Telling Your Story

How to tell your story and promote your skills to create potentially beneficial relationships. Most people have to learn to talk about themselves in order to be successful.

The reality is that no one cares how great you say you are; they care about how great you are for them. The only way for them to really believe that is to have an experience — better yet, a collection of experiences — that proves it.”

Colleen Wainwright, "Branding Your Business"

February 2013

Short of a public relations firm or enormous luck, most people have to tell others about themselves to be successful. Yet, few take the most obvious step:

Tell the story.

And not just in the shower. In answer to the common inquiry, “How are you?” a reply that tells something about you helps the recipient know how to respond in turn.

Who are you, where have you been, and where are you are going?

Tell it so that the other person can respond intelligently. If your story aligns with the listener’s past or future, even loosely, a friend is made. A potentially beneficial relationship is formed.

Further, the reply can be crafted to suit your goals. If you want to promote your doctor skills, talk briefly about a challenging case that you managed well. On the other hand, if it is a hobby that you want to pursue further, give a few sentences about your recent ventures in that area. If the enquirer has a common interest, she or he will tell you. A bond is formed.

This approach can be extended to a social setting when your topic of interest is spontaneously brought up. For example, I educate and provide information for individuals who manage their own money. When investing is discussed at a dinner party, I have the opportunity to relate why I do what I do. Starting with a personal story is often received better than diving into detailed information.

My own experience with investment managers in earlier years was not what I had hoped. This led to me believe there must be a better way, which is what I practice now. In order to learn how to do this, I worked seven years in the investment industry.”

Then more specific information can follow.

Among the many things I learned during the time I worked at financial firms is that most people lose money every year by investing in managed mutual funds. The reason is that they underperform index funds 80% of the time in any one year, at least in part by charging high fees. This means individuals who invest in managed mutual funds can lose up to 30% of their retirement portfolio by the time they are 65 years old to these fees, even without poor performance.”

The message is to be careful with your money, and that I can educate to avoid the scenario that I laid out. My fee is hourly, not a percentage of assets; thereby there is little to lose. This information could bring a client to my door.

Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins

Annette Simmons wrote a book about this “Tell the Story” concept called . Simmons portrays why a personal message intertwined with the facts to endorse you is not only palatable, but also appealing.

Read more:

Luke Johnson: “The Secret to Success is all in the Tale You Tell,” Financial Times, Jan. 2, 2013

Rhymer Rigby: “Be Interested and Look for Common Ground,” Financial Times, Nov. 26, 2012.

Knowledge@Wharton.upenn.edu: “The Power of Storytelling.” Nov. 13, 2012.