How To Tell a One Word Story

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When it comes time to tell your story, the simplest message is often the strongest.  Yet, few people have the skill or confidence to identify the one-word story that creates the most powerful connection.  When you can create a one-word story, you are on the path to your “true north” – a branding message that can help you to overcome obstacles and objections, by finding clarity around your message.
Here’s an example of a one-word story, from a video book review that I created for Larry Peters.  The book is called: The Simple Truths of Leadership…but what’s the one word that I used as the key for the story? Can you identify it?

A one-word story allows you to elaborate. But with just one word to remember, you never get lost! Start with just one word, to take the conversation in a different way – and provide a new perspective on the issue at hand.

Take a look at the 2-minute video above – Can you guess what that one single idea is? Do you see how the entire story flows from a single word?

The strategy behind the one-word story goes like this:

  1. You have to understand your “high concept” – That’s the overall theme or idea that you are trying to express. Find out more about the High Concept in this short video
  2. Break It Down:  If you were providing a persuasive argument – perhaps a reason for someone to work with you, buy your products, vote for you…or even to try the new dessert on the menu…what’s the one word you would use to describe why someone would do that thing?
  3. Get Clear on What Your Listener Wants:  Here are some more words to consider:  Luxury.  Dedication.  Safety.  Indulgence.  But be careful!  These words beg for greater definition and clarity.  After all, “luxury” is like “pornography” – hard to define, but you know it when you see it.  And what exactly is “dedication”?  An empty word that anyone can say, without an example that’s relevant, specific and clear.  Don’t just say it.  Prove it.  It’s one thing to explain how you have 23 years of dedicated experience in a particular industry.  It’s quite another to prove it to your listener, by focusing on their needs in ways that reflect that experience…
  4. The Undeniable Appeal of Pizza, Puppies and Santa Claus  There’s no one in the world that doesn’t love at least one of those things.  What’s the thing that we all want, expressed in a single word, that conveys your high concept?  The one word has to be something that is desirable – aspirational – and universal.  Then, elaborate on how that word is evidenced in your story, via strong and clear actions:  Actions that you have taken in the past.  Actions that others have taken in the past.  Actions that have created compelling and powerful results.

The one-word story is the key to being “on message”, in the face of adversity. Remember that the tough questions help us to get tougher.  And clearer.  And stronger.

Here’s what I have discovered:

Challenges help us to define ourselves.

Clarity can only be found in the face of objections and obstacles.  Don’t expect your persuasive argument (or pitch, or presentation, or candidate) to go unchallenged.

The conversation really gets good on  Shark Tank when Mr. Wonderful doesn’t like it – and then we all lean forward in our easy chairs, to see what the entrepreneurs (and Mark Cuban) are going to do next!

An adversarial remark can be viewed as an opportunity, if you allow yourself to see what’s possible (instead of putting up your fists and preparing to fight!)  Arm yourself with a one-word story – a story that builds on your theme, your idea, and your platform.

The persuasive story is one that overcomes adversity and stays on-message – a message that can be clarified with a one-word story.  What’s the one word you would use to describe what you can do for others?  Is that one word something that anyone, anywhere can say ‘yes’ to?  And finally, does your story support and demonstrate how that one word enhances and improves the concerns of your audience?

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