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How to Use Numbers in a Presentation

Numbers numb, stories sell. We don’t deal well with numbers, [they tend] to suspend our sense of emotion, but we respond very, very well to stories. Individual stories will almost always trump a litany of statistics.  
 

– Edward Maibach 

 
Sooner or later you're going to have to make a presentation to convince people to support you, your ideas, or your projects.

You’re often going to have to present data – numbers – to make your case. And in some jobs, numbers may be the bulk of your presentations. I’m looking at you, CFOs, CMOs, actuaries, investor relations and financial experts.

The problem in talking about numbers is that human beings are not naturally gifted to understand or relate to numbers. Data quickly becomes white noise. Instead, as humans we are hardwired for telling and hearing stories.

As my friend Kent Stroman, a conversational fundraising expert for nonprofits, likes to say, “numbers numb, but stories store.” Kent calls him self a "recovering accountant" and has effectively learned to seamlessly blend stories and numbers. (Kent's latest book is called The Intentional Board: Why Your Board Doesn't Work ... and How to Fix It.)

You’ve probably experienced the fact that numbers numb, but stories store yourself. You might sit through an hour-long presentation of data and not remember a thing, but if the speaker had one good story, you’ll be able to recall it immediately.

With this in mind, here are a few tips for communicating with numbers:

Tell your story
First, and most important, remember that numbers don’t stand alone. They are meant to support a larger narrative. Never lose sight of your story.

For instance, at the highest level, your organization’s big message might be: We’ve had some challenges, but we’re moving in the right direction. Your job is to highlight and emphasize the numbers that support this argument.

Less is more 
As an analytical person your instinct will be to give more and more data to support your case, but the truth is that the more numbers you present, the less effective and persuasive you will be. You are no doubt familiar with the concept of diminishing returns. In a world of information overload and minute attention spans, less truly is more.

Hide numbers in a story
As I wrote previously, Stanford Business School research concluded that data included in a story is 22 times more likely to be remembered than data on its own.  And you want your numbers to be remembered, don’t you?

Simplify 
In line with telling a story, you should pare your numbers presentation to a manageable set. Consider using a photo to illustrate your point or a slide with only one key number blown up large. Help them understand why this number is so important in the context of your organization’s story.

Think like a teacher 
By focusing on presenting fewer numbers in a more meaningful way, you develop opportunities to educate your audience on key concepts.

Consider taking the time to drill down on a meaningful idea. For instance, you might ask, “Why are we pushing so hard to reduce expenses?”  Show the effects of each dollar saved in context. Talk about what it means to your stakeholders and the impact it will have on those in the audience.

Your listeners always want to know, “What’s in it for me?” You're much more likely to get support when people understand your rationale, the "why."

Show your personality 
I know you have a lot of interests, but your colleagues may not. Bring your personality to your presentation. Do you run marathons? Use a running analogy: You’ve heard the old sprint versus marathon metaphor. Talk about race times and how your financials compare. “It’s our personal best!”

One of my clients is a CFO who is wicked smart but also has a dry sense of humor that he seldom shared in presentations. I coached him to start slowly to reveal more of himself. When he started opening up and sharing himself, he got great feedback and improved his reputation inside and outside the company.  He told me he felt “liberated” by being himself on stage and in meetings.

Career differentiator
There are also other benefits to becoming a better presenter of numbers. In addition to engaging your listeners more effectively, you will position yourself for greater success. In any organization today, the ability to communicate is the career differentiator.

Too many CFO’s and other “number crunchers” don’t get top jobs because they don’t inspire other people. They are “crunched” by their numbers if you will.

The leaders of your organization are looking for people who not only have technical skills but also leadership and communications skills. If they have to choose between two “numbers people,” the one who can communicate effectively will win every time.

Also, I know it might be hard to believe, but you’ll start enjoying your presentations and feel more confident when you know you’re engaging people.

If you want to talk with me or want to share your experiences with presenting numbers, please contact me.
 

How to Control Your Smartphone Addiction

Ah, vacation…finally.
 
You’ve spent all year looking forward to your beach getaway to spend quality time with your family and disconnect from the rest of the world. You recorded your vacation voice mail; you let your team know you’re really letting go of the office this time; and you set your “out of office” reminder on your email.
 
