Will Storr’s book “The Science of Storytelling” is intended to be read by fiction writers. However, the posts are highly applicable to any other domain that uses the storytelling tool to grab and hold people’s attention.
As a startup founder, you have to be a pretty good storyteller if you want to attract different stakeholders to your project. This is especially true in the early stages of your project. When people buy your idea, they buy the story of how the project is likely to unfold.
With this in mind, here are some tips from the book that can help you become a better storyteller as a startup founder:
1. The brain longs for change
‘Almost all perception is based on the detection of change’ – neuroscientist Professor Sophie Scott
Change is an opportunity or a danger. In this context, it’s not hard to imagine why our brains have evolved to respond as quickly as possible to perceived change.
Therefore, if you want to capture the attention of your audience, your startup story needs to involve a meaningful change.
For example, instead of selling customers product X with functions Y, you should sell them the idea that there is a new way for their colleagues to solve their problems. The perceived opportunity to gain a competitive advantage or the perceived threat of being left behind is what would capture your audience’s attention long enough to allow you to tell your story.
The important disclaimer here is that if your “hook” that promise change isn’t creative enough, it wouldn’t work. In an environment where every innovative company promises to change the rules of the game, the same promise from yet another company would not mean meaningful change – on the contrary, it would be business as usual.
2. Ignoring expectations sparks curiosity
In fact, it’s a deadly waste of startup stories to fall into the “another company that…” category.
You have to make your story different somehow. Perhaps one of your founders has an unusual background. Perhaps your solution uses an unusual technology. Perhaps you entered a phase of your startup unusually quickly, or with unusually little money.
all that is counter-intuitive and contrary to expectations is a great tool to grab the attention of different stakeholders. Your audience would want to know more to explain this anomaly. Information gaps arouse curiosity and people have a desire to fill it.
To take full advantage of this feature, it’s important to avoid over-explaining. It would be counterproductive to arouse curiosity in your audience to satisfy it with a few sentences. You need to communicate your message before closing them and letting them move on.
3. You are not the hero of your story
“Anyone who is psychologically normal thinks he’s the hero.” Will Storr
When asked to tell your startup’s story, it’s intuitive to tell it from your point of view. After all, the founders are the heroes who make the project a success against all odds.
While this could be an interesting story to tell the startup community once the startup has achieved major success (or failure), it’s not a story that will really help you get where you want to go.
To touch people and make them act, you have to tell a story that revolves around them.
“If there is one secret to success, it lies in the ability to understand the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s point of view as well as your own.” – Dale Carnegie
Putting yourself in the shoes of others is by far one of the key skills startup founders should have. It is necessary to build a product that people need, but it is also necessary to tell a compelling story that would influence people and make them act in your favor.
So when you tell your story to a stakeholder, make them the protagonist. What they care about is how your project would affect their lives, not how it affected yours.
In summary, when telling your story:
- Grab people’s attention by signaling a meaningful change
- Breaking expectations to spark curiosity
- The person you talk to is your main character