Last Thursday night my wife and I attended The Monti’s StorySLAM in Durham, NC. Run by Jeff Polish, The Monti is a non-profit whose mission is to create community through the telling of stories. The concept is simple: the storytellers craft and deliver a story based upon a pre-assigned theme. In front of sold-out crowds of 200+.
The StorySLAM is the Monti’s version of an open mic night. A few dozen storytellers drop their name in a bucket, and eight are chosen to speak their 5 minute story. Last week’s theme: humiliation.
Although I didn’t have a chance to share my story of personal humiliation, you can listen to my last rehearsal, recorded during the Thursday afternoon commute. Listen/download here [4m 33s].
The eight speakers and host delighted the audience with stories about high school humiliation, marching across Louisiana alongside a covered wagon, peeing on your shoes at Whole Foods, and dropping a deuce while running the fastest 2 miler of a collegiate athlete’s track career. Big laughs had by all.
The point to this post: As a startup, your story may be all that you have. If you only possess a brand new product with little to no customers, revenue, or reputation, your story is critical.
Why your startup story matters:
- It explains your lack of experience or history in the industry.
- It will make people care about you and what you’re doing.
- It validates the problem you are solving.
- It will anchor all future conversations. In fact, it will probably be directly tied the mission and crusade you are embarking upon.
How to tell a better startup story, adapted from The Monti’s own storytelling tips page:
- Want people to pay attention from the beginning? Start with a killer “hook”.
- Keep it short. Your story is only a single piece of the conversation. It should serve to frame up the rest of the dialogue between you and your customers.
- Convey your “WHY” with passion. People want to see and believe you actually care about what you’re doing.
- Follow a logical path for your story. Set the context, create the problem, expose the conflict, present the solution, close with a lead in to the next step, whether it be a demo of your product or Q&A.
- Make your closing point clear and impactful. If you had to leave them thinking one thing, what would that thing be?
The exercise of building a story and rehearsing it until my ears bled served me incredibly well. Crafting a compelling narrative is freaking difficult, and much different that presenting a Power Point or webinar.
Are you a great storyteller? I am not.
Are you telling your startup’s story as best you can? I certainly have room to improve.
I’ll be heading to more Monti events to start figuring this out.