The Power of Story [Part 2] Experiential Learning

Author Curtis O. Fletcher

We were preparing to meet with several executives to discuss matters most serious and teasingly technical.

On the one side of the discussion were those of us who wanted to allow a “guest log in” feature to our web site that would allow known users to begin conducting business without having to formally identify themselves.

On the other side of the discussion was the party that wanted known customers to continue to have to provide their customer number. Something every customer had, few knew, and even fewer ever used for anything other than logging in to the web site.

On our side we had numbers, good numbers, interesting numbers. On their side they had numbers, numbers I wanted to call bad, but couldn’t.

Ever have to go into one of those showdowns…er… meetings? In the worst instances voices raise, emotions boil and conclusions scamper out the window like so many scared rabbits. In the best instances they’re tedious affairs that result in begrudgingly compromised half-measures that wind up satisfying no one, something akin to rice pudding.

To make matters worse this conversation had been had before, several times. Each time each party brought new, more compelling numbers to bear and yet no one was compelled. So I suggested something new, devious perhaps, but new.

As people arrived at the appointed meeting room they were politely greeted outside the door.  “We’re glad you’re here! As a new measure of security for this meeting we’re asking that you provide the VIN from your automobile. We understand you may not have anticipated this new development but as your car is just outside in the parking lot, and the weather today is quite fine, it should be no trouble for you to track down the required information. If you’ve never used your VIN before it can be found on a small plaque on your dash or, in some cases, on the drivers side door.”

The reactions were priceless and I could see them all because the meeting room had a small window in the door. I was seated inside having actually captured my VIN with my phone that morning.

Rather than going through the minor hassle of walking a couple hundred yards to provide the required credentials the surprised attendees tried to push past as though it were a joke. When they found the way blocked and the ‘doorman’ quite serious they stormed off towards the elevator, not to get the number, but to leave the meeting!

At this point our staunch doorman apologized for the minor ruse and allowed them to enter the meeting, as a guest.

The first words uttered in the meeting? “Ok, we get it. How do we fix it?”

Allow me to suggest three reasons why this approach worked, reasons that are universal benefits of using analogy, story and illustration.

1. It moved them from mind to heart.

This experience moved the conversation from a head talk to a heart talk. The participants understood the situation in a new way, one that moved from the intellectual to the emotional.

2. It moved them from observation to participation.

Interestingly enough the way we first start learning in life is through story. In the case of our meeting we actually put folks into the story, into the experience of the customer. It moved the presentation from being a story heard to a story lived. They experienced the voice of the customer in a way they hadn’t before as that voice became their own.

3. It moved them from understanders to believers

Understanding and belief, on the surface, seem like familiar bedfellows. The difference is in the mind versus the heart. I always understood that a cruise vacation could be restful but never believed it until I’d been on one.

Too many ‘corporate’ conversations rely solely on the head and the numbers. We talk about mind share and convincing and countering objections. Just winning the intellectual argument often results in failure, “I agree with your numbers but I’m just not feeling it.” But find a way to win the heart and the head follows easily.

What near term opportunity do you have to use a story approach to communicating a corporate message? What’s holding you back from trying?

You can leave a comment by clicking here.


Curtis is a speaker, coach, and grandiose pontificator who regularly consults with large organizations on topics ranging from customer experience to the Internet of Things. He has a passion for helping people create wow moments for their audiences and customers. When he is not coaching someone in communications or marketing he can often be found preparing for his next half marathon, something he finds terribly perplexing.

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The Power of Story [Part 1]

DeathtoStock_Neighbors2 SmallAuthor Curtis O. Fletcher

 As a consultant my job often consists of helping organizations implement better processes, systems, or strategies. This typically requires the development of factual evidence, business cases, and rational, logical arguments. While the facts and data are important many times they fail to move the customer to action. I believe that this gap between facts and action is best filled with story.

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3 Secrets to Arresting “Annoying Fillers” in your Presentation

Author Sarah Beckman

Um. You Know. Like. And. So. Ah. Er. Uh.iStock_000024711637_Medium

These common “fillers” litter countless presentations today – cluttering messages with annoying, distracting and useless words that drain meaning and value as they flow. Spoken so easily – and often unwittingly – they’ve been granted far more power than they deserve.

