Excitement is building. Anticipation passes around the room in waves. The audience shivers in their seats, their excitement barely contained. One stands, a smile forming on his face. “Today’s webinar will be… Section 199(a), IRS Proposed Rules for Qualified Business Income Deduction.” A sigh, almost a sound of ecstasy, whispers in the air. They’re ready. This will be three hours these people will never forget.
But of course, that’s ludicrous. No one gets that excited for a webinar on tax regulations. Few of us are spellbound by a presentation on first quarter results.
But what if you showed those same people the latest sci-fi epic? What if you told them their favorite actor had just released his latest film? Then they would get excited. They would hand over their money, gladly, to sit in uncomfortable chairs and eat stale popcorn.
Of course, there’s lots of reasons why you’d choose the movie over the webinar. The movie is something you do in your free time, with family and friends, and it’s fun. The webinar, on the other hand, would almost surely be something you’d do while you’re on the job. It would be mandatory, and probably painful to sit through.
But I bet there’s one word or feeling that flashed through your mind when I first mentioned the webinar, especially its subject; boring.
It would be incredibly boring. You’d struggle to keep your focus on the presentation, you’d lose interest more times than you could count, and for the last couple of hours you’d probably do nothing but stare at your watch.
But a movie? You’d almost certainly never look at your watch. You wouldn’t lose the thread, or forget what had just happened five minutes ago. You’d be enthralled. Even if it wasn’t your favorite movie ever, you’d probably be able to recite the more memorable lines after you walked out of the theater. Most importantly, you wouldn’t be bored.
Why? How could a movie, even one that’s not the greatest ever, capture and keep your attention for two or more hours, while a webinar – something that’s important to your continued employment – would leave you bored to tears.
Story. The answer is story.
Stories speak to us deeply, immediately, and forcefully. For thousands of years, since before the dawn of civilization, humans have been telling and retelling stories. We’ve used them to entertain and to teach. Stories hold our focus like nothing else can.
In his book “Building A StoryBrand”, Donald Miller explains this phenomenon. Stories are a “sense-making device”, he tells us. They provide a framework that is understood universally. We hear a story, and all of its parts immediately fall into place in our minds.
Because of that, story is the best tool we can use when we talk about our business. It’s a framework that allows us to communicate clearly and powerfully with potential customers. By utilizing the elements of the most successful storytellers, we can speak to people in language they already understand. And when a client understands us, they’re much, much more likely to do business with us.
But simply telling a story isn’t good enough. You’ve got to tell the right story to really grab a customer’s attention.