How to Tell A Story…Watch This And Be Inspired

B2B marketers feel challenged to create compelling content.  We blindly pursue writing headlines that makes potential buyers drop everything to click on our links or give us a call. Or we chase the two-sentence value proposition that magically opens the door for our sales guys.

What we miss sometimes is the power of a story to get our message across. 

Humans love stories.  We learn from them.  Stories are part of our DNA: ever since we evolved from grunts to language, we have sat around campfires — or dining room tables — and told stories that share experiences.  Storytelling is a profound way to convey information to others in a form that is easy to remember. But B2B marketers get caught up in explaining why what we offer is better, cheaper, faster, more exciting, or more innovative. We lose sight of how a simple story — told by another customer or an employee with real, first-hand insight– can make our message come alive.

Since March, I’ve shared a few of my experiences managing the Xerox TEDMED sponsorship. I’ve talked about my new adventures in corporate sponsorship, messaging to healthcaredeveloping advertising, and surprising delegates with something unexpected.  All of which flexed new marketing muscles in me.  Now I want to share a TEDMED moment that will affect you in a profound way.  

Watch this video from TEDMED 2012. It will change your life and strike a deep emotional chord. I know this because it did to all the people who listened that day. In this video, Ed Gavagan tells a gripping tale about the medical expertise that saved him after a random violent encounter. It’s 12 and 1/2 minutes and worth every one.

So watch it and don’t be tempted to bail out after the first minute or two.  Because, as presentations go, this one has a few flaws.  Ed stumbles around in his speech a little. He stands in one place. He seems a bit uncomfortable. He doesn’t make a lot of eye contact with the audience. He doesn’t use slides. He doesn’t have props.  He doesn’t use gestures a lot.

But what he does well is tell an amazing story.

At the risk of ruining the moment, here are 3 things every B2B marketer can learn from watching how Ed tells a story:

1) Be authentic. While the presentation doesn’t look rehearsed, it is. However, Ed tells his story from the heart and with rich details that make you feel what transpired deeply. You connect with his story at a very basic level. Transparency, honesty, and realism count so much more than polish. If you need to spend time on your content, do it on the former not the later.

2) Surprise your audience. Using a flashback as the main part of the story is an unexpected twist that draws you into the action. Sometimes not following a linear progression, doing the unexpected (like the way Ed inserts humorous moments into the talk), and challenging your audience’s preconceived notions create the most memorable moments.

3) Tie it all back together. There is no obvious ”in summary” or “let me review my key points” in this talk. Yet Ed elegantly draws all the storylines back together at the end to thank an audience made up of many medical professionals for being who they are in the world.

Watch the video and let me know what you see in Ed’s storytelling that B2B marketers should follow.  Share your thoughts. 

And if you really want to experience something poignant, listen to the 25 second Q&A at the end of the session (the shortest one of TEDMED 2012) where Jay asks Ed to explain the real reason why the surgeon didn’t cut his long hair…

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