When networking or building relationships, your ability to tell stories is invaluable. I’d bet you can think of a few exceptional storytellers, but how does your ability to tell stories compare?
To help you lean into storytelling and become a more effective communicator, I’m excited to welcome The Message Fixer – Ashley Bright. For a number of years, Ashley has worked in Design and Marketing, where he developed a knack for crafting irresistible messaging and telling stories. His skills have afforded him some amazing opportunities, including pitching ideas to Fortune 500 companies like AT&T, Microsoft, and Target.
He’s even launched his own private coaching company called Ashley Bright Presents, where he empowers leaders and teams to confidently communicate their ideas, avoid costly mistakes, and achieve their goals through workshops, one-on-one coaching, and speaking engagements.
So, let’s get after it! Check out Ashley Bright on the full episode right now by clicking the Play Button above!
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To catch up on all the Guest Features from Season 1, you can click here to check out the Season 1 Recap.
Hey! What’s going on? I’m Steven Miller, and this is Ignition Point – the show that gets you fired up and ready to win the week.
For the next few episodes, we’re shifting focus to discuss identity and the ways we communicate. This is a perfect change of pace following our month on gratitude and giving, but it’s also right for the time of year.
The holidays are filled with lots of time spent with friends, family, colleagues, and your community. So, whether you’re an introvert who’s dreading it, an extrovert who’s overjoyed, or you’ve got mixed feelings, you better get ready for a lot of social time.
Beyond working on developing quick wit or the gift of gab, I think the skill that can help the most this time of year is your ability to tell stories. Stories can ignite others to reach higher, educate, inspire movements, and even open our minds.
If you think about it, I’d bet you can think of a few exceptional storytellers. They’re captivating and trustworthy, but how does your ability to tell stories compare? Is your messaging on point?
For those familiar with today’s guest, you might know him as The Message Fixer, but for those who don’t, I’m excited to welcome Ashley Bright.
For a number of years, Ashley has worked in Design and Marketing, where he developed a knack for crafting irresistible messaging and telling stories. These skills have afforded him some amazing opportunities, including pitching ideas to Fortune 500 companies like AT&T, Microsoft, and Target. He’s even launched his own private coaching company where he teaches others to improve the quality of their own messages.
His business – Ashley Bright Presents – empowers leaders and teams to confidently communicate their ideas, avoid costly mistakes, and achieve their goals through workshops, one-on-one coaching, and speaking engagements.
So, let’s get after it! Here to share his perspective on why you need to lean into storytelling, this is Ashley Bright.
THE WEEKLY MONOLOGUE WITH ASHLEY BRIGHT
So, I come from a design background. I’m a designer, I’m an artist, I’m a creative person; and what I would see time and time again was people not able to communicate and share great ideas and it drove me crazy.
I wanted to solve that problem. I wanted to end the scourge of bad, ineffective, boring presentations and meetings because they’re just such a waste of human energy. I firmly believe that we need innovative ideas. We need new people and new perspectives in order to move things forward in order to be successful.
I say this in many of my talks that, “we as human beings are creatures of narrative.” Thousands and thousands of years ago, before we had PowerPoint or before we had analytics and all these other things to throw at people, what we did have was story. And so, our ancestors were able to sit around a campfire and share those stories so they knew where to get water, where to hunt, where shelter was, which people they could trust and which they couldn’t.
We’re still human beings. If we can get people doing that every day, all over the world; I think that we can solve some really, really big problems.
I get to take people who are already passionate and smart, and I just help them kind of turn a dial here and turn a dial there so that other people feel it; other people understand that passion; other people understand their credibility and they trust them.
Your teams, your people are looking to you to help them understand how to be successful and quite frankly to motivate them to work hard, to innovate, to push through challenges. So – as a leader – a story-driven messaging and a story-driven approach to that hooks people, it helps them feel that they are connected. It builds trust, it builds bonds. That’s where that authentic connection and relationship comes from.
If you are not bringing in story-driven messaging, you are not inspiring people. You’re not motivating people to take action.
The really important thing to understand about stories is that when you use stories, what you are actually doing is creating a chemical change in the body of the person you’re speaking to. Because when we hear stories, our bodies naturally release dopamine, endorphins and oxytocin; and these chemicals – when released in our body – they create bonds, they create connections, they create emotional engagement. They help calm you, they help motivate you.
