By Simon Hodges

Simon Hodges is director of Words That Change which generates stories for organisations and professionals in all sectors. Simon trains speakers at TEDxAmsterdam and he shares some of his tips for storytelling here.

“As our conversations become more numerous, they need to become more meaningful. The voices that are heard the best, are the ones that are clear and authentic. You also need to be showing what value you add on a practical and universal level, whilst showing people clearly what you do.

Why? Because we do not invest in things, we invest in values. Whilst going about our lives, we promote what we want to see more of. Society now has had enough of things, but it’s thirst for meaning is infinite.

Three questions to answer

So how to locate your meaning? Break it down into three basic questions:

  • What do you do? - basic description
  • Why do you do it? - your essential value
  • How did come to believe it? - your personal journey

Start with a basic description

It sounds obvious but it is easily forgotten: state clearly what you do. Make it simple and basic. If you write books or facilitate meetings, say so. The same goes if you design efficient business processes, contribute to organisational change or generate networks around a specific cause. If you are unclear about what it is you do, your basic description, people will switch off. This is the art of being concrete, it is worth testing this part of your story on friends and colleagues until it is crystal clear to them.

Your essential value and journey

The art of meaning, however, allows for a richer imagination. This is where the audience wants to be inspired. Failing to inject your inspiration into your story robs the audience of its basic desire: to be shown why what you do has meaning in their lives. And the basis of any why in an evolving culture is inspiration. Inspiration is anything that strikes the heart as true, meaningful or required.

Your basic description of what you do will invite interest from the reader, but it doesn’t mean you get to swamp them with unrestrained passion. You need to embed your inspiration in a journey that people can relate to. Show how you have been inspired, challenged and evolved over the course of your life. Once this journey has been written or shared with friends, see if you can sum it up in a single word or phrase. What is it you really stand for and offer through your goods and services? Is it courage, clarity, inspiration, playfulness or something else?

Formulating a value that is appropriate for the accumulation of your experiences - and what you have learned from them - will mean that it resonates when you share it as a story. This resonance and call for authenticity means that the length of the journey is not important, the amount of honesty about it is. This is why we’re more often inspired by children than by business managers. Kids have not thought to do anything other than embody value. As we age we learn all kinds of tricks to keep us from ourselves. Returning to value is a way to return to innocence whilst honouring our experience.

Combine your basic description, your value and journey and you have the recipe for an outstanding story that you can use in all your communications.”