Who doesn’t love waffles?
With their morish, crisp batter. Toasted to a golden crunch and drizzled with sumptuous maple syrup. Sprinkled with textured almonds and finished with a generous dollop of freshly whipped cream.
Delicious. But how do you feel about WHAFFLING? Not quite so alluring, right?
I’m often asked how to tell a story that keeps the interest of attention deficient audiences. Particularly on social media. And it all comes down to removing the whaffle.
Stories don’t have to be 1,000 page epics to rival War and Peace. You can tell compelling stories in a couple of sentences.
So here are 4 ways you can tell short stories that keep the attention of your clients:
1) Get to the point
Every marketing message you share – whether it’s on social media, an email, a blog post or a sales letter – must have an objective.
Otherwise you’re talking for the sake of it. Which is a waste of your breath and disrespectful to your audience.
So, if you’re using a story in your marketing, it has to serve a very specific purpose and be relevant to your goal.
Which means this – your stories need to get to the point of your message. Fast. And while it’s OK to link your message to a story that’s slightly off-piste, you need to tie your story to your objective as quickly as possible.
The longer you go off track, the less likely you are to keep your clients’ attention.
2) Remove unnecessary details
I’ve lost count of the number of stories I’ve read with irrelevant details that send me to sleep.
And what do you do when you’re reading something boring? That’s right! You scroll on past, or close your browser, or click the next email in your inbox.
Attention-poor clients won’t give you the benefit of the doubt.
So, it’s up to you to take out anything that isn’t absolutely essential to the point of your story. That’s not to say, you should avoid descriptive details. If they add to the mood you’re trying to create, they too are an essential part of your story.
But if those details stray into the territory of needless waffle – they’ve got to go.
The trick here is to read back what you’ve written and ask yourself if your story would be any less powerful without certain words or sentences. You’ll be amazed how much is unnecessary when you’re brutally honest with yourself.
3) Start in the middle
It might sound counter-intuitive and go against the advice your teachers told you, but if you want to keep your stories punchy – start in the middle.
Avoid temptation to set the scene first. You don’t have time for that. Jump in and get right to the action before you lose your audience.
You’re aiming to arouse sufficient curiosity to get your reader to STOP in their tracks. You can add in relevant details about characters and the environment as your story develops but don’t bore your reader with those bits first.
See the difference here:
“A while ago, I’d called my best friend, Sue, to meet me at the coffee shop. She’d been my friend since school so she knew me inside out. It was raining outside and I was soaked to the skin by the time I arrived to tell her the news. And what I told her, made her eyes grow as wide as dinner plates and her jaw drop straight to the cold, stone floor. You’ll never believe what I said…”
This is fine if you’re writing a novel. But you’re not – so let’s compare it with this…
“What I told my friend, made her eyes grow as wide as dinner plates and her jaw drop to the floor. You’ll never believe what I said…”
Version number two conveys exactly the same message, without the setup, which is just what you need for attention deficient audiences.
4) Edit Edit Edit
Often, your first draft is just an emotional brain dump of the first thoughts that popped in to your head.
It’s tempting to write a social media post, email, blog or sales letter and think it’s good to go.
But here’s the truth…
Your first draft is just that. A draft. I regularly return to my writing tens of times before I’m satisfied that I’ve made the maximum impact in the fewest words possible.
I know. I can you hear you groan that you thought you were done. But editing’s the difference between OK copy and GREAT copy. So, make sure you leave yourself as much time to edit (if not more) than it took you to write your first draft.
You also need to be ruthless. Step away from your work for a good chunk of time. It takes some distance from your initial out-pouring to have the courage to cut your story back to the bare bones.
By the time you’re done, you could well have cut back your work to half the number of words you started with, without losing the sense of what you’re trying to share.
When you write stories for your business, the temptation can be to write an epic novel. But the reality is – in an age of attention deficiency – you can’t keep your clients’ attention if you don’t get straight to the point.
By following the 4 steps I’ve listed, you’ll find it much easier to tell compelling stories your audience will stick around long enough to read.
If you’re not clear on the key stories you should be sharing – download a copy of my FREE STORY DISCOVERY cheat sheet.
Click below and get your FREE copy today.