And so, if you’re in the mindset of trying to persuade someone to see your point of view on anything – it could be a very small thing or it could be a massive initiative or a sales opportunity – if they are in a mindset of trust, if they are calm and in a creative mindset; they’re so much more willing to adopt your ideas and see your point of view.
You are trying to influence people. You are trying to get people to see your perspective. Regardless of what your ultimate outcome is, you want them to understand where you’re coming from, you want them to feel a sense of trust, and feel that you have credibility and you’re knowledgeable in this space and they want to see that confidence. All of those things are what story-driven messaging and a story-driven approach brings to that relationship.
Logic is critical as well, but it’s a follow on. If you haven’t hooked them with a story; if you haven’t created that meaningful connection, then that logic is not going to factor in. It’s not going to resonate with them.
If you have not earned the right to speak to someone from that standpoint – meaning it’s a first interaction with them – your brain actually blocks that logic because, as amazing as our brains are, our brains are pretty lazy unless they already have a trust and an understanding and really know why it matters.
Whereas when you approach it with story, that sort of opens the door. They understand when you drop a stat who it is that that stat refers to, what problem that stat refers to, how your solution or your product or your service is going to solve that problem, and they care about it.
So, when we talk about stories, we need to talk about structure. All stories have a particular structure. There’s a variety of different ones – some of them simple, some of them more complex – but a very kind of common one that’s really important to understand – and I think does a great job of representing kind of how powerful stories can be – is when you talk about a story, every great story needs a hero and a villain. And in every great story that hero is going to go on a journey; a journey of discovery. And along the way they’re going to encounter not only the villain, but they’re going to encounter a number of obstacles along the way and to get to the completion of that story, they’re going to need to overcome those obstacles. They’re going to be transformed in that process and of course they’re going to defeat the villain.
You can start to apply that story structure to a whole variety of different scenarios. So, you want to start thinking about – in your business or in your organization – where might these stories fit? Where are some great opportunities?
It could also be as a leader, something that you talk about with regard to yourself. How did you come up with this idea? How did you meet your cofounder? How long have you been trying to solve this problem? Why are you passionate about this?
These are all great story opportunities. Then it’s a matter of just applying that hero-villain type of structure I mentioned earlier. And what you do is you have two or three of these stories that you’re comfortable sharing. They can be great ways to kind of break the ice, build that connection, get whomever you’re speaking to, to understand why you’re passionate about this problem or this situation, and help open that door and build that meaningful relationship. The trick is that you’re looking for those moments of common ground, those moments of connection.
As a leader – regardless of what type of leader or what type of an organization or the dynamics of that leadership – you are by definition leading people. That requires inspiration, that requires motivation, that requires helping them overcome challenges that they may be having, and they need to trust you. They need to believe in you. They need to sort of share that vision that you have.
It helps break down the hierarchy and puts you guys on a similar level. So even though you may be the CEO, or you may be the person that came up with this idea, the people that are now executing on that vision, they feel a shared connection to you. They don’t feel like you’re above them or you’re better than them. They see you as a partner. They see you as an equal.
Because as a leader, if your sharing stories of triumph, stories of defeat, stories that are humorous, this is creating a dynamic in the organization where other people feel comfortable sharing those stories.
I think when human beings see that we all have shortcomings, we all struggle, we all have successes and failures; it creates a much more human and relatable dynamic within the organization.
So, let’s face it, being a leader is tough. Everybody is looking to you for guidance, for inspiration, to help them overcome challenges, help them know how to operate. Fortunately, stories and using a story-driven approach to the way you communicate will solve that problem; will allow you to inspire and engage and motivate people.
It’s not about stats. It’s not about logic. It’s not about evidence.
It’s about creating an emotional connection.
STRATEGY FOR SUCCESS
After hearing why and how Ashley approaches storytelling the way he does, I think anyone can see the value. But now, we’ve got to set the wheels in motion.
So, what stories should you tell and which should you avoid? Start by dividing your stories into three categories.
The first category is the Nice ‘n’ Easy Stories.