Here you are, sitting in your lounge chair with your feet in the sand and sun on your face, and the sound of ocean waves in the distance. But instead of reading the book you brought, you find yourself reading an office email about a problem that bothers you, and you’re annoyed.
 
How did this happen? You had good intentions. You weren’t going to check your email; you promised your family you wouldn’t be tethered to your work phone, for once.
 
You’re not alone. Like millions of Americans, you’ve fallen victim to the addictive device.

A recent study by Asurion found that Americans, on average, check their phone once every 12 minutes, or five times an hour, while on vacation. Some Americans check their phone nearly 300 times a day.
 
Taking a vacation from email
While much of this phone focus might be on social media, news, or game apps, many employees check their email while on vacation, for fear of missing out (FOMO) or returning to a flood of emails.
 
Some have real fear of losing status in companies that create 24/7 online cultures. Sure, the company rhetoric talks about “work-life balance” but in reality your boss still expects a reply in the middle of the night, or on vacation. “I know you’re on vacation, but…”
 
In some countries, companies are starting to establish policies in order to help their employees actually enjoy the benefits of work-life balance relating to email.
 
German automaker Daimler instituted the “Mail on Holiday” email policy, allowing employees to auto-delete any emails they receive while they’re away. The auto response gives three options to those who send you emails: it notifies them that their emails will be deleted; if it’s truly important, they can email a colleague you’ve identified; or they can email you again, after you have returned from vacation. The email policy allows employees to actually have time away from the office and unplug from the digital world worry free.

But checking work email during vacation is only a symptom of the larger problem: whether on vacation or not, we have become addicted to our devices, especially our phones.
 
And this is understandable because the content on your phone is scientifically designed to be addictive.
 
You’ve probably heard of dopamine. It’s the powerful neurochemical that gives you that positive rush when it pings into the pleasure center of your brain. It happens every time you do that thing that is most pleasurable to you, from eating chocolate to achieving a goal to, well, whatever you find so pleasurable.
 
Dopamine is at the heart of any addiction of human beings, including drugs, alcohol, and gambling. So it’s understandable that social media companies including Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat have hired teams of scientists to develop the most highly addictive programs possible.
 
Phone addiction
This was confirmed by media-buying firm RadiumOne’s study of Australian consumers and found that dopamine is also released when we use social media. The study concluded that, “Every time we post, share, ‘like,’ comment, or send an invitation online, we are creating an expectation. We feel a sense of belonging and advance our concept of self through sharing.”
 
The retweets, likes, and shares also provide a positive reinforcement and reward. Sometimes you don’t even have to physically touch your phone in order to receive positive feelings.
 
Mauricio Delgado, a professor of psychology at Rutgers University, shares:
 
Often, if you have the earliest predictor of a reward—a sign of a social media alert, like your phone buzzing—you get a rush of dopamine from that condition stimulus. That might trigger you to go check out the outcome, to see what it is.
 
Responsibility of companies
Even the social media platforms themselves have been forced to admit their time-wasting impact. In a Facebook post earlier this year, Mark Zuckerberg said a big goal for 2018 was “making sure the time we all spend on Facebook is time well spent.”
 
And Apple says tools in its new iPhone operating system will “help customers understand and take control of the time they spend interacting with their iOS devices.”
 
There will be new ways to manage how notifications are delivered and Do Not Disturb will have new modes. The most promising feature is Screen Time, which will provide a detailed report of the total amount of time spent in each application and show how often devices are picked up.
 
These are much-needed changes as the research finds the average American checks the phone 80 times a day.
 
Solutions to Unplug
 
Here are a few other tips for you to consider in getting your phone-use habits under control during vacation or throughout your life:
 
Be aware
Besides monitoring your usage with apps, it’s important to be mindful of how and why you’re using social media. It’s important to be intentional with your time and energy. Choose platforms that connect you with others and foster positivity in your life; this can look different from person to person.
 
Set limits
While completely refraining from social media during vacation is a great goal, it may not be for everyone. Some might set aside a certain amount of time each day to engage on social media, while others may want to limit themselves to just one or two platforms.
 
