What’s Your Story?

by Matt Mattson

whats-your-storyThem: “So, what’s this organization you’re a part of all about?”

You: “When I was young, I always wanted to be a part of something important, didn’t you?  I wanted to matter.  I wanted to do something truly remarkable.  You know what I mean?  I found that in this organization. Let me give you an example.  A group of us recently did this amazing project that took sweat, hard work, and long hours, and the whole time I was smiling for two reasons — the other members I was working with were amazing, driven, passionate people; and the work we were doing was changing lives — we were making a difference.  I looked in the eyes of the people we were helping and the other members of my organization and I saw a reflection of the best of me.  This group is helping me become a better person.  We are working together to make a real change in the world, and along the way we’re becoming better versions of ourselves. You’re like me… you value the same things. You want to matter. Do you have something like this in your life? Would you like to join us next time we’re doing a project like that?”

When you have the rare opportunity to explain your organization to someone, do you know how to make the most of it?

Unfortunately many people waste those opportunities by talking about what their organization does.

Tell a story. Tell a personal, emotional, directional, and invitational story.  Do not convey facts, figures, or data.  Inspire.  Connect on a Heart-to-Heart level.

Attempt to share a story that includes all four of these elements.

Personal: Your organization is an important part of your life. So tell a personal story. Dr. Brene Brown (who we’ve mentioned before) suggests that life is really all about interpersonal connection. People want to connect with people on a deep instinctual level.  Get to the heart of what your listener really wants to hear — a personal story, a testimonial about how your organization has changed your life for the better.  Make your story personal.

Emotional: Passion, excitment, sorrow, struggle, joy, fulfillment, rage, justice, fanaticism, pride… Whatever emotion your organization evokes in you, share that with your listener.  When people are interested in associating with an organization, it is often for reasons rooted in the most primal parts of our brain — not logic, but emotion.  Start with Why. Share an story filled with emotion.

Directional: Where is your organization going? What is it trying to accomplish? Your story must communicate direction.  Not just what you have done.  Not just what you’re doing.  But where you’re going, what you’re going to do, and why you’re excited to be headed in that direction.  Vision. Share a story that communicates direction.

Invitational: Your personal story should include some space for them to imagine themselves. Share a story that invites an opportunity to create their own personal story.

We’ve discussed this topic before.  See this post from 2009, and this post from 2008.