Storytelling in its simplest form is a connection of cause and effect. Narrative or stories are everywhere. We tell them in conversation and we relate to them in books and films. And it’s because they have this ability to tap into our hopes and fears, revealing the person we aspire to be, that they have this extraordinary power to shape how we spend our time and money.
Storytelling for startups
Storytelling is important because that’s how people consume ideas and the quicker people consume your ideas and the quicker they grasp it, the more valuable it is going to end up being. But what most entrepreneurs forget is – they tend to get caught up in the image of a venture fund which they are going to get money from. They start pitching their ideas in data-driven formats and they forget the power of the emotion that comes in the form of telling a story.
Whenever entrepreneurs talk about their startups, the stories that are most engaging tend to stand out. More than the product or service that one offers, it is the way one tells the world about that product or service itself that matters. The best entrepreneurs are also the world’s best storytellers – they know how to capture the emotion of the moment, they know how to take a complex idea and make it simple.
You cannot convince them to invest but you can get them to appreciate your point of view. Investing in a startup is more about buying into someone’s vision or their story. They may have no data before them, such as if this is the right or wrong timing, but what is important to know is ‘whether this is the right person to work with and whether this is the right market to go after, everything else can be figured out. The ability of the entrepreneur to be able to communicate his passion, his creativity, his idea, his knowledge, his ability in an emotional fashion – that is storytelling.
In an era where consumers are bombarded with unfathomable amounts of irrelevant information, success in business will be had by those who can master the art of the captivating story.
How to weave a tale?
Storytelling draws us in and captivates our imagination, whether your vehicle is a blog post, an infographic or the spoken word. So, how do you cut through the noise, get your stories heard and resonate with the consumer? Here are some suggestions for preparing and telling compelling stories:
- Know your audience
- People often ignore this advice. Do you talk to your parents the same way you talk to your buddies?
- Personalize your story
- Look at the day-to-day events you take for granted
- Draw on real life examples
- Be proactive and make the connection evident to your audience.
- Put your company values forward
- Define what makes your company great, work out how you are least like the competition and tell that story.
- Make your audience empathize with you
- Have a beginning, middle and end in your story
- Provoke an emotional reaction
- Appeal to people’s lifestyles, interests and needs – Make the listener share the pains your customers were experiencing, illustrate how your product or service will make their life less stressful, lovelier, more luxurious, and get this across through your story.
- A picture is worth a thousand words
- We are visual creatures – if the medium allows, add visuals to your story to enhance the impact and increase retention
- Appropriate format
- Don’t just use words
- Your stories need not be only relevant and engaging, they must be easily digestible – whatever the format they take
- Make stories consumable and shareable
- Unifying theory
- Make your audience put things together, don’t give them a 4, give them a 2+2
- Keep the end in mind
- This will help you keep the audience focused and you will tip the balance in your favour
- Leave people wanting more
- Give people a reason to come back
- Consider teasers
- Give them more content when they return – consistent content across multiple channels, will give people a reason to return again and again.
Storytelling has guidelines, not hard and fast rules. Use what you know. Draw from it which means catching the truth from your experiences and expressing the values you personally feel. A piece of advice to all startups and entrepreneurs – start with your story. If you’re raising money, getting one more user to download your app, or gathering your team around the company mission, always focus on the telling (and not the selling) of your story, and you won’t go wrong.