There’s an app for that
While it may seem counterintuitive, you can use an app to help you stop looking at other apps. The Forest app helps you stay focused by showing a seed being planted in a forest, gradually growing into a tree. The longer you leave your phone untouched, the longer the tree will keep growing. But if you leave the app, your tree will die. The growing tree is your reward for staying away from your phone.
 
The app Mute keeps track of how often you check your phone and your daily screen time. You can set goals in the app to help you use your phone less often. It’s a great way to keep yourself accountable.
 
Turn it off
Many people struggle with using social media in moderation and should consider truly unplugging from it. This can range from turning your notifications off to deleting the social media apps from your phone entirely for a given period of time.
 
Digital detox
In order to maintain a healthy relationship with social media, many advocate regular breaks from it. A new trend is to practice media-free weekends, using the time to rest and recharge offline.
 
Kick your phone out of the bedroom
Whether they’re on vacation or not, many Americans have difficulty falling asleep – and staying asleep. In my speeches, I’ll ask for a show of hands on whether people look at their phone last thing at night, first thing in the morning, and in the middle of the night. The vast majority of the audience cops to the first two and a lot of hands go up for the third.
 
Did you know that the blue light and the stimulation of the content can prevent a restful night’s sleep?.
 
In fact, a study of young adults in the United States by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that the strongest indicator of disturbed sleep is social media use during the 30 minutes right before bed. (By the way, another study by NIH found a clear link with social media and increased depression among young adults.)
 
Try charging your phone in another room so that you’re not tempted to look at it. Consider replacing social media with another activity like reading or journaling, in order to unwind before bed.
 
This year the Iphone, which started the smartphone revolution, turned 11. While the phone’s use brings tremendous benefits, it’s up to each of us to understand its toll and take control.
 
Please contact me to let me know any stories you have about the effects of smartphones on you or other people.

Don't forget to sign up for our my newsletter to get a fresh perspective every Sunday Morning.

John

How to Use Visualization to Achieve Goals and Success

If you want to reach a goal, you must ‘see the reaching’ in your own mind before you actually arrive at your goal.

— Zig Ziglar

  
Our brains are the most complex machines on the face of the earth. Human beings are only beginning to understand the vast power of our minds.
 
That’s why investments in research to explore the brain’s capabilities are increasing with initiatives such as the national BRAIN Initiative, funded with $150 million recently by the National Institutes of Health.
 
One remarkable and unique ability of our brain is to imagine future scenarios in rich detail, like our own virtual reality, to improve our performance under stress.
 
Paint a mental picture
You’ve probably heard the term “visualization.” It’s the process we can use to paint a mental picture of a future activity or event.
 
Athletes, business leaders, scientists and others have discovered that creating a rich, detailed picture of success in our minds can improve our performance.
 
Vivid mental experience
That’s why golf legend Jack Nicklaus said he would visualize every shot in his mind before he took them. Arnold Schwarzenegger would visualize his muscles growing before his workouts. Schwarzenegger said he also envisioned himself as a successful actor and politician for years before entering those professions. He says that in his mind, he had already achieved those goals.
 
Researchers say there are at least two phenomena driving this:

First, these mental pictures stimulate our neural networks, the nerve cells connecting our bodies and minds. When a vivid mental experience is created in our minds, our subconscious doesn’t make a clear distinction between this virtual reality and the actual event.
 
Second, researchers find that this mental rehearsal can calm our amygdala, the fight-or-flight center of fear in our brains. This can result in lower stress symptoms, such as stress hormones and increased heart rate. This gives us greater confidence in our abilities to complete the task at hand under pressure.
 
“Everyone can use imagery to prepare for all kinds of situations, including public presentations and difficult interactions,” says Daniel Kadish, Ph.D., a psychologist. “Mentally rehearsing maintaining a steady assertiveness while the other person is ignoring or distracting you can help you attain your goal.”

Strong and confident
This applies directly to improving your leadership and communications skills as well. When you have an important presentation, meeting or conversation, you can take the time to see yourself as strong and confident in achieving the outcome that you want.
 
