Developing Your Expert Story
It is 24 January 1984 and neither PowerPoint or Keynote has not yet been invented. This is not a problem for Steve Jobs as he takes the the stage at Apple shareholders meeting dressed in a double-breasted jacket and bow tie.
“The loser now will be later to win, for the times they are a changin’,” he says, quoting Bob Dylan and letting the audience of over 2,000 employees, shareholders, board members, and reporters know that this is not going to be any old corporate update.
Speaking in a low tone, Jobs introduces the villain in his story…
“It is 1958. IBM passes up the chance to buy a fledgling company that has just invented a new technology, called Xerography. Two years later Xerox is born and IBM has been kicking itself ever since. It is 10 years later, the late 60s. Digital Equipment and others invent the mini computer. IBM dismisses the mini computer as too small to do serious computing and unimportant to their business. DEC grows to become a multi hundred million dollar corporation before IBM finally enters the mini computer market.”
His voice grows louder.
“It is now ten years later. The late 70s. In 1977, Apple, a young fledgling company on the west coast invents the Apple II, the first personal computer as we know it today. IBM dismisses the personal computer as too small to do serious computing and unimportant to their business.”
Jobs adds dramatic tension and little humour and has the audience on the edge of their seats.
“It is now 1984. It appears IBM wants it all. Apple is perceived to be the only hope to offer IBM a run for its money. Dealers, originally welcoming IBM with open arms, now fear an IBM dominated and controlled future. They are increasingly turning back to Apple as the only force that can ensure their future freedom! IBM is aiming its guns to the last obstacle to industry control – Apple. Will Big Blue dominate the entire computer industry? The entire information age? Was George Orwell right?”
The thing that made Steve Jobs’ legendary product launches so engaging was his mastery of storytelling. He knew how to use stories to connect with and motivate his audience.
One of the most important stories for any entrepreneur or business owner is their own expert story; the story that positions them as a go-to authority in their market.
5 tips for developing your expert story
#1 – Start with the end in mind
If you look at the structure of Hollywood movies they are typically broken down into 3 acts.
Following this structure for your expert story, the final act will show HOW you became an expert authority in your market. It will be the key scene that shows you have overcome the challenges and struggles your audience are currently facing.
Create Act III first. Once you have decided on it, then look back at earlier events in your life that provide the set-up for that moment. Use these to create Act I and Act II.
#2 – Describe the characters in your story
Steve Jobs was an expert at introducing characters in his business presentations and showing us the heroes (Apple) and the villains (Big Blue). When crafting your story make sure you shape the cast members and allow your audience members to get to know you.
This may involve sharing your mistakes, failed attempts at success or false wins. Remember that most people admire a character more for trying than for their successes.
#3 – Focus on your audience NOT you
When designing your expert story remember to stay focused on what your audience needs hear, not what you want to tell. You need to share things that are relevant to those listening to your story and the overall outcome.
Just like the acts of a movie set-up the ending, the content of your story should do the same. If something isn’t essential then it is likely you are including it for the wrong reasons. Your expert story is not about sharing your whole life history or every moment you are proud of, it is about showing your audience you understand the challenges they may be facing.
#4 – Simplify and edit
The audio book of the official Steve Jobs biography is 25 hours long, the movie based on it lasts just 2 hours. Think of your expert story as the ‘movie version’ of your life. What can you simplify, combine or condense to keep it short, whilst still getting the key points across.
#5 – Make it fun
Your expert story should entertain and inspire your audience. Don’t be afraid to include some humour and show your audience that you are human.
Remember, even Superman isn’t perfect.