How many presentations have you had to suffer that spend a good deal of time establishing the presenter or the company as the most important subject of the presentation? When individuals or companies present themselves, either in an elevator pitch or an extended session of death-by-Power Point, they typically start with how great they are. “We were established in 1768!”, “We have ten thousand employees”, “I’ve gained a million Face Book followers in 6 months!”. They are setting themselves up as the hero of their own story, and that’s supposed to impress you enough to take notice. But how well do we resonate with these stories? Probably about as well as we do with that too-cool self-centered guy at the party who can only talk about how great he is – and we walk away (without being able to get a word in) thinking “what a narcissist!”
What happens when we are at the movies or read an epic novel? Who do we identify with? For the most part we identify with the protagonist – that’s Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, Frodo Baggins in Lord of the Rings. These stories reach into our hearts and emotions, linking us with some aspect of the protagonist, the hero, of the story -– it’s the oldest and most powerful way of communicating and we’ve been doing it since the beginning of time.
When we are carried along in an epic adventure like Star Wars or Lord of the Rings, part of us identifies with the hero (it’s actually wired into our empathic system to do so, as this is how we learn, and learning is vital for survival, so it’s a basic reflexive action – albeit largely subconscious). We are all a bit egocentric and we naturally gravitate to this embodiment of the hero – even if the hero is a female and we are male, or gay and we are straight, or a communist and we are a capitalist, and so on. A well written or produced story will pull us into the life of the hero and at least part of us resonates, or has empathy for that hero.
When we are in the place of the hero of a story then we are in a receptive place to understand what the “guide” or “mentor” in the story has to impart to us. And every good story has such a guide – that’s Yoda in Star Wars and Gandalf in Lord of the Rings. Once we identify with the hero the guide becomes very important to us, because what the guide has to say and do is probably going to save our lives, help rescue the princess, or stop some world-destroying apocalyptic catastrophe from happening.
Companies and individuals should take note! Authors and screenwriters know a thing or two about how to hook people into a story and get them to resonate with a character and that character’s values, beliefs, plight, emotional journey. The rule here is that the customer is always the protagonist, the hero, the main character of YOUR story as a company, brand, or business. The company, brand or business is the “guide”, the Yoda, the Gandalf of it’s own story. The guide knows a thing or two and can help the hero get to where they need to get to, to fulfill their destiny, without overshadowing the story, without being the main character.
So how should a good presentation or pitch begin? It should begin, and center around the hero of the story – that’s your customer. It should be about the challenge they face that’s preventing them from reaching their destiny (even if that challenge is getting a good deal on having their house painted so they can live in nicer surroundings), and how the company can be the guide, the wizard with the magic to help them on their journey.
If your marketing department starts crafting messages more like a screenwriter than the too-cool narcissist at the company Christmas party, then you will see more engagement and “buy in” from your customer base. In the epic adventure of life your business, products and services are Yoda, and your customer is Luke, and you are going to help him rescue the princess and save the galaxy!