Suppose you’re speaking to a business audience. A sure-fire way to capture their attention is with a story.

But you need to tell it well. That’s not hard, just follow these four rules. Let’s practice with a story about job interviewing.

1) Open with tension.

Bad: “I finally found a job after a lot of unsuccessful interviews.”

There’s no tension here—there’s not really even a story—because we already know the end.

Instead, present a problem that makes your audience wonder, “What happens next?”

Better: “After 124 unsuccessful interviews, I was convinced I’d never work again in the synthetic resin industry.”

2) Give appropriate detail.

Bad: “Several job interviews ended in less than 5 minutes flat. The shortest one was over in 1 minute, 29 seconds. I remember timing it with my Casio watch—it has a stopwatch function. The watch was a present from my ex-girlfriend. She was still my girlfriend when she gave me the watch, but I think the gift was her way of saying, ‘Time is running out, buddy.’”

You can err by giving too much or too little detail. Most people give too much.

Better: “The shortest interview ended right after we shook hands.

‘Bone-crushing,’ the interviewer muttered. ‘I’m going to need some ice.’ Then he ran out the room, and never returned.”

3) Make it visual.

Bad: “Being rejected isn’t fun.”

“Fun” is too abstract. Create a picture.

Better: “Being rejected is like getting kicked in the stomach by your ex-girlfriend (not that she ever did this, but it sure felt like that when we broke up).”

4) Close with your main point.

Bad: “So, I guess that’s it. Thanks for listening for more than 1 minute, 29 seconds, and for not kicking me in the stomach.”

What’s your point?  Make sure you have one, and make sure to spell it out.  Otherwise your story is irrelevant.

Better:  “So my point is, persist.  Persist at home, persist at work, and persist in the synthetic resin industry.”

Tip:  Pay attention to your stories, and your audience will pay attention to you.

© Copyright 2018 Paul Hellman. All rights reserved.

P.S. CAPTURE ATTENTION, every time you speak . . .

1) Sign up for one or both November workshops (Boston):

Your Point? Say It Concisely, Nov. 12. Limited to 8 people.

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