If you paint a rich enough picture and try to actually experience the event, your subconscious will think that it has already taken place in the way you viewed it. This will help you to feel more comfortable and confident.
 
Performance coach Tony Robbins uses a ten-minute morning routine to "prime" his mental and emotional state for the day ahead. The last three minutes are dedicated to the visualization of completing a specific goal he is pursuing. "Don't think about making it happen, see it as done," Robbins says.

He imagines a celebration of completion, not only for himself, but he feels gratitude for how that goal will positively affect others.
 
Here’s a classic visualization exercise from The Charisma Myth by Olivia Fox Cabane (Amazon affiliate link), a book well worth reading on many levels.

If you try this exercise relating to a presentation or other situation you face, take the time to sit quietly and feel as if you are in the room where your communication will take place. See the people. Paint a rich, detailed picture of you achieving success.
 
Try it yourself: visualization exercise
The following visualization is a great tool to increase the amount of power you want to convey. You can try this exercise at home on the couch, at work sitting at your desk, or even in an elevator––whenever you have the opportunity to close your eyes for a minute.

  • Close your eyes and relax.
  • Remember a past experience when you felt absolutely triumphant––for example, the day you won a contest for an award.
  • Hear the sounds in the room—the murmurs of approval, the swell of applause.
  • See peoples’ smiles and expressions of warmth and admiration.
     
  • Feel your feet on the ground and the congratulatory handshakes.
  • Above all, experience your feelings, the warm glow of confidence rising within you.

Give this a try before you face a challenging communication situation. You’ll still need to do the work to prepare and rehearse, but you’ll find added confidence and better performance by visualizing your success.

Just visit our contact page to let me know if you have questions or stories about visualizing your success.

Many thanks to those of you who've been sharing these messages with your friends and colleagues. If you found value in this message, please do me a favor and click a button below to share with people who might benefit.

John
 

How 3 Billionaires Make Money with Communication

If you can’t communicate and talk to other people and get across your ideas, you’re giving up your potential. You have to learn to communicate in life – it’s enormously important.

–– Warren Buffett

 
Many people are curious as to how wealthy, celebrated leaders – such as self-made billionaires – achieved their success. While there may be untold secrets of the rich and famous, one of their secrets is on display in the public realm: a focus on clear, effective communication.
 
Warren Buffett, widely regarded as one of the most successful investors in history – currently the third-richest person in the world – considers communication skills priceless. 
 
Speaking to Columbia Business School students in 2009, Buffett made a semi-serious offer to invest in the students’ careers for 10 percent of their projected lifetime earnings. He told them he believed they could increase their lifetime earnings by 50 percent through learning effective communication skills.
 
One way to improve your own communication skills is to study the communication styles of successful leaders.
 
Let’s take a look at three billionaires at the top of their games in business and examine their perspectives on communication. All three, Buffett, Elon Musk, and Jeff Bezos, clearly value communication and its role in business leadership. By examining their personal philosophies and techniques, we can gain insight into how their communication as leaders brought their visions to life. 
 
Warren Buffett: Be clear and transparent
Buffett is an advocate of using plain, clear language to explain finance to everyday investors and anyone wanting to understand the financial marketplace. Many industries, from finance to medicine, remain obtuse and confusing in their wording; often it seems to mask the truth. 
 
It can also be plain laziness that prevents succinct writing. If you’ve ever tried to compress a long document into a few hundred words, you know that simplicity takes hard work. 
 
Tell the truth
In 1998, Buffett wrote the preface to A Plain English Handbook: How to Create Clear SEC Disclosure Documents: "I've studied the documents that public companies file. Too often, I've been unable to decipher what is being said or, worse yet, had to conclude that nothing was being said."
 
He added, “In some cases, moreover, I suspect that a less-than-scrupulous issuer doesn’t want us to understand a subject it feels legally obligated to touch upon.” 
 
Buffett is renowned for writing frank and entertaining annual letters to shareholders that document successes but also prominently highlight investment failures by Buffett and his team.
 
Buffett lives his message of clarity and transparency in business communication.

Elon Musk: Kill the bureaucracy
Elon Musk is the revolutionary thinker and leader behind SpaceX and Tesla. I consider him our modern day Thomas Edison. From promoting sustainable energy to pursuing a human colony on Mars, he is a man of vision and action.
 