Nice ‘n’ Easy Stories are mostly made up of the little interesting things that happen to you over the course of a day in your life. Like most stories they have a clear beginning, middle, and end, but they’re quick and to the point.
Our second category is dubbed the Heartstring Stories.
These are the stories where you put a little more of your character, beliefs, opinions, and ideas on display. The risk level here is the same as it is on Social Media, in that there’s a chance someone might be diametrically opposed to your beliefs.
In my opinion, these stories are pretty safe, especially if you use Social Media for measurement. So, try sharing these stories and the Nice ‘n’ Easy Stories in casual settings. Those situations are great for practice.
Whenever a story involves showing vulnerability, your pain points, failure or risks embarrassing you, it’s a perfect fit for Secret Time. Stories bound to Secret Time are meant only for the people you feel safe sharing with and should only be shared once you get to the skill level that matches the degree of their secrecy. Otherwise, Secret Time could blow up in your face.
So, what two to three stories can you call on from the Nice ‘n’ Easy and Heartstring categories? Or more importantly, what stories in these two categories are story worthy?
My best advice for you here is to look back on your experiences in terms of first, last, best and worst.
What was your first interview like? What did you learn from the last time you experienced a failure? What’s the best advice you’ve ever received from a mentor and how has it shaped you? What is the worst experience you’ve ever had with a colleague and how did you resolve it?
Once you’ve got a couple of ideas, you can take Ashley’s approach of telling it through the structure of a Hero’s Journey and storyboard your ideas. Just keep in mind that every story starts before the main events.
You’ve got to preface by going somewhere, wanting something, or doing something. Think of sharing a big difficult goal. Then go step by step.
Beginning, transition, middle, another transition, and end. Paint a full picture and start practicing.
Personally, I like to start by outlining the goals I had in the moment, and then building around that. Stick to the truth and don’t embellish in the details. Your listener will always see right through a BS story. So, stay authentic.
The other piece of the puzzle is remembering that there is a right way for a story to come out in conversation. Don’t force it. If you want to give a new story a test flight, the best way to set yourself up is by asking better questions of the people you engage with.
I’ve mentioned this before, but people like to talk about themselves, so tee up some questions that give you an opportunity to Segway into your story.
Once you’ve got the green light, give it a go and remember that delivery really does matter. Hook your listener and pay attention to your tone, cadence and emotions. Make sure that you’re carrying a natural momentum, progressing the story at an appropriate tempo and engaging with your listener periodically.
There is nothing worse than losing your listener mid-story, so stay on topic and keep the details relevant. If you’re concerned that you’ve moved away from the moral of the story, remind yourself what you want the listener to get out of the story. Course correct, and then put a bow on it.
Look, you’re not alone in this. Storytelling can seem like an undertaking if you don’t prep for it the right way. It takes thoughtful planning, practice, and testing, but when you communicate with story-driven messaging, you can take your relationships to a whole new level.
I’d like to give a big thank you to Ashley Bright for contributing to this week’s show.
As Ashley often says, “There are two types of leaders. Those who can communicate effectively, and those who can’t. What type of leader are you?”
To all the business leaders listening, did you realize how important messaging is to the success of your business? What we talked about today can directly impact your ability to attract investment, attract customers, attract top talent, and increase your influence as a leader.
So, if you’re tired of losing money to bad messaging, or worse yet, you don’t know if you have bad messaging, you should schedule a free call with Ashley to find out. To schedule your free consultation visit “themessagefixer.com.“
To connect with Ashley, check out this episode’s Show Notes at DecisiveLeap.com/IgnitionPoint. There you’ll find links to his social accounts, his contact info and more bonus content.
If you enjoyed this episode, please share the show with someone you think it would help and if you’re listening on Apple Podcasts, I’d really appreciate it if you’d leave a review for the show. Otherwise, you’re always welcome to send your thoughts and feedback to me directly by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
New episodes of Ignition Point are available every Monday, so be sure to follow the show wherever you get your podcasts.
Well, that’s going to do it for this episode!
So, stay motivated and keep moving forward.
If you put in the hard work right now – one day – you could be the one motivating the world with your story.
I’ll look forward to speaking with you next time on another Ignition Point.
Now get on out there and win the week!