You’ve likely heard them thousands of times (maybe in one single presentation!) We use fillers when we’re thinking, when we’re nervous, when we’re unsure what part comes next. I’m a professional speaker. I also coach speakers, business people, pastors and students in the art of clear, focused, powerful communication. And try as I might, if I’m not careful, they can still ensnare me.

However, it is possible to arrest these annoying fillers and lock them out of our presentations forever when we learn these secrets.

Secret #1: Play Back

There is no tool more powerful than creating and then listening to a recording of your speaking. Plain audio is sufficient if your goal is to put a stop to your habitual fillers, but if you can get video you will learn a host of other things along the way that will also prove helpful (and you probably didn’t know you were doing.) I use a smartphone app called iPadio to record whenever I’m able. I then upload my messages directly to my social media and website to share with my followers. There’s also voice memo, and several other awesome apps with recording technology available on just about every smartphone these days.

I recently presented a message at my monthly lunch hour. I didn’t have as much time as I wanted to prepare my message, so I was very focused on content that day, rather than on avoiding the use of fillers.

Whoa. Huge mistake.

When I uploaded the message, and actually listened to it myself, I was in shock. I was like a virtual poster child for the words UM, AND SO. I wanted to crawl into a hole.

Suffice it to say, playing my message back was the only way I would have caught that, and it’s the very best way to be sure you work on not using fillers in the future.

Secret #2: Practice

If you practice your message, you will know your content better. Simple as that.

The problem is, we write our messages out, we craft perfect sentences, but then we have to SAY them. And if we don’t practice saying them, several times, out loud, we will likely end up using words to fill in the gaps while we think.

When we know our content, we know what words come next. The only way to accomplish that is practice. This is especially true in the case of my luncheon speech gone awry. I didn’t get to practice, and it showed painfully in my performance.

And even if practice doesn’t make perfect, it will certainly get you a lot closer to eliminating annoying fillers in your carefully crafted message.

Secret #3: Pause

When I am listening to a speaker I find it so refreshing when they pause and give my brain time to catch up with their words. And honestly, if you pause when you are the speaker, you will give your brain a chance to catch up, if you ever lose your way.

If you’re not sure what comes next in your talk, you will often use fillers as you attempt to think your way back. Next time, pause, take a moment to check your notes, collect your thoughts or get back to where you need to be.

It is way better to have a moment of silence, than sentence after sentence filled with unnecessary words that detract from that amazing point you wanted to make.

Pausing is a gift, to you and your listener. Use it well and often. And then return to secret 1, and listen to your success as you arrest those fillers and lock them out of your presentation for good.

Do you have any secrets to eliminating “fillers” from your presentations? 

You can leave a comment by clicking here.


Sarah Beckman is a Speaker, Writer and Communications Coach.  She also speaks to audiences across the country on topics including loving your neighbor, sharing your faith, safeguarding your marriage and digging up your talents.  She lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico with her husband, Craig and her 3 teenage children.  She loves the mountains and eating green chile. 

Episode 005: Featuring Carol Kent

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Crafting Effective Communication: It’s MORE than “Just the Facts” Ma’am

iStock_000004478678_MediumAuthor Curtis O. Fletcher

As communicators we want nothing more than to move our audience to action, consideration, or change. We do what we do because some collection of truths, experiences, or circumstances has moved us. The way in which we choose to articulate our passion and pass it along is central to how effectively our audience receives the information.

Imagine with me two different scenes:

Episode 004: Featuring Carol Kent

Building Momentum and Creating Your Team

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Crafting Powerful Stories

open bookAuthor Candie Blankman

My father survived three and half years of brutality as a POW in WWII. In March I was asked to tell his story at the mayor’s prayer breakfast. At the conclusion over 300 people, including about 50 active US Marines, gave a standing ovation. I have told this story before in a variety of venues to widely different audiences. What happened here? What made the story so powerful?

Episode 003 Featuring Amy Porterfield

Finding Your Voice, Getting Your Name Out There and the Importance of Email Lists

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In this episode you’ll learn: 

  • About finding your own voice
  • The importance of doing everything you can to get your name out there
  • Why your email list directly affects the energy of your business