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Hollywood Storytelling Secrets That Will Make You a More Inspiring Leader

Hollywood has become a multi-billion-dollar storytelling industry. Use their storytelling secrets to become a more inspiring leader.

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"Those who tell the stories rule the world." 

Walt Disney Pictures

--Hopi American Indian proverb

As a business leader, you’re currently taking the toughest leadership test. How can you maintain collaboration, communication, and trust in your organization, and how can you motivate and inspire people regardless of whether they’re in the office or the virtual meeting room? How can you keep your customers in love with your products/services in a world that’s rapidly changing due to a global pandemic? And how can you implement change initiatives, get stakeholders’ buy-in, and keep your organization thriving regardless of what life or governments throw at you?

Through stories.

The power of stories can help you connect, motivate, inspire and persuade. Human beings have been hardwired for stories. We have an instinct, it would seem, for stories. This theory has actually been backed by science

Modern scientific research has now concluded that the human mind is a story processor, not a logic processor. Stories were how our early ancestors navigated the dangerous world around them. Through stories, we evolved and thrived. While our species has changed quite a bit over the last several hundred thousand years, one thing hasn’t really changed: our absolute need and desire for stories.

Related: The 5 Elements of Storytelling Every Entrepreneur Needs to Know

A common misconception is that storytelling is only for big, grand, emotional stories like the ones you read in books or see in movies and Ted Talks… when, in fact, stories: 

✓ Sell products

✓ Help leaders inspire and connect with their teams

✓ Give meaning to boring statistics and facts

✓ Make meetings more engaging

✓ Inspire buyers to take action

✓ Rally people around a common cause

… and much more.

Consider these statistics:

  • 79% of people scan the web instead of reading word by word.
  • Professionals spend 51% of their time managing information instead of acting on it.
  • Every 60 seconds, 700,000 Google searches are performed, 60 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube, and 168 million emails are sent.
  • Blog posts with videos are linked to 3X more than text-only posts. 

What do all of these statistics have in common? They point to the fact that people are looking for specific information every day, and yet many people aren’t engaging or interacting with the information at their disposal.

Your teams, your partners, your investors and customers all need to engage and interact with you for your business to thrive. Storytelling is how you can connect with all of these people in a meaningful way. And who better to learn storytelling from than Hollywood?

Related: Storytelling Can Help Anyone Connect With Your Brand

Hooray for Hollywood

The film industry makes over one billion dollars each year in the United States alone. It makes 50 billion worldwide. What is behind these staggering figures? Two things:

  • Our need for stories, which, as you saw, has been scientifically proven.
  • A storytelling formula that has been proven to work over and over again.

Movies captivate audiences because they make us feel so much. We laugh, cry, shriek, yell. We forget our own lives for two hours and go on a journey with the movie’s hero.

This is the power of storytelling. 

The people who make these movies have some tricks up their sleeves. They know exactly how to craft these stories to get a reaction, whatever reaction they want, out of us. 

Here are six storytelling elements Hollywood uses, and you can, too. Inspire and take your team and customers on a journey with you.

1. Structure

If you pay more attention to the movies you watch, you’ll begin to recognize the structure of the stories being told. Structure is critical to good storytelling. Without it, the movie can feel a bit loosey-goosey and avant-garde, and the audience can become confused and bored.

All good stories have a beginning, middle and end. All good stories also have a hero who goes on a journey and is transformed by it. How can you use this trick in your business to connect with and inspire others?

Let’s say you were invited to speak at an industry event. You knew that at this event were prospective investors, and you really wanted to convince them to invest in your business. You might decide to tell the story of how and why you started your company. Take them on a journey, and be sure to give your story a solid beginning, middle and end.

If you do a good job telling your story, your audience will have connected emotionally with it, and you will have inspired those investors to set up a meeting with you.

2. Make people feel something

In human nature, an emotional investment often leads to financial investment. Whether through an article, blog post, newsletter or email campaign, if you can make your audience (prospects) feel something, you have a much better chance of making an actual connection, and eventually, a customer for life.

Stop thinking about how great your features are and start focusing on the benefits they offer your customers. For example, maybe you sell storage space. No one really cares that you offer 12 x 8 temperature-controlled spaces. What they care about is that their most prized possessions, like their mother’s wedding dress, will be safe until they move into their new home. Pushing people’s emotional buttons is one of the most important storytelling skills. And you’ll find you can often command higher prices for your products and services than your competitors simply because your customers have emotionally invested themselves in your brand.

Related: How to Use Storytelling to Sell Your Brand and Vision

3. Get to the point

While a movie may technically be an hour and a half long, the screenwriter knows they only have a few minutes to hook the audience and keep them interested. Otherwise, those people will find something else to watch.

This is a great thing to remember in your business meetings. No one loves a meeting, especially these days with meetings now taking place over the Internet. Most of us are suffering from Zoom burnout.

Keep this in mind and do what Hollywood screenwriters do: Hook your audience. You also only have a few minutes because, though your audience is forced to continue sitting there, they can easily mentally check out. 

So do something to engage your team members right off the bat. This could be telling a joke. Asking how everyone’s weekend was. Sharing a piece of good news about your organization. Something to grab their attention so you can keep it through the duration of the meeting.

4. Use language everyone understands

Why does a movie like Toy Story speak to so many people of all ages? Because it tells a powerful story in a simple way. Avoid using industry jargon in your marketing or presentations. Don’t try too hard to come off as an expert. Instead, focus on how you can share your ideas and vision. Usually, that will be via simple language that everyone understands.

5. Be relatable

There’s a difference between sharing information with your staff and telling a story. Content, data or information is, in and of itself, not something we can easily relate to as human beings. Remember, the science now says our brain is better at processing stories instead of processing logic.

If you want your employees and customers to relate to you, then be a relatable leader. This means letting your guard down and being human. Share more of your own personal stories and emotions with others, and they will feel more comfortable and willing to connect with you.

6. Great movies are the result of passionate people

Do you have any idea how long it takes for a movie to get made? From idea to opening weekend, it can take years! Writers, directors and producers have to be passionate about the films they are making because the process is often frustrating and tedious.

How do you rekindle your own passion and remember your why? Let’s face it, burn out is real. It’s hard starting a business and keeping it going for years. It’s also incredibly challenging leading teams. It’s no wonder so many business leaders get to a point where they forget why they even started their business in the first place. 

You used your passion to get your business off the ground, don’t forget to bring that passion to your marketing and leadership.

Final thoughts

Leaders aren’t people who tell others what to do. Great leaders are people that inspire others to their own greatness. Great leaders don’t focus on sales so much as they do genuinely connecting with others. These types of leaders are the ones we want to follow, support and buy from. 

LaQuita Cleare

Written By

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

LaQuita Cleare, CEO of Clear Communication Academy, transforms the way leaders and companies communicate by offering public speaking, storytelling and communication training. She has spoken in over 50 countries alongside Harvard professors and other world leaders.