Book Recommendation for Storytellers: Transformational Speaking

If you have embraced the power of storytelling — whether for business, a nonprofit or your own career — consider reading this book: Transformational Speaking: If You Want to Change the World, Tell a Better Story, by Gail Larsen. Formerly with the National Speakers Bureau, Larsen walks the reader through the art of telling a unique, authentic story from how to find that story to how to deliver it.

She states “There are two kinds of memorable speakers. There are those who impress us with their delivery and style and cause us to say, ‘He was a great speaker!’ – then return to our lives and work unchanged. . . Then there are those who arouse us on an inner level, awakening us to what we care about and prompting serious inquiry about the changes we’re committed to making. That’s transformational speaking.”

If you want the world to understand you, your organization, your cause, your products or services, at some point you will be called to speak. More than having a well crafted elevator pitch, you must learn to tell your story in such a way that ignites the other person to action.

This book isn’t about learning a new technique. Rather, as she says in the book, “Great speaking is less about being “fixed” than being found. When you come home to yourself and discover your best material and unique way of communicating, you’ll find there’s nothing broken.”

A Messaging Haiku (of sorts)

Much has been written about powerful messaging, corporate storytelling and boosting personal and business narratives. The business of messaging can sound complicated. I plead guilty to adding to the library of resources. But, if I were to boil down what makes someone internalize and act upon an organization’s or individual’s message, it would be because that message was:

  • Delivered with authenticity and with eloquence
  • About something that was relevant to them
  • Which set the organization (or individual or cause) apart from (similar) others
  • And, it was clear

Consider this a kind of haiku (albeit much longer than the requisite 17 syllables) against which you can compare your elevator pitch or other key statements.

One Way to Confirm Your Suspicion Company Messages Are Being Ignored by Staff

Do you have a gut feeling that your team members have their own ideas about how they should describe your company, your products or service or your vision?

One quick exercise to get those disagreeing ideas out into the open is having staff contribute to a “good word-bad word” list. Laugh if you must. But, this very simple exercise will showcase opposing ideas quickly and efficiently. Nothing gets differing opinions on the table faster than to get people to admit what words they believe should always be associated with your organization and which words should never be associated with your company.

What to do:

  1. Get everyone around the conference room table. Or, bribe them with a free lunch or a late Friday afternoon wine and cheese party. But, get as many folks from your company around an easel or white board as you can.
  2. Draw a line down the middle of the blank space. Write “good words” on one side. Write “bad words” on the other side.
  3. Now ask everyone in the room to start calling out words that they believe everyone should use when sharing your company’s offerings (good words). Also, have them share words they believe should never be used (bad words).

Encourage people to avoid over used words such as “professional” and “excellent” on the “good word” list. Rather, seek more powerful, differentiating words like “formidable” and “catalyst.”

For the “bad words” encourage people to identify jargon (e.g. “solutions”). Have them identify words someone might use, but you would rather they did not (e.g. you are a nonprofit but people might assign you the “trade association” label and you’d rather they didn’t). Resist the urge to write down words that simply are opposite of what is on the “good word” list.

Now, watch the sparks fly as the Chief Marketing Officer throws out the word “creative” and your Chief Financial Officer’s eyes grow wide with surprise. Creative? Doesn’t that mean risky? the CFO may ask. The CMO may respond, it’s what sells. The CFO then retorts, There is selling and then there is staying in business. You get the picture.

Open the discussion to talk about why certain words are important to use and the words that are important to avoid. By having an open dialogue, you can get prejudices and default language out into the open. From there you can address disconnects and inappropriate language that may be causing confusion or a misinterpretation of who you are in the marketplace.

This exercise also helps boost your messaging by throwing out the old tired words and forces everyone to seek out some really differentiating and special words that only you can claim.

At first blush this exercise appears to be far too simple. It is simple. But, it could be one of the most eye-opening things you do around messaging.