Telling your story (Part 4) – Relate to audience

If you have followed the three previous parts of Telling your story (part 1, part 2, part 3), you know how to grab the attention of your public and to set the scene. Now comes the time to ensure you are “vibrating in harmony” with your audience. Actually, one of the biggest mistake presenters are making, if not the biggest, is to present for themselves! If you want your story to be as impactful as possible, relate to your audience.

A story delivered to a group of venture capitalists will be different from a story delivered to a group of teenagers. Even though, it may be the same story in the end. Imagine you are creating a new social network that will compete with Facebook. You will need investors and users. So, you will tell your story to investors to get their commitment to invest in your company; and you will tell your story to potential users so they join your network, and invite their friends. Member growth will attract more ads and will give more confidence to investors.

In the end, you will need to explain what your social network is, what are its main characteristics, what are its key differentiators from competition and so on. You are probably now realizing that the story for investors and the one for members will be fundamentally different, although the goal is implicitly the same: get more members to attract more investment. And this will derive a difference in the way you tell your story.

Let me take a personal example: I love Star Wars, and my wife prefers Dirty Dancing. Both stories are of course completely different. However, in each, you will find the good guys and the bad guys, some love and some action. But, they both appeal to different audiences. Not that I could not like both films, but they will play on different levels of emotions, and therefore will generate different feelings. I can watch fifty times Star Wars (I have already probably watched the six episodes twelve times already), but one time Dirty Dancing was enough. As for my wife, it’s the opposite.

You should get my point by now. The story you are going to tell has to depend deeply on the audience. Even though you can grab the attention with the same opening and you can set the same scene, you will have to start tweaking your message so that you speak to the heart and my mind of your public. And this means, you need to know them. Nothing’s worse than a speaker who has not done his or her due diligence.

When you have set the scene, you have defined the environment, as well as the enemies. Your goal is that your audience should feel like being in the good guy’s shoes. Each of the attendees should be able to identify him or herself to you or to your hero. They have to be able to close their eyes and see through yours. It’s not rocket science, one or two examples taken from their life or from their company’s life will do the trick. The aim is to fine similarities between your story and your audience life. A question or a comparison may help.

Draw parallels between your story and theirs, and you will have create rails on which you are going to guide them. If you manage to do this well, take their hand and increase the tension, which will be our focus topic next week. Stay tuned!

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