sitting forward, expecting some reward for listening. If the story turns out to be a flop, you’re off to a very bad start.

Avoid this risk by not raising any expectations. Just start the story without telling your audience that there’s a story coming their way. If you have trouble deciding how to start, a sentence that includes a time marker usually works, i.e. “You may not know this, but in 1999 our company was on the brink of disaster,” or “Last month, our company had an epiphany.”

Your opening sentence should also be one that baits your audience into listening for more information. You’ll want them wondering, “What happened?”.
Using stories in a business setting can work for your or against you depending on what is said and how it’s said. If used properly and appropriately, storytelling can be a powerful way to influence, inspire and motivate your audience. However, be especially careful not to blow your chances right out of the starting blocks by announcing you have a story to tell.

If you’d like more storytelling tips like this, download the free interactive ebook: Storytelling For Leaders and Salespeople.

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