Recently one of my little cousins got married. Our family will remember it forever, particularly the moment the speeches ended and they opened up the candy-bar. It was like Willy Wonka himself was the caterer, with buckets of licorice, M&M’s, mini peanut butter cups, and pop rocks galore for the kids. Yes, ahem, for “the kids.”
The wedding was more than just a celebration. It was also a learning experience thanks to the matron of honor, a young woman, named Kerry. She reminded me of an important storytelling lesson, one that you need to remember when communicating with your teammates at work, marketing to your clients, and talking to your family and friends.
As you know, wedding speeches can be awkward affairs. Public speaking is of the greatest fears in people’s lives. It’s understandable that most speakers are nervous and tend to ramble. But on this occasion, the matron of honor took the cake. Not literally. Although given the opportunity, I wouldn’t have put that past her.
Kerry made a big mistake in her speech. Let’s see if you can spot it.
“Everyone calls me really organized,” she said, “but I actually lost the first version of this speech that I wrote while sitting in a park in Manhattan. So I had to write this speech three days ago. And it’s been a crazy year for me. This will be the 11th wedding I’ve attended this year…”
Do you see the problem?
This is not her big day.
She’s already had her wedding.
Nobody cares about her story.
This night was about my little cousin, not Kerry’s “What I did this summer” show-and-tell speech.
Her speech should only have included information relevant to my little cousin, their friendship, and the groom. Her role was to show to the audience how the bride came to be the young woman she is today, and how the bride and groom got together, grew their relationship, and decided to get married.
It’s not about the matron of honor’s busy summer. It’s not about her speech preparation. And it’s certainly not a time for her to brag about her trip to Manhattan.
(And don’t even get me started on the audacity of telling a small town audience — of mostly truck drivers, plumbers, nurses, and hairdressers — that you went to Manhattan, when saying you went to New York is much less pretentious).
Kerry forgot about the one cardinal rule when telling a story.
Stories are not about the storyteller.
Stories are about the audience.
That’s the big marketing lesson.
Are you making that mistake in your writing, your speeches, your sale letters, and in your marketing?
Most businesses do. Take for example most website home pages.
Let’s say you’re looking for a new dentist (perhaps because you recently attended a wedding with an open candy-bar).
The websites of most dentists (and lawyers, personal trainers, and other solo entrepreneurs) are all about the person writing the content.
“I have this qualification. Our office has this equipment. I spent three years in Mongolia studying three-toed sloths to get this specialty certification. I can cram 14 marshmallows into my mouth at once. I can do this. I’ve done that.”
Hurray for you.
People only care about themselves and what’s in it for them. That includes your prospect that has come to your site to find out how you can help them… not how great thou art.
To fix this, you need to remember the classic copywriting ‘radio station’ — WIIFM.
WIIFM = What’s In It For Me
That’s what the audience is thinking when they come to your website or listen to your speech.
“What benefits can you provide to my life? How can you solve my problems?”
The audience needs to know the answers to these questions before you go on to build your credibility and get them to know, like, and trust you. All of those are important components of the sales process, but that comes after you show someone that there is a direct benefit to them.
The needs of your audience come first.
Take a look at your writing, PowerPoint slides, speech outline, and sales copy.
Does it immediately show the audience WIIFM?
When writing your speeches, and particularly your sales copy, the word “You” should show up much more often than the word “I.”
Here’s an example for you. It’s from a recent copywriting review for one of my clients in the back pain relief industry. He was making the common “I” mistake in his writing.
“I rested up and went to bed and when I got up, the pain hit me.”
My re-written line:
“If you’ve ever gone to bed feeling fine only to wake up with excruciating low-back pain, then you know how frustrating it can be.”
Which of those would get the attention of the reader experiencing back pain.
Yes, it’s harder to write like this, to think of the audience first. But it’s much more valuable to your client, and it will make your communication more effective.
The extra work needed to write good copy in this format is what separates success stories from strugglers.
Plus the practice of writing, editing, and re-writing, is priceless, if you want to become a master communicator. Becoming a better communicator — in sales copy, email writing, speaking from the stage, and presenting via webinars, among other things — will make your life easier and more profitable.