How Do They Do It? Secrets of Great Storytelling

Twenty-five years after publicly announcing it, at a party in Cupertino, I’ve finally begun to work on my first mystery novel. The visit to Hampi, which ironically I did many years after I had visited Pompeii, was the catalyst to set my murder mystery in early 16th century Vijayanagara. If you think making daily sales calls is hard writing every day is harder still. And I’m not even talking about writing well, just putting words on paper.

As entrepreneurs, we have to be storytellers. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about making stuff up. Each day, whether we are trying to hire a new person, motivate an employee who can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, persuade an investor to make a bridge investment or trying to get a customer to buy or better yet pay us an advance, we are trying to persuade others. Make no mistake, persuasion is selling. In a manner of speaking, we are all sales folks. The sooner we accept it, the sooner we can get better at it.

It’s no accident that the best sales folks are good great storytellers. Here’s the good news, like most things storytelling is a learned skill. With a little attention to how others do it and a good deal of practice, we can all get better at it. November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) – and there’s no reason you can’t make a resolution or start a new habit on the 1st of November. Make improving your storytelling skills a goal. Notice I say improving, for we are all natural storytellers. Any time you’ve tried to lie to your mom, or a friend or fudged the facts with your spouse (none of which you’ve ever done of course!), you were telling a story—not necessarily well. Let’s get started. One of the simplest and most fun ways to do this is to join a ToastMaster’s club near you. Your storytelling will get better (mine certainly did) but at the very least you’ll make some new friends. It never hurts to have a life (and a few friends) outside of our businesses.

To make things easy for you, I’m sharing one video (below) and one article.- Get rolling.

Storytelling in a corporate setting – 11 examples

 

3 Rules to Keep Your Sanity in Social Media

“It seems like there is always another social network to join or another tool I’m supposed to learn. How can I keep up?”

You can’t, asserts Alexandra Samuel, CEO of Social Signal in her Harvard Business blog.

SM Marketing Madness @HubSpotImage by HubSpot via Flickr

Like all cliches, the assertion that the blogosphere is one giant echo chamber, has a good deal of truth to it. To newcomers, it appears there are the few and exalted stars of the blogosphere, and a vast ocean of unwashed unread masses, that is the rest of the us bloggers. Unlike in Mumbai or Hollywood, it doesn’t seem you can work your way up, being a waiter, then an extra, minor part player and eventually get that big break to become a star. Or then again, even without the casting couch, maybe building a social media brand is not that different from a movie career. A lot of hard work, some teeth gnashing, a great deal more of prayer,and a dash of luck to achieve your dreams goals.

So let’s learn from the folks who’ve gone before us. Having done a fair amount of stumbling myself, here are the insights I have gained, to keep my sanity in social media. And there’s a benefit to taking the long term view as Marc Meyer reminds us.

the summary

  • focus – pick a few sites to make your presence felt and stick with ’em. Use a tool such as Posterous or Tumblr to be able to write once & publish wide
  • specialize – be something very specific, even if it is to very few people. you are more likely to stand out and enjoy doing this in the long run. Others will find you.
  • community – better to have a few highly interactive friends than vast hordes of “ships that pass by the night”. Participate, give and weed periodically.

Focus We all have only so many hours in a day, that we can devote to any one thing. It is therefore critical to focus on a few – be it blogs you track/read (how many of us have more than 1000 unread posts in our feedreaders?), people you follow on Twitter, social media sites you will be on. If you had to pick only one, I’d choose Posterous or Tumblr – as these are simple ways to set up a your blog, even via email and get things sent out to all the other locations you’d like to be seen in. Sure focusing could mean that some times you are going to pick a Hi5 or a MySpace but find the world’s moved on to a FaceBook – you can move then. And using a tool such as FriendFeed or a Twitter client such as TweetDeck or Seesmic

Specialize Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Even when you think you are specialized, you can probably specialize further. Don’t be another parent blogger or Adobe Air specialist, dive deeper – be a father of pre-teens, or focus on UX on Air alone. It will be scary and will at times seem that you have gone too far. You can always step back, but focus on being yourself and bringing things of value to your reader. While Copyblogger.com and Lifehacker.com seem to have built broad based properties, that is not the place to start IMO, given where the world is in 2009.

Community The raison d’etre of social media is to build a community of interested, if not like-minded, individuals – a whole which is greater than the sum of its parts. This implies two-way and many-to-many conversations. The secret to building such a community is to give of yourself first, commenting, re-tweeting, meeting in person and virtually. All best done with small groups first. So focus on building a high degree of interaction, one of high quality rather than quantity. If you view your community as a garden, weeding it is just as important as seeding and watering it.

Focus, specialization and giving to the community will act as a virtuous cycle, if done right.

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