Jan 03 2023 / Round the Table Magazine
The art of storytelling
By Esther Hu
A blind, old man was sitting by the roadside, begging for money. Next to him on a piece of cardboard, he had written, “I am blind. Please help me with some money.” Poor man. None of the passersby stopped to give him any money. A girl walked past and saw the sign. She turned it around, wrote some words on it and left. That was when a miracle started to happen. Almost everyone who passed by donated a dollar or two. That same evening, the girl returned, and the man asked her, “My dear, what did you write on my sign?” The girl smiled and said, “I wrote what you wrote but in a different way. I wrote, ‘This is such a beautiful day, but I cannot see it.’”
“I’m blind, please help me” was telling the truth, while “This is such a beautiful day, but I cannot see it,” tells a story. A truth is logical but lacks emotion. A story, on the other hand, is warm enough to touch any heart. Storytelling is a powerful and convincing way of communicating. A good storyteller can lead a client or a prospect through an emotional journey, laughing and crying along the way, and ultimately to committing to a product or service.
Three elements are needed to be a good storyteller: We’ll look at preparing story content, how to tell a story that can move people and using props for the story.
Preparing story content
Step 1: Create a beautiful scenario — For example, the story about the blind man takes place on a bright and beautiful sunny day.
Step 2: Have an unexpected twist — Everyone has a beautiful picture emerging in their mind, and suddenly there comes the image of an old, blind man begging at the roadside. He can neither see the bright, sunny sky, nor the crowd around him. The contrasting images might render the audience to start feeling gloomy and sympathetic toward the old man.
Step 3: The happy ending — People gave money to the old man because they were influenced by what the girl wrote on the sign. The old man was delighted and thanked the girl.
How to tell the story
Now that your content is ready, here’s how you tell a story well:
- Speak with your heart to the extent that you are moved by your own story.
- Speak dynamically. When you master your intonation, volume, pitch and the flow of emotion, you will bring your audience into the scene as if they themselves are the leading characters.
- Speak with your body. Body language can enhance the flow of the story and capture the attention of your clients. This includes your eyes. Look into the eyes of your clients as you speak. As you pause, your eye contact during a moment of silence is bound to leave a deep, emotional impact on your clients.
Prepare your storytelling props. Props are the evidence of your story that leave no room for your clients to be skeptical about its authenticity. Props can be anything from a photo, a medical bill or even a thank-you note from a client whom you have helped through the claims process.
So, what kind of stories shall we tell in a sales meeting to touch the hearts of our clients? There is only one answer and that is genuine stories. All you need to do is to share the details of an incident truthfully. You can share every detail, such as the time and place where the incident took place, or other details that matter, but maintain the confidentiality of the leading character.
How many stories should you prepare? You only need one good story. Get one story ready for each type of product or service you offer. Before you have your own story to tell, you can always borrow someone else’s story, and make sure to tell it better than anyone else.
See Hu’s presentation from the 2021 MDRT Annual Meeting Virtual Event at mdrt.org.