6 ways to better pitch what you do: advice from a professional storyteller

Stride: Why is it so hard for people to tell their own story?

Michael: Look, the reality is that we all live off our story, but some of us are more willing to consciously cultivate it. Telling your own story brings up every personal fear, insecurity, and inadequacy. You constantly question yourself… am I saying this right? Am I bragging too much? Am I being a bore?

Stride: What are the biggest mistakes people make while telling their stories?

Michael: To tell a compelling story, you have to be building, creating, and talking about something that’s bigger than yourself. So often, I see people making two common mistakes:

1) They’re working in service to their ego’s self-validation. The look at me, I’m important, I’m a big deal… it’s one of the sad results of social media. Social media can absolutely be a tool for self-actualization, but there’s so much ego-validation going on. It’s important we each learn to wield the social media lightsaber.

2) The second biggest mistake people make is they only work in service to their client’s agenda. Over time, that can become really stifling.

So find something larger – more than your own needs or your client’s agenda – something bigger than yourself, that you’re working in service to.

Stride: As a storytelling teacher, is there a story formula you’ve built that people can follow?

Michael: The whole purpose of sharing your story is in service to who you want to be in relationship with. It’s about telling a story that they identify with as their own. You have to really think: how is this relevant to them? How are you inviting your desired audience into the relationship? Once you can speak their language, people say oh yeah, you belong here, you’re one of us. Most of us don’t spend enough time becoming fluent in the language of the world we want to be a part of.

Stride: Have you developed a simple question or sniff test that you pass all story ideas through before publishing?

Michael: Yes. In the back of everyone’s mind, the #1 question we’re all asking is: Are you selling me crap, or do you give a crap? You ask yourself this question for every item in your inbox and social media feed, so anything you put out publicly needs to pass the give a crap test.

Stride: About/Bio pages are so hard to write. Can you help us?

Michael: A simple little formula is WHO-WHAT-WHO. Who you are. What you do. Who you serve. Make that clear right out of the gates for your audience, and make sure the way you write it has a point of view. If you’re not sure about what POV to take, think about your industry/field/discipline and ask yourself: what’s missing from the conversation? What’s something really important in my field that people tend to overlook? Articulate your philosophy about what really matters.

Stride: What’s one thing everyone forgets about when telling their own story?

Michael: We’re all taught problem-solution growing up, essentially proving you’re right. Because of this, it’s possible you’re presenting your story in a way that is pushing people away, more than it’s attracting them.

We’re all taught as entrepreneurs/self-employed people to present a false sense of certainty. And this is where we mess up all the time –we over promise and under deliver. What you’re doing, by its very nature, is a speculative act. You have a business plan, but you have no idea how it’s going to unfold. You’re going to shift your product/offering, it’s going to have kinks. So the real question is: how do you show your customers that you’re bringing integrity to a speculative act? That is where trust is built. That is where your story succeeds.

[Michael Margolis is an educator, anthropologist, and business storyteller. He helps change-agents and innovators tell their bigger story. His work has been featured by Google, Fast Company, TEDx among other places. Michael is left-handed, color-blind, and eats more chocolate than the average human. Check out his tribe of 250,000+ on twitter @getstoried, and for further learning, access his free storytelling mini-course at www.getstoried.com/redpill]