What’s your story?

No, I don’t mean your personal story. I mean your organization’s story. Why was it started? How has it changed? What is its purpose now? There are more questions to be answered, but the principle remains the same.

People love a good story, and really dislike long boring ones. Similar to PAR stories which people encourage you to use in interviews (problem, actions, result), learning how to describe and sell yourself and your organization will be a key in many situations such as networking, business-to-business transactions, donor relations, and developing the biography on your website!

So what makes a “good” story? Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as having a beginning, middle, and end. However, John Haydon gives us three tips for a compelling story: hook, hold, and payoff.

Hook – It’s exactly what it sounds like. What draws them in, piques their interest, hooks their attention? What causes them to stop and consider the rest of your story a priority? This is your hook. It can be as simple as an impressive stat, a pivotal/unusual moment, or something that makes the person listening wonder. Create an interesting picture, an outline of sorts that makes them eager to stay and hear you fill in the rest.

Hold – If your story is a good one (fingers crossed), it will hold your listener’s attention after they’re hooked. As Haydon says, “we pay attention as long as there are unanswered questions about the progression of the story.” So, don’t give it all up yet! Think about a movie. You know, it begins and you know that it ends. That’s not what you came for right? You came for the 2 hours in between those two points. You came to watch the details that explain to you why the end will is what it is and makes sense.

Payoff – And finally, you have your payoff. Crossing the finish line, finishing that test, living happily ever after. It is the resolution to your the questions. Don’t be ambiguous. Make sure your payoff is sound. A good story in a business sense should, in opinion, leave no questions unanswered. Not only that, make sure your payoff is worth their investment in your story! It’s always so underwhelming when the ending to a story is less than what it was built to be.

You can also use your payoff as a call-to-action. Because after all, a good story will make you feel personally involved or at least make you want to be.

I understand that not everyone has a knack for storytelling. Someone’s stories might be boring and lackluster, while others’ are grandeur and lengthy. The key is to know the story you’re trying to tell and to tell it clearly, concisely, and compellingly. It’s not always an easy task, but acquiring this skill might just get you a partnership with that company you’ve always wanted to work with!

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