HUGH CULVER

Sell your story and save the world

Updated to Speaking on May 3, 2023.

I got my start in the speaking industry with a story. And you know what? When I think about the last 18 years of speaking,  teaching, writing, and coaching, nothing has changed.

It’s still about the story.

Stories are the universal platform for lessons. If you turn to an audience and say “Let me tell you a story…” they will lean in. We can’t resist – we love stories. Our ancestors passed on stories, all books are based on stories, so are movies, and even advertisements.

And if you want to make an impact and save the world, you need a story we can buy into.

What about you? What is your story?

I’m not talking about a you-won’t-believe-what-happened-to-me-in-the-mall story. I’m talking about a foundation story you can build your platform on.

MAYBE YOU KNOW THESE STORIES?

The late Stephen Covey was a professor who turned his research as a coach and corporate consultant into simple models for effectiveness anyone could apply.

Robin Sharma left and uninspiring career in law to write The monk who sold his Ferrari. His Mom helped him flog books and now he arrives for keynote engagements in a limo.

My friend Melonie Dodaro was building a traditional brick-and-mortar business when she noticed people struggling with social media. She now helps other businesses master their on-line presence.

When Guy Kawasaki joined the tiny upstart called Apple Computers his creative lights switched on. His inside look at business in Silicon Valley turned into 12 books and four millions followers.

And John Lee Dumas was frustrated that his favorite podcasts about business start-ups only got updated weekly. So he created the first daily podcast for entrepreneurs.

My point is that there is so much more we COULD know about each one of these people – but we don’t need to. We just need to know one simple story we can remember and repeat. It’s like reading a book or going to a movie. There are only a few threads of the story you will remember – that’s the part that gets repeated.

MY NEW STORY

One and a half years ago I minted a new story for my work in the expert community. Here it is.

For 18 years I built a successful business as a speaker, consultant, author, seminar leader, and coach. It was a long and hard journey. Now, I teach and mentor other experts how to do it faster and better.

You have a story that can help people. It might be your work experience, a business start-up, an accident, a success story, or even lessons from parenting. That story has power and value and people will pay to hear it – if you know how to package it and sell it.

AVOID DOING THIS

I know of at least three ways you can dilute your story or miss the opportunity to plant your story in the minds of your market. Avoid these:

1. TOO MANY TOPICS

You are an expert in leadership, succession planning, team building, communications, and, oh yeah, multi-generation workplaces. NO YOU AREN’T. I have made this mistake for too long (maybe I still do). Too many topics means you are not an expert in anything. You can write books every two years on a different topic, but please stay true to one story.

2. CONFUSING OR WEAK STORY

Don’t bore us with details or stories that put us to sleep.

Weak story

“Paul spent 12 years as a senior manager in Fortune 500 corporations. Now he uses his impressive experience to help other companies to be more successful.”

Strong story

“Sally measured over 160,000 people to identify a scientific approach to personal branding. Over the past decade, her team has uncovered surprising trends about why certain people and companies succeed. Today, Sally teaches how to communicate and captivate in a world with a 9-second attention span.” (sallyhogshead.com/)

“Shawn Achor is the winner of over a dozen distinguished teaching awards at Harvard University, where he delivered lectures on positive psychology in the most popular class at Harvard. Shawn has become one of the world’s leading experts on the connection between happiness and success.” (goodthinkinc.com/about)

You get one chance to make a first impression – make it with a story and make it stick.

3. TOO MANY STORIES

Pick a lane. Telling your market that you have multiple graduate degrees, a black belt in Karate, ran a not for profit, and are a leadership expert is confusing, weak, and forgettable. Do some prioritizing, drop the least important points and strengthen what’s left. 

HOW TO CREATE YOUR STORY

You’re not going to like this, because it’s a process of elimination:

  1. List everything you want prospects to know about you. Include everything: work experience, family, life-lessons, kitchen sink – everything.
  2. Pick the five items that make you a better pick than your competition (and please don’t tell me you have no competition).
  3. Now pick the strongest three differentiators.
  4. Now develop the strongest, most indelible, unforgettable item into a story.

You don’t have to climb Everest, or be a best-selling author to inspire others, or save the world.

But, you do need a story.

Craft that story, improve on it, and use it. Let your story be the bumper sticker in your customer’s mind that gets them talking about you and your story will always feed you more business.

Now I have to run off to check my story (again).

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Share a thought

What are you doing to sell your story (share so we all can learn)? Add your comment below.