495: Steps to Effective Executive Storytelling
In truth, a lot of storytelling done by leaders is not effective. By following some simple criteria, leaders can improve their executive storytelling drastically. In episode 495, Dave Mastovich talks about how leaders can improve their executive storytelling using five simple steps.
It’s the No Bullshit Marketing Show. I’m Dave Mastovich, CEO and founder of MASSolutions, the world’s only No Bullshit Marketing consultants.
Have you ever sat through a presentation by a leader? The founder, the president of the company, the CEO, Senior VP, Director, one of the Chief’s Chief Operating Officer, Chief Executive Officer, Chief Marketing Officer. And at the end of the presentation or meeting, you kind of left thinking, “I don’t know what that was all about.” Nodding? Or maybe you thought, “That wasn’t super impressive. Or, not sure I get her. Not sure I relate to him.” I think the answer is yes, for most of us. And it’s all about effective executive storytelling, storytelling for leaders. Today, I want to walk through some steps to effective executive storytelling to help leaders tell their story better, whether that is in a presentation at a town hall meeting or all hands meeting, whether it’s a weekly meeting with their leadership team, whether it’s an appearance on a podcast, a presentation to the board, a guest speaker at some sort of group meeting, or even speaking to a group of college students, it can be the whole gamut, talking to regular employees, just when you’re doing walking around management. All of that is executive storytelling, all that is leadership storytelling. And sadly, the majority of it isn’t effective.
Now what I’m going to do is I’m going to walk you through Five Steps to Effective Executive storytelling, effective leadership storytelling. The first is to decide on one and only one major takeaway. Okay, I’ve lost everybody. No, some of you stayed long. Decide on one and only one major takeaway. Doesn’t mean you can’t talk about three or four or five supporting points underneath that one major takeaway, but you better, before you step in front of an audience, have one and only one major takeaway. If you don’t, you are kidding yourself because your message is going to be lost, and people aren’t going to take away the three or four or five things that you thought were really important, significant ideas.
So this is going to frustrate some leaders, because they’re going to say, well, “I need to be able to go in there and talk about five things.” Okay, you might still talk about those five things. But can you make an overarching theme that makes that point and those five become supporting pillars under it? That’s what I’m encouraging you to do is step one is decide on one and only one major takeaway. I talked a lot about using the two why questions before any major storytelling opportunity. Your why or reason for being in that situation. Why are you presenting to this audience? Why are you talking to this person? Why are you talking to this group? Why are you in front of this crowd? Your why or reason for being in that situation, and their why, their reason for buying your presentation. And sometimes that reason will be slightly different for each segment of that audience. But sometimes it will be because I have to be here and I can’t wait until the meeting is over. If that’s a piece of it, that’s going to change how you build your big idea, which is what comes out of the two why questions. Your why or reason for being in that situation and their why or reason for buying what you’re explaining, the ideas you’re going over. Answer those two why questions, be honest about it. And decide on one major big idea, one big idea. It’s one major takeaway for that particular storytelling event. Then you can have three to five supporting storytelling pillars that are stats or regulations or rules or ideas or thoughts that roll up under the big thing. That’s point number one. I already have some people frustrated, maybe.
Point number two with executive storytelling, effective executive storytelling, and effective leadership storytelling is leave the ego at the door. It’s about making yourself relatable to the audience so they can trust you. I bring this stat out a lot. It’s a study from within the last year. 58% of employees would rather trust a stranger than their boss. Part of that is because leaders, when they’re doing their leadership storytelling, their executive storytelling, aren’t making themselves relatable. They aren’t making them, the audience, feel comfortable. When you’re relatable, people begin to trust you more. So you need to leave that ego at the door. It’s not about you being the founder. It’s not about you being the VP of this or the director of that. It’s about making them, the audience, comfortable, so that they are more open to your one big idea that you’re going to present. When you want to talk about yourself, only use stories about you that show vulnerability and lessons learned. So that’s all part of leave the ego at the door. Step two.
The third step to Effective Executive storytelling is make it about them, the audience. What’s in it for them? How do they consume content? And what’s their mindset? What type of pop culture references might you use? What do you know about them? Step three, make it about them, your audience.
Step four is seek feedback. You want to ask open-ended questions. If that audience is 50 people, you can still ask open ended questions. If it’s 10, you can ask open-ended questions. If it’s one, you can ask open-ended questions. If it’s 1000, you can ask open-ended questions. Repeat back what you think you heard to confirm. Answer that question as best you can, tying back to your one big idea, your one major takeaway. Track what you heard when you asked the open-ended questions, and then do something about it when you’ve heard something similar again and again. So you now ask this open-ended question to audience A, audience B, audience C. Yes, three to five open-ended questions, and you start hearing the same answer multiple times. Hmm. Better look into this, maybe this is an opportunity to show that I listen and to improve something for everyone involved, including our customers. So the fourth one is seek feedback.
The fifth one is less is more. Now I’m going to refer back to number two, leave your ego at the door. Because when I say less is more that means this: What you thought was an appropriate amount definitely needs to be reduced by at least 20%. What you thought was an appropriate amount definitely needs to be edited down by at least 20%. Less is more. If you think it’s a 15 minute presentation, you think you’ve put together stuff to make a 15 minute presentation, odds are you’ve made a 28 minute presentation, you need to cut down half of that probably, so you have time for open-ended questions so you can do number four, seek feedback. When you’re making any kind of presentation that’s on a display or anything, you want to use big images so there’s a clear one takeaway from each image. You want to use memorable stats, 58% of employees rather trust a stranger than their boss. I don’t care who you are, that’s a memorable stat for you. And of course, you want to use anecdotes and analogies, preferably stories you’ve heard about people similar to who’s in the audience. Anecdotes and analogies that tie back to the people you see in front of you that are in that audience, whether it’s on Zoom, whether it’s in person, whether it’s in a hall, auditorium, whether it’s in a small setting, whether it’s in your office with three people, anecdotes and analogies that make your points for you. So those are the Five Steps to effective executive storytelling, leadership storytelling.
If you’d like to hear more about this executive storytelling and how you can be more effective as a leader, reach out to me at Dave@MASSolutions.biz. I answer all the emails and provide as much value as I can doing so.
Thanks for listening to another episode of the No Bullshit Marketing Show recorded here in MASSolutions studio in bold, beautiful, downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Remember, ask yourself, what’s the big idea? And build your story around the answer. It’s all about bold solutions. No BS.