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  • Karl Schmieder

Use These 6 Tips to Connect With Your Audience and Be Their BFF

So, clearly, you are all aware that I’m on an obsessive crusade to help scientist-entrepreneurs tell great biotech and synbio stories, convince investors to back you, build great companies, disrupt the way things have been done, and make the world a better place.

For the next couple of weeks, we’re going to talk about the how of storytelling. Connecting with your people. Being stoked about your story and the people you tell it to. Because I’ve seen smart out-of-my-league scientists, brilliant people, mess this up. With too many slides. Too many words. Or on the flip side, following a prescribed 10-slide formula. And so many “ahs,” “ums,” “ands,” and “buts” that the Ah Counter at a Toastmaster’s event would fill pages with tally marks.


But you know what?


I’ve been there too, and we can’t let it happen any more. I’m not going to let you. Poor storytelling is not helping you and it’s not helping the world. 


Previously, I suggested your storytelling will improve when you know your audience. Know them like you know your best friends. Because that’s what you want them to be, right?


In other words, you need the people you share your ideas with to pay attention and listen. You need to them to ENGAGE. 


If you can master the skill of storytelling, making your audience the hero of the story you tell them, you’ll get partners, investors and customers. You might become a media darling. And everyone will be begging to hear your brilliant story. 


You owe it to the world to tell your story and make sure it gets heard.


And I’m honored to help you on this journey. 


So, let me share a few things I wish I’d known about audiences when I first started this business. Some of them I learned while doing time in the world of public relations. Some, from the sales coach I hired along the way. Some, I had to learn the hard way, by making stupid mistakes, getting beat up, and having to pick myself up again and again and again.

Lesson #1: No one cares about you, your education, your technology, your service, or product. It’s harsh but true. Sorry. You have friends and family that support you. Appreciate them and be grateful. But ultimately, you’re not top-of-mind for anyone else. That should be incredibly liberating. The great thing about no one caring is that you are the only person you really have to please. And your severest critic. If you make a mistake, it’s OK. People forget. If you make lots of mistakes, learn from them and keep going. They’re your treasure-store of learning experiences. 


Lesson #2: The only way to help your audience is to listen to them. I thought people would listen and learn from me. Turns out, they only hear less than half of what I tell them. The only way to get people to listen to and absorb your idea is to listen to them. LISTEN and use what they tell you to make them part of your story. When they’re part of the story, they listen too.


Lesson #3: KISS. No, not the American rock band known for their facepaint and elaborate live performances. (Nice picture, right?) Your message needs to be simple. If you stick to one key message, one your audience can relate to, they will be more likely to hear you. As a public speaker, I’ve learned that starting with my message and ending with it are one way to get people to remember it and buy in. KISS = Keep It Simple Stupid


Lesson #4: Channel your inner punk rocker and do something. From punk, I learned a do-it-yourself ethic that I believe is the inspiration for so much entrepreneurship. While people in 1980s and ‘90s started bands, today they start companies. Starting a company, being an entrepreneur sets you apart from the norm, the average, the boring. It’s also incredibly important, since small business drives the US economy and employs more than half the US workforce. Some of the greatest innovations come from new companies started by people like you. So if you’re going to commit to doing something as punk rock as starting a company, then we should figure out how to tell the world your story.


Lesson #5: Give it away. Give it away. Give it away. My abuela, Aurora Wong, used to say, “You have to give to receive.” She was an extremely lucky gambler and never minded losing a bit because she knew she had to lose to win. Be willing to give away your ideas. Be willing to tell people how your tech works and will change things for them. No one does it better than you do, so take my grandmother's advice.


Lesson #6:  YOU. CAN. TELL. A. GREAT. STORY. OK? I also wrote about this previously. You’re already wired to tell a good story. If I can learn to tell a story, you can too. It just takes practice and confidence. And we’re here to help you.


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Image: Alice Bag of The Bags by Melanie Nissen.