Storytelling, Revisited: Once Upon a Time


Putting kids to sleep at night can be performance art. Whether you’re a parent, a grandparent, a favorite aunt, uncle, cousin or neighbor—or maybe just the babysitter, make no mistake: you need to take your role seriously, providing encores to shouts of “one more story.”

Deep down, we all still want someone to tell us a story, a really good story. We want a personal experience, one that captures our attention and imagination, one that makes us wonder what happens next. Ideally, we want to appear in the story; as a matter of fact, it wouldn’t be a bad thing if we were the focal point of the story, the star, pulled into situations where we shine. We become the main character. When Max in Where the Wild Things Are has his rumpus, we’re one with him.

The lessons from our own experience telling and listening to stories, never mind the marketing speak, are pretty obvious. Even better, they form a road map for what you can accomplish at your next trade show, and they help you build a cohesive strategy. When you tell a successful story, you

  • Paint an accessible picture of the action and the characters. There’s a good opening, the setting is familiar, and the characters are recognizable.
  • Put the listener in the picture. It’s okay if your audience identifies with the protagonist or the hero. As a matter of fact, it’s better than okay—it’s great.
  • Populate the scenario with familiar supporting characters, noises, and situations. It’s a short step from roaring like a lion or a wild thing to improvising conversations with your audience’s irate customers.
  • Confront challenges like monsters, evil witches, and bullies. Or bad data, failed connectivity, or negative clinical trial results.
  • Set a tone that builds to the critical moment of the solution. Share, don’t sell.
  • Encourage feedback and participation. Kids have no problem with this; sharpen your story telling skills to the point that your adult listeners can’t help but be involved.
  • Focus on the central character—the kid or the audience; same thing. Who has the magic, the solution, the tools to pull out all the stops and save the day? Talk about how to get those tools.
  • End the story happily. The solution works, the hero (the audience or the jammy-clad kids) saves the day, and order is restored.
  • Tell a story that can be passed on…and on…and on…so that the listener from the trade show audience can tell the same story back at work and help close the sale.

A compelling story is essential for face-to-face engagement. No one wants to listen to a recitation of “the facts”—what used to be called “features.” At least not initially. Draw your attendees into an environment where what you’re offering is clear and memorable. No one is ever too old for a good story.

The best use of storytelling hinges on what we call “creative bravery.” Learn how you can heighten memorability by downloading our new free workbook, Creative Bravery for Your Face-to-Face Marketing Program.

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