Storytelling for Personal Competitive Advantage

personal competitive advantage
Tell a Powerful Story and you can increase your personal competitive advantage

I advocate storytelling in your business presentations.

Stories can capture powerful ideas in a few robust storytelling strokes.

Stories involve your listeners better than any other competing technique.

But in telling a story, we can sometimes veer off-course.  We get so enamored with our own words that they build a momentum of their own, and they draw us along with their own impetus.

That’s why we should stay tethered to our main point.

Professional storyteller Doug Lippman calls this the MIP – the Most Important Point.

Storytelling and Your MIP

Christopher Witt is a competent coach for today’s executives, and he makes a powerful point about a story’s MIP.  He calls it the Big Idea:

 A good movie tells one simple, powerful story.  If you can’t sum it up in a sentence or two, it’s not a good story – and it won’t make a good movie. The same is true for a speech.  A movie tells one story.  A speech develops one idea.  But it’s got to be a good idea – a policy, a direction, an insight, a prescription.  Something that provides clarity and meaning, something that’s both intellectually and emotionally engaging. It’s got to be what I call a Big Idea.

What is your Most Important Point?  Your MIP?

Decide!

Decide and make that point the focus of your story.  Rivet your attention on that salient feature!

Let this be core of your story and build around it.

I urge you to focus on one point, because our tendency as business people is to include everything initially, or to add-on infinitum until the story collapses under its own weight.  The military calls this “mission creep,” and we can call it “story creep.”

Simple awareness of story creep is usually sufficient guard against it.

Your MIP Permeates Your Story

Your MIP should run through your story, both directly and indirectly.  It informs your story and keeps you on-track as you prepare your presentation.

At each stage of your presentation preparation, ask yourself and members of your group if the material at hand supports your MIP.

If it does not, then it does not belong in your story.

Storytelling does not mean that you rely upon emotion only.  You must have substance.

There must be a significant conclusion with each supporting point substantiated by research and fact and analytical rigor.  This should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway.

Actually, Ralph Waldo Emerson said it much better than I can:

Eloquence must be grounded on the plainest narrative.  Afterward it may warm itself until it exhales symbols of every kind and color, and speaks only through the most poetic forms; but, first and last, it must still be at bottom a statement of fact.  The orator is thereby an orator, that he keeps his feet ever on a fact.  Thus only is he invincible.  No gifts, no graces, no power of wit or learning or illustration will make any amends for want of this.

And so we gain incredible personal competitive advantage when we imbue our presentation with the drama inherent in an especially powerful story, told well.

An Especially Powerful Appearance

Presentation Appearance sends a message
Your Presentation Appearance sends a Powerful Message

Oftentimes, we don’t consider that our physical presentation appearance transmits messages to those around us.

Most certainly, the presentation appearance of a speaker before an audience conveys non-verbal signals.  This happens whether you are conscious of it or not.

Your appearance sends a message to your audience, and you cannot decide not to send a message with your appearance.

You cannot tell an audience to disregard the message your appearance transmits.  And you can’t dictate to an audience the message it receives.

What message does your presentation appearance transmit to people?

“Ageless Rebel” battling the “Man”?

That you don’t care?

That you’re confident?

That you are attentive to detail?

That you care about your dignity, your physique?

Bad Presentation Appearance - Personal Competitive Advantage
Presentation Appearance that Hinders your acquiring of Personal Competitive Advantage

Is your appearance one big flip-off to the world because you fancy yourself an ageless rebel, shaking your fist at the “man” and refusing to “conform” to the “rules?”

If so, then you pay a dear price for so meager a prize.

That price comes in the form of ceding personal competitive advantage to your peers, who may want to spend their personal capital for more luxurious rewards.

Many young speakers seem unaware of the messages that their appearance conveys.

Or worse, they attempt to rationalize the message, arguing instead what they believe that the audience “ought” to pay attention to and what it “ought” to ignore.

Presentation Appearance – Your Destiny?

You simply cannot dress for lazy comfort and nonchalance and expect to send a message that conveys seriousness, competence, and confidence.

This is the lesson that so many fail to grasp, even on into the middle management years.

“I’m a rebel and exude confidence and independence!” you think, as you suit up in the current campus fashion fad.

The message received is likely much different:  “You’re a slob with no sense of proportion or clue how to dress, and I’ll never hire you.”

The best public speakers understand the power of presentation appearance and mesh their dress with their message.

Take former President Barack Obama, for example.  He was and is a superb dresser, as are all presidents.  On occasion, you will see the President speaking in open collared shirt, his sleeves rolled up in “let’s get the job done” fashion.

And that’s usually the message he’s trying to convey in such dress: “Let’s get the job done . . . Let’s work together.”

Politics, Schmolitics . . .  He’s a Sharp Dresser

You never saw President Obama address the nation from the Oval Office on a matter of gravity with his jacket off and his sleeves rolled-up.

The messages must mesh.

The lesson here is that your dress ought to reinforce your message, not offer conflicting signals.

Here are suggestions to ensure a minimum pleasing presentation appearance . . .