Tag Archives: tell a great story

When You Don’t Know The Score Of The Football Game.

“The things we create tower over us.” — Matt Dopkiss

I was watching an old college football game on ESPN Classic the other day. It was from the 80s.

My mom walked into the room.

“What’s the score?” she asked.

Not sure, I told her.

“How much time is left?” she asked.

No idea, I confessed.

“How many yards do they need for a first down?” she asked.

Uhhhhhh, I said.

There was no on-screen scoreboard. There was no clock. There was no yellow first-and-10 line.

I’d been watching this game for 15 minutes, and I hadn’t the slightest idea what I was looking at. I had a football game in front of me, that much I knew, but I didn’t have any context to understand it.

Early football games — and when I say early, I mean “as recently as 20 years ago” — didn’t give viewers even the most basic information on screen. And as a result, viewers like me often got left in the dark.

If you’re trying to tell a great story, the same holds true. Ask yourself: Am I giving my listeners/readers/viewers/customers the necessary context to understand my story? Do they know what’s happening? And where? And why?

Drama is great, but if your audience doesn’t know the score, they’ll be left wondering what the hell they just saw.

Give them context, and then give them a story to match.

What Would You Say You Do Here?

“Life. It’s the stories you tell.” — Eric Garland

There’s a thing that any entrepreneur needs to learn how to do in his/her career — if he/she wants to be a successful entrepreneur, that is.

Make the pitch.

You’re at a conference. You’re at an event. You find yourself seated next to Bill Gates on an airplane.

You’ve been working on something. Maybe it’s a business. Maybe it’s your career.

You have a really short window of time to make an impression, because here comes a big question:

“What would you say you do here?”

This is where you need to avoid your instincts. This isn’t the time to dish out a job title. You’re not talking to HR. You’ve got Bill Gates next to you!

You’ve been given a tiny window to wow him with your story.

But this situation isn’t just limited to people pitching a company or a product. Every single person needs to figure out their story — and how to pitch it.

So what’s your story? It’s a combination of your work and your passion. We need a little taste of what it is you make/build/do and a lot of why you do it. Your story is the thing that tells us why you’re great, and why we need to pay attention.

Take Sam Jones of Formation Media. Here’s his story:

I’ve met Sam several times and each time I’ve been at an event with him I’ve heard his opening line, “My name is Sam Jones. I buy dead magazines.” He gets a stare every time. You can’t help but lean forward and want to hear what the next line is. He’s a master. He waits for a brief moment and lets the suspense build. He knows your next line in advance, “Excuse me? You do what?”

And once he’s hooked you, he gets into the story, explaining how he does what he does and who he works with.

When I work with young reporters, I ask them how they’re pitching themselves for jobs. There are thousands of young reporters out there applying to the same small pool of jobs. To get one, you’ve got to stand out.

I encourage reporters to pitch themselves differently. Let everyone else send the standard cover letter. Instead, tell me: What do you do?

I build great communities around stories.

I use data to tell great stories.

I listen, I learn — and then I share with my readers.

Something like that can stand out. And when you brand it across your platforms — on your blog, your Twitter bio, your resume — it really drives the point home.

What you’ll learn is that it’s surprisingly easy to stand out. The masses are all doing the same thing. Even taking a few steps out of the mainstream will get you noticed.

Then it’s just a matter of doing the work to establish yourself as someone truly different.

If you get on that plane with Bill Gates, here’s all I ask: Don’t tell him your job title. Tell him what you’re working on. Tell him why you’re passionate about it.

Tell him a great story.

It won’t be hard to do. After all, it’s your story.