How to Communicate Your Story, Tips from a Communication Expert and Media Trainer
Quite often we’re unaware of the little ways in which we tell people exactly what we think of ourselves. I’ve heard people say things like, “It’s been such a tough year; we’re really struggling,” or “Well, I have a little business I run out of my living room,” or “I’m just getting started so my business is really small.”
Just hearing yourself say those words aloud reinforces small, limited thinking and a self-image that isn’t as professional or successful as the image you’d probably like to have of yourself. While you don’t have to pretend to be something you’re not, you can frame things in a way that’s more proactive, positive and expansive.
Here are some tips on how to communicate your story effectively:
1. Most people don’t want to do business with someone who’s “really struggling” because they may fear that you only want their business because you need the money. Most people want to feel that you are selling them your product or service because it’s truly a good fit for them. Save your tales of woe for people who are not your potential clients or key influencers who could refer clients to you, and don’t allow others’ negative talk to bring you down. (An aside about struggle: Stuart Wilde wrote a great little book called, Life Was Never Meant to Be a Struggle, in which he stated that everything requires effort, but struggle only comes into play when we assign it emotion. Choose to stay out of struggle.)
2. If you have a small company, are there advantages to that? Perhaps, you could present your company’s small size as a benefit, such as, “We’re a boutique firm that provides great personal service to our clients.” (This is actually the way I feel about my PR firm, which has five people. I don’t want a huge firm and I truly love the hands-on service we can provide our clients.)
3. Rather than telling people you work from your living room, which may conjure up images of you on your laptop with a stack of magazines and a pile of baby toys around you, you could tell people you have a home office or run your business from your home. (If you haven’t set up your work space so it feels professional and suits your personal style, I recommend that you do so. It will change how you feel about yourself.)
4. Choose to speak in a manner that reflects your best self and your brand. For example, if you’re a relationship expert, communicate warmly and expressively so people perceive that you’re coming from a place of understanding how people think and feel. People sometimes ask me if it’s okay to use profanity. My answer is, “If that suits your brand, then yes!”
5. Do the words you’re saying instill confidence that you can deliver the results your clients desire from you? There was a fitness trainer who used to run around saying, “I’m so stressed out.” A friend noted that being “so stressed out” probably was not appealing to her clients or potential clients who sought out fitness as a way to relieve stress. So true!
Take the Talk Test
If you have a small audio recorder (or a cell phone that can record audio), turn it on and record yourself in various situations, including:
• when you attend a business or networking event, so you can learn how you present yourself to strangers;
• when you’re making conducting new business meetings/sales presentations, so you can hear what your prospective clients/customers hear;
• when you’re talking to your family and friends because it’s often with those closest to us that we play down what we do and try to fit into others’ limited views. Yet, this is one of the most important times to NOT do this.
Rewrite Your Story
If you hear yourself speaking in ways that don’t present you or your company in the best light, do this exercise.
1. Write out, word for word, each sentence you spoke that felt weak or made you appear less confident than you’d like to be.
2. Think about how the most self-assured, established person in your field would present himself or herself. Think about the way this person may feel about himself/herself. Then, re-write each sentence in words you think this person would use.
3. When you have your new, more confident statements written out, read them aloud. While you don’t want to memorize statements, exercises like this will help you change your communication style.
Your body language also impacts how you’re perceived. I cover this in other posts (see below) and in my programs. But at least for the time being, focus on how you speak and who you’re being in every situation to communicate your story most effectively.