Musk believes that bureaucracy stifles action. In a memo to all Tesla employees a few years ago, Musk decried the corporate hierarchy that slows progress in most big companies, and encouraged employees to buck the chain of command at Tesla:
 
Instead of a problem getting solved quickly, where a person in one dept talks to a person in another dept and makes the right thing happen, people are forced to talk to their manager who talks to their manager who talks to the manager in the other dept who talks to someone on his team. Then the info has to flow back the other way again. This is incredibly dumb. Any manager who allows this to happen, let alone encourages it, will soon find themselves working at another company. No kidding.
 
Musk said this archaic approach enhances the power of the manager but degrades the power of the company to serve its customers. So Musk declared that:
 
Anyone at Tesla can and should email/talk to anyone else according to what they think is the fastest way to solve a problem for the benefit of the whole company. You can talk to your manager's manager without his permission, you can talk directly to a VP in another dept, you can talk to me, you can talk to anyone without anyone else's permission.
 
Like Buffett, Musk also believes that plain, precise language is critical for success. Musk urges employees to avoid the jargon that prevents straightforward communication.
 
Drop the jargon
In a recent email to Tesla employees about plans to improve Model 3 production, Musk cautioned, “Don’t use acronyms or nonsense words for objects, software, or processes at Tesla. In general, anything that requires an explanation inhibits communication. We don’t want people to have to memorize a glossary just to function at Tesla.”  
 
Jeff Bezos: Stop the PowerPoint
Jeff Bezos is the founder and CEO of the world’s largest online retailer, Amazon.  While a New York Times article recently referred to him as “a brilliant but mysterious and cold-blooded corporate titan,” it is evident that there is a method to his madness, making him currently the richest man in the world.
 
Bezos is known for his annual letter to shareholders as well as Amazon's innovative leadership principles. In his 20th anniversary letter published this year, Bezos shared his preferred method of communication during meetings: well-reasoned memos. But they aren’t just any memos, they are narrative essays.
 
Write your narrative
In fact, Bezos has banned PowerPoint and slide presentations at Amazon meetings. Instead of relying on the crutch of slides, an executive must create a six-page “narratively structured” document spelling out a proposal or issue. The memos are read silently at the beginning of executive meetings as a type of “study hall” for 30 minutes before beginning the discussion. Not surprisingly, some of the memos are excellent, while others are lackluster. 
 
After acknowledging the difficulty of pinpointing the exact details that create an exceptional memo, Bezos came to an interesting conclusion:
 
Often, when a memo isn’t great, it’s not the writer’s inability to recognize the high standard, but instead a wrong expectation on scope: they mistakenly believe a high-standards, six-page memo can be written in one or two days or even a few hours, when really it might take a week or more!
 
As with any thoughtful communication, a great narrative requires a concerted effort. It’s like the story from Mark Twain – he apologized to his friend for writing a long letter because he “didn’t have the time to write a short one.”
 
It takes writing, rewriting, and more editing to create an effective narrative.
 
Excellent communication also takes time, effort and focus. I’ve worked with CEO’s and other senior leaders who put communication at the bottom of their priority list as they pursue activities with what they perceive as a “higher ROI (return on investment).”
 
Yet the truly enlightened and successful leaders I work with realize that communication is fundamental to the success of their businesses and their careers. As the president of one company said to me recently, “We can have the perfect strategy but if no one understands it, it’s worthless.”
 
So true. Bezos, Buffett, and Musk illustrate the importance of continuous improvement in your leadership communication.
 
Your communication
How about you?
 
Do you recall a time when you heard yourself saying, at work or at home, “that’s not what I meant!”?
 
Do you and your team use clear language or do you tend to use jargon? 
 
Do people in your organization maintain the hierarchy, or are they free to communicate with anyone that can help to solve a problem?
 
Your answers to these questions might not make you a billionaire, but you’ll be on your way to better results through clearer, more effective communication.

Just use our contact form to let me know what communication obstacle you run into in your organization.

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6 Easy Ways to Become More Optimistic

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.
                                                       –– Winston Churchill


We all know people who remain upbeat and positive about the future, even in the midst of hardships or tragedies.
 
