Engage Your Audience By Telling Stories

By Melissa Brown, MD

Engage Your Audience By Telling Stories

Humans are wired for storytelling. It’s how we’ve communicated with one another since language developed past the grunting phase. Storytelling evolved as the best way to convey information, make an emotional connection with others and pass along history. Human brains think in pictures and a great storyteller is able to engage their audience members to be able to imagine they’re right in the story. An engaged audience member feels as if she’s experiencing everything as the story is told.

Storytelling doesn’t have to be complicated.

You might think you’re not a good storyteller but think again. Storytelling is not some huge overwhelming and difficult task. Don’t overthink whether something is a good enough story to tell. And don’t second guess yourself into analysis paralysis about when or if to use a great story to connect with your audience. Almost any reason for connecting with your community is a great opportunity to engage them by telling a story. And remember, you have something that no one else has. Your story! Actually, let’s make that plural–your stories. These stories are unique to you. And you’ve got tons of them unfolding around you every day, just waiting for the right time to pop into action.

What actually is your job as a storyteller?

Your job is to craft a narrative that draws your reader in and keeps her interested. Do it right, and she’ll share your content with her friends and colleagues, greatly expanding your reach. Do it poorly, and she might read your post or your email, but likely she’ll be gone in a matter of seconds. Chances are, she won’t buy from you, let alone even remember you or your message. That’s because you won’t have made a connection.

Here are some practical uses for stories that will engage all types of audiences:

Share stories in your emails

You’ve most likely read many emails with stories included. A recent scan down the email subject lines in my phone’s email inbox revealed these teasers. All of them led immediately to a story:

Subject line: A story for you . . .

OK, this was a dead-giveaway I was gonna get a story. I wasn’t disappointed. The story in this email was a parable that highlighted the value of your knowledge. Even more so, it stressed the value of knowing where to apply that knowledge for the best chance at success.

Subject line: I’M SCREAMING (yes–all caps) . . .

This was an email from a goddess of copywriting, Laura Belgray. Of course, she had an amazing story in her email–all about the new social platform called Clubhouse. This email was all about her take on the merits of being on Clubhouse and there were umpteen story threads within that one email! It was a fascinating read. Laura pulls me into her emails every time since she more or less guarantees to share a great story.

Subject Line: What I Wish I Would Have Done Differently In My First Year of Business  . . .

With a subject line like that, the story in this email was more or less guaranteed to be a before-after type story. And it was. The story focused on the author’s journey and mistakes that were made early in her business.  The call to action was to come over to her website to read 4 blogs that highlighted what she failed to do and the consequences of her mistakes. Of course, there was a point to this story. The author is offering to help the reader avoid the mistakes she had made.

I think you must be getting the idea, right? Having a list is a wonderful way to connect with people. Email subscribers expect to get valuable information from you regularly. This is a great opportunity to share an anecdotal personal story about your day or what’s happening in your world at the moment, You can also share a parable and connect the dots for your readers to some wisdom or an offer.

Email is a great way to use your personality. If you’re funny, share something that happened to you or someone you know–something that will get your readers laughing. If you’re more of the motivational/inspirational sort, share an inspiring story that will uplift and encourage your audience.

Use stories to illustrate your point when speaking and coaching

You’ll want to have some stories prepared for when you’re speaking from the stage giving speeches or webinars, during podcasts or summit interviews, or when you’re coaching clients. Use stories to build credibility or illustrate what you’re teaching. Telling personal stories in an intimate setting like coaching or a sales call can humanize the experience and make things more personal. If you’re using case study type stories, be sure to make the story details anonymous so that you don’t reveal anyone’s personal information.

During coaching time, share an example of a situation when you were confused, uninformed, or baffled, and how you got out of the situation and became wiser and better equipped to deal with life. Your clients and customers will appreciate your vulnerability and access to your inner journey.

Use social media to engage followers with stories

Social media is a great outlet to share stories. Facebook and Instagram offer an option called “stories” to share day-to-day information. Use the video features to express yourself, share a fun or interesting story, and build engagement and authority.

Consider creating a themed form of storytelling on social media. Have fun with it – share your commentary on the weather every day or pick a funny theme you can focus on that will make you stand out from the crowd. Consistency and enthusiasm are the keys to engaging people and building your audience.

There are very practical uses for stories in your everyday marketing and engagement. Stories aren’t just for platform speakers, although the stage is a perfectly good place to share your stories. You can find unique ways to use stories to engage and excite your audiences – whether you are sending them a quick email, a sales page, coaching call, or engaging them via social media.

Where is your favorite place to share your stories? Let me know in the comments below and include if you’ve found some unique way to share stories and engage your audience.

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About the author

Dr. Melissa Brown's career journey has always had an element of teaching. After retirement from clinical pediatric practice, Dr. Brown has taught and mentored as a healthy lifestyle coach, author, and speaker. She currently teaches solopreneurs and coaches how to stop being the world's best-kept secret. Her mission is to help you: Create great content. Impact people. Change the world.

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