Before giving a storytelling presentation, do we know what our clients and audiences really want? That leads me to this story:
For Christmas, her written wish list said she wanted “coin rolls.”
My wife, who is the real Santa’s Helper around our house, therefore bought a bag of empty and ready-to-fill coin holders for the daughter who requested them. We knew the daughter had a huge collection of unrolled coins (saving for a Disneyland trip) and thought she was just trying to get organized.
When Christmas morning rolled around, the daughters merrily opened their gifts. Once the gift of the bag of coin rolls were opened, the daughter looked at them quizzically and then to my wife. She clearly did not understand why she received the empty coin rolls.
My wife asked, “Isn’t that what you wanted? Didn’t you ask for the holders for all your loose change?”
Replied the daughter, “Okay, oh, I see...for coins. Thank you.” Not unappreciatively, she set them aside and thanked us.
Later that day, my wife asked her why she was so confused by the gift. “Oh,” said daughter, “I was thinking I could get some filled coin rolls to add to my Disneyland funds. I was surprised by the empty ones.”
Parent note: it’s more fun to be surrounded by piles of coins instead of paper money.
This “Coin-Roll Christmas” has been a good laugh for our house for some time.
We think we know what they (our kids, our audience, our boss, our clients) want. Do we?
1. Speak to your clients often. Sometimes a written list is not enough.
Should the coin rolls be filled or empty? In our day of Emails and social media and so much written communication in digital black and white, we might think we understand what our clients want from our storytelling presentation. When they write, “we want our team to be empowered by your presentation” you’ll want to be sure that you know for sure what “empowered” means. Do they want your storytelling stories to inspire your team members to be motivated to make independent decisions or empowered to be more of a collaborative team?
2. Assume nothing about your audience.
We were the parents. We looked at her pile of coins and thought, “Oh, you want to be more organized.” The daughter wanted more cash in the form of coins. That was a big difference. We never asked. We assumed. For your next opportunity to share stories, do you really know the who, what and why of your audience or are you assuming you can, instead, figure it out for them?
3. Be focused on the goals of your listeners.
Daughter wanted cash. We wanted her to sort her sprawling pile of coins. You want to entertain your audience with your witty stories while they want practical skills learned in your presentation. You want the audience to make donations to your charity and they want to know why your nonprofit even exists. You want your stories to show how eager, complex and limber your company is and your clients just want to know “what’s in it for me.”
Now, the miscommunication regarding the coin rolls is something we laugh about. It’s one of those family stories that makes us giggle. When you misread, assume or lose focus on your clients, when your storytelling is about what you think they want instead of what they want or need, how quickly could you recover?
Take the time to really hear your client’s need before a single story comes from your lips.
Share This Article on Facebook Share this article on Twitter
Sean Buvala has been storytelling since 1986. He is the director of Storyteller.net, a workshop leader and author in the field of storytelling. Get his “Storytelling 101” Eworkbook learning kit and you’ll be telling better stories and impacting your listeners by this time tomorrow.