And all of us are familiar with the opposite: people who seem to have every advantage in life, yet take the negative view of every situation.
 
Research has shown that both of these approaches – positivity and negativity - have the potential of going viral by infecting the larger team and organizational cultures with positivity or negativity. With either emotion, we can spiral – downward or upward. It's a choice.
 
Pessimism is easy
Let’s face it. We live in a world filled with negativity. Pessimism is easy. Optimism is hard – it takes work, and we have to regulate our emotions.
 
None of us have a choice of what events we encounter, but we all have a choice about how we respond. And we are not only choosing for ourselves; our decisions affect our teams, families, friends and others.
 
There are good, practical reasons to maintain an optimistic view, including the simple notion that optimism can fuel us with the energy to pursue positive outcomes, despite the odds in sales, in business, in relationships, and in life.
 
Optimism may also help in the reduction of stress and its negative effects on the body caused by the release of cortisol and other hormones from the fight-or-flight response.
 
Optimism predicts resiliency
Research shows that optimism can also be a powerful force in our mental resiliency. Dr. Dennis Charney, the dean of Mount Sinai School of Medicine, studied some 750 Vietnam veterans who had been held as prisoners of war for six to eight years. Even though they suffered torture and were isolated in solitary confinement, they remained resilient.
 
Despite enduring inhumane stress, the research found that these POWs did not develop post-traumatic stress disorder or depression, as others had. Their secret? Charney identified 10 traits that set them apart from others, including having meaning in life – something to live for – and a sense of humor. But the number one trait was optimism.

Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl shared similar findings from his experiences in Nazi death camps, documented in his profound book, Man's Search for Meaning
 
Here are some tips to help you build and maintain optimism in your life and your work:
 
1. Practice gratitude. It's impossible to express gratitude and pessimism at the same time. At the end of my phone voicemail, I ask callers to tell me something they are grateful for. When I listen to their messages, sometimes there's a pause, with a flustered reply, such as "my family," and other times people give heartfelt, profound answers.
 
They might tell me about loved ones with a serious illness or a recent death in the family. The people who respond with these dramatic answers often have the greatest sense of optimism in their voices saying, “I know we will get through this” and “God is great.”
 
My practice upon waking is to immediately think of three things I’m grateful for in life, and why. For me, these can range from the critical: my family, friends, and health; the blessings of freedom in life and business; the opportunity to change people’s lives; to the mundane: a favorite meal, workout or coffee. These thoughts often end up making me smile; a great way to start the day.

2. Develop awareness. The first step is awareness. Every day, we and others create environments and situations filled with negativity and cynicism. We make pessimistic judgments and tell ourselves negative stories. It’s hard to know we’re wearing dark glasses until we take them off.
 
3. Assume the best. I have a CEO client who likes to say that “when we look into a dark room, we never assume it’s filled with angels.” It’s true. Research finds that we have a bias toward negative information (just turn on the TV news to confirm this) and we make negative assumptions. This might be protective wiring in our DNA, but it can impede our success.
 
Try assuming the best intentions of people and situations for a week and see if it changes your point of view. 

4. Keep your head up. Both literally and figuratively. You’ve heard the phrase "keep your chin up,” which means you should remain optimistic. As I’ve written about body language, how you position yourself can greatly influence your confidence and people’s confidence in you. Keep your head up and your eyes on the prize.
 
5. Try a negativity fast. Once we become aware of the high level of negativity in our lives, we have the opportunity to control the flow. Try going on a diet that limits your exposure to negative people, environments, and media.
 
6. Rewrite your story. Throughout the day we tell stories about our lives and businesses and about who we are. The person we tell stories to the most is ourselves and, particularly among high achievers, we will tell negative stories in comparison to others: “I’m not achieving enough; she is more accomplished; he has a better life.”
 
It’s funny because we’ll apply the negativity to ourselves, but we seem to always apply the positive filter when comparing ourselves to others: The rich and famous have those perfect lives; all of our friends on Facebook are living it up, and here we are caught up in the same old grind.
 
