Posts Tagged ‘story’

Five Words Fundraising Stories Should Elicit

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

Speakers naturally are gratified when a crowd gathers around them after a presentation, exclaiming how great they were and how impressive their work is. But how closely do you, as a speaker, pay attention to the meaning of the comments you’re hearing, particularly when you’re helping to raise funds for a non-profit organization?

Much of the feedback fundraisers hear is, contrary to their beliefs, not expressing support of their cause, according to The Rev. Eric Foley, founder and CEO of Seoul USA/.W. He says that when a person tells you after a fundraising presentation, “You’re great! Man, I could never do what you do,” that person is saying that s/he never will do what you do–or support what you do. The person is telling you that your organization’s story didn’t touch the individual’s heart.

Having trained more than 1,300 Christian organizations in the art of fundraising, The Rev. Foley has concluded that five key words tell you whether your presentation was a success. Those five words are, “I see myself in you.”

When you hear those words from an audience member, you know you’ve made a connection and won over a new donor. How often do you hear those words after a fundraising presentation? How might you improve your stories to elicit those words?



Your Personal Story Is Key to Success

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

In the drive to build a successful career, most people have followed traditional guidance. It starts with learning to play well with others in pre-school, in the neighborhood and on the school playground. From kindergarten on, you’re told to pay attention in class, do your homework, make your best effort, get a good education, and then be willing to start at the bottom and do whatever you’re asked to do, even if the work seems beneath someone with your now-stellar preparation!

The one piece of important advice that’s often missing is this: Know your personal story and tell it well.

Yes, your personal story is crucial to your career success. That point was driven home to me this week when I talked with a prospective client about a training program for top-level managers being considered for the ultimate promotion to partner. One of the factors the candidates will be judged on is the authenticity and relevance of their personal stories. Why you? How have you proven yourself? Are you ready for the top?

Using the personal stories as one of the selection criteria clearly illustrates the truth of Annette Simmons’ book title: Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins.

How about you? Do you clearly answer the questions in your audience’s minds when you’re trying to sell a service, a product, an idea–or yourself as the right person for the position?

How to Win Employee Support for Your Core Values

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

As part of a storytelling initiative, I’ve been conducting interviews with a representative sample of the client’s managers and employees at all levels and all locations spanning two states. The purpose of the interviews is to establish a benchmark for 1) employees’ familiarity with the core values, 2) their support of those core values as evidenced by their behavior as well as their expressed support, 3) their ability to tell the organization’s “umbrella” story, and 4) their ability to identify and tell stories that exemplify the company’s values. The findings will guide the storytelling training that will follow, with particular focus on identifying, crafting and telling values-based stories that will engage key audiences and stick in their minds.

I’ve been struck by the unusually high degree of consistency of their responses. The consistency is is particularly impressive when I ask them to name the top 3 or 4 values that drive day-to-day decisions. Most of the interviewees named the company’s four core values as those that drive daily decision-making.

Would you get the same result if you were to conduct a survey of your employees? In my experience most organizations wouldn’t. One strategy this company uses to ingrain the values into everyone’s minds could easily be adapted in any organization. The strategy is this: One of the four core values is the theme for one quarter each year. Meetings and other activities focus on the meaning of the value and how it should guide employees’ actions. In addition, budgets allow for managers’ discretion in planning special rewards, such as catered meals or field trips, for their teams or branch offices.

If you’re inspired to implement a similar program, let us know how it goes.


Brain Study Confirms Stories Are Powerful

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

A recent neurological study confirms what writers have long known from experience: The human brain makes little distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life. So, for example, when a person reads sensory descriptions, such as the smell of lavender or cinnamon, the words generate a reaction in the sensory cortex, generating a nearly identical reaction as the experience described. In other words, stories are powerful!

In an article in The New York Times, Author Annie Murphy Paul says that “The novel, of course, is an unequaled medium for the exploration of human social and emotional life. And there is evidence that just as the brain responds to depictions of smells and textures and movements as if they were the real thing, so it treats the interactions among fictional characters as something like real-life social encounters.”

Keith Oatley, an emeritus professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Toronto (and a published novelist), has proposed that reading produces a vivid simulation of reality, one that “runs on minds of readers just as computer simulations run on computers.” Dr. Oatley says that fiction “is a particularly useful simulation because negotiating the social world effectively is extremely tricky…. Just as computer simulations can help us get to grips with complex problems such as flying a plane or forecasting the weather, so novels, stories and dramas can help us understand the complexities of social life.”

Storytelling practitioners would make a case (from their own experiences of audience reactions) that hearing well-told stories produces a similar reaction. How about you? What’s your experience with storytelling? Does your organization generate good experiences with descriptive stories?

Internet Entrepreneur Looks for Passion Around a Story

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

The founder of Expedia and Zillow, who is also a venture capitalist, said in a recent talk that when he’s evaluating another entrepreneur’s pitch, “I look more for passion around a story and idea than I do around a spreadsheet.” As reported by Brier Dudley, technology columnist for The Seattle Times, Rich Barton went on to say, “I’m a PowerPoint guy, not an Excel guy.

“Spreadsheets never work out the way the entrepreneurs and the venture capitalists think they’re going to work out. We all know that,” Barton explained. “Rarely does the company end up being what the original idea was, anyway (and) it’s very difficult to plan the unplannable.”

A young Microsoft manager when he created Expedia, which later was spun off and became the world’s largest travel business, Rich Barton clearly knows what to look for when evaluating ideas for new tech companies. He’s now a partner in Silicon Valley’s Benchmark Capital, which owned 20 percent of Instagram before it was sold to Facebook for $1 billion.