Rewriting the stories we tell ourselves – with a good measure of gratitude – will give us the lift we need for a greater sense of optimism.
 
None of this is easy. In a world of 24/7 social media and negative news, optimism can be a full-time job. But it is a task worth the effort, with remarkable benefits for us and those around us.
 
Develop your awareness and choose optimism.

How to Build Your Story Bank

A couple weeks ago, speaking at a convention in Las Vegas, I was asked a question about how to find your purpose.

As I began answering the question, I spontaneously told a story about a personal struggle I had earlier in my career that helped me find my purpose. It’s an emotional story, with a happy ending.
 
My 'Story Bank' 
The reason I was able to “spontaneously” tell this story is because it’s in my Story Bank. Over the years, I’ve collected my own personal and business stories to use in presentations and personal conversations.
 
If someone asked me under pressure to tell them my favorite story, my encounter with Oprah during a half-marathon might appear, or I might tell them about having a week off before I started a new job in Los Angeles and how I auditioned for seven game shows in three days. But we’ll leave that for another day.

Your favorite story
Let’s talk about you. If someone were to ask you to tell your favorite story, what would you say?
 
Would you search your memory bank hoping to come up with a story that is worthy of being called your “favorite”?
 
Would you be flustered? Maybe tell the first story that comes to mind? Or would you give up searching and let this opportunity pass?
 
This exact scenario may not happen to you, but there are times that telling a story would be the perfect way to engage, inspire, or persuade someone important to you.
 
Stories can build understanding and connection in relationships – so they’re helpful in business and in life.
 
With this in mind, let me give you a few tips for collecting your own stories:
 
Create your Story Bank
You should consider developing a disciplined approach to finding and saving your best stories so that you have a collection ready to use. By sharing your stories you’re giving people insights into who you are and what you value.
 
You’ll find that your openness is rewarded with openness from others in return.

Develop a storyteller mindset
Once you decide to capture stories you’ll notice that stories are everywhere. That’s because we as human beings are hardwired for hearing and telling stories. We tell stories all the time, to others and to ourselves.
 
When you decide to collect your own stories, they’ll start popping up all the time -- when you’re in meetings, driving to work or just waking up.
 
Set a method for collecting your stories
When all of these stories start coming at you, it’s important to have a disciplined approach to capturing them. If you say, “I’ll write that down when I get to home” you’ll never remember that story.
 
I have a notebook I use to write my favorite inspirational quotes and my stories. I keep that notebook on my desk in the office. It’s a white Moleskine notebook with a black drawing of Batman on the cover. Don’t judge me.
 
To make sure I capture stories when I’m traveling or elsewhere, I have a notes file on my phone labeled “stories” and whenever I hear something that would make a good story (or a Sunday Coffee post ;-) I enter it on my phone. If I’m driving, I dictate a quick note.

Strategic approach
During my training sessions, I’m often privileged to hear amazing, and often intimate stories.  People will share tragedies and triumphs, contributing meaningful parts of their lives. 
 
When I ask whether they have shared these stories elsewhere, they often say no.  Sometimes people don’t remember to tell them or they didn’t think the stories were important.
 
This is why it’s vital to take a strategic approach to collecting stories.  Our stories need to be told, but we are the only ones who can tell them.  Take a few minutes to sit down and recall the stories from your life.

Ask for stories from others
If you’re a leader, or in sales, you should also be asking other people for stories. Collecting stories about your organization, successes and failures, helps to reinforce the culture you are seeking to strengthen. 
Rather than asking the old, “how’s business?” what if you asked someone to tell you the most interesting story they’ve heard in their business in the past year?
 
When you ask that question, rather than get the pat answer, “business is good” you’ll get a real insight into the person and the organization. That’s because to find a story, we have to search a different part of our brains, as it takes some effort and creativity. Watch a person’s face, especially their eyes, when they search for a story.
 
And when they share the story with you, the two of you are making the most real, intimate connection available to human beings. You’re sharing yourselves.
 
I call storytelling “the leader’s superpower” because telling a story is more engaging, inspiring and motivating than anything else you can say.
 
So keep your eyes open; stories are all around you. And search your life, for the moments you can share with others.
 
You’ll be on your way to telling the world your story.