Kindra Hall grew up going to storytelling festivals. Now, she spends her days teaching executives how to bolster their brands with strategic storytelling. Before Kindra started doing storytelling as a career, she thought that it was something everyone innately had — after all, it’s how we naturally communicate.
But as she worked with more businesses, she learned that many didn’t know how to harness the power of stories. “They didn’t know that what they were talking about was actually a story that could be developed and be used, that could communicate all of this breadth and depth about who they are and what they believe in. They just had no idea that was even in them.”
We’re excited that Kindra will be joining us for our business video conference, WistiaFest, in a few short weeks, since storytelling is central to a great video strategy. In the meantime, we had her stop by the office while she was in the neighborhood for a pre-’Fest interview, chock-full of suggestions for organizations of all kinds to find and hone their stories!
Instead of focusing on finding the most emotional story you possibly can, or worse, fretting that your company doesn’t have a story to tell, Kindra suggests focusing on increasing the surface area of connection with your audience. “The exciting thing about what your product does for the client isn’t actually what it does for them. It’s the problem that they had in the first place. It’s that solving of the problem that makes the product exciting.”
According to Kindra, too many businesses start from the solution. Instead, she suggests figuring out your audience’s pain points and meeting them where they are with your story. One example is a customer testimonial video. When telling client stories, organizations often lead with their solution: how the client uses their product and what it does for them. But they leave out the entire beginning of the story, the problem that the client had in the first place. Instead of focusing on the story behind your business, focus on the customer’s story to build deeper connections.
“From a business perspective, and especially on video, you can have endless content that is really meaningful, and that people will look forward to. And when you start to shift towards that storytelling default, it requires awareness of your own life, but then you give the gift of awareness to other people. I feel like that’s a stopping point for a lot of people. They’re like, my business wasn’t founded because of some huge tragedy. It’s like, no, there was a day that you made a decision. And somebody needs to hear that story.”
That said, you don’t have to completely shy away from emotional stories, either: “If you have an emotional story, tell that emotional story — as long as that story doesn’t control you.”
“I worked with this hospital, and they had a big fundraising event for the foundation that supports the hospital. Everybody comes in, and they’re in ball gowns, and they sit down to this wonderful dinner. And then somebody gets up on stage and starts asking everybody for money. And it’s kind of awkward, because you just don’t know how it’s going to go.
The year before, they had some physicians get up on stage and say what the funds would be used to purchase. “We need this piece of equipment. We need this piece of equipment.” And it did not go over well. It just didn’t connect with the people sitting in the room, because it didn’t matter to them. It’s hard to care about a piece of equipment.
When I worked with them the next year, we found three people who had been positively impacted. And I worked with each of them to craft three-minute stories. And they weren’t huge tear-jerkers. Because I feel like that’s another misconception, that it’s not a story unless you make somebody cry. You don’t have to make somebody cry. You just have to make them see the story and imagine themselves in it.
The first guy got up and told his story. And they asked for money, and paddles went up. And then, just as the emotion was kind of wearing off, we brought the next person up and asked for paddles. They raised double what they had the year before. And it was just for three very specific, really intentionally-told stories.”
Once you’ve defined the benefits of your offering and how it can help solve your audience’s problems, Kindra suggests figuring out what objections they might have: “Why might they disagree with this? Why might they be opposed to it? Why might they not want to take the action that I want them to take? Can I weave those objections into my story?”
“What are the different objections your audience might have? Why don’t they hire you? Why don’t they buy?”
Since Kindra’s business is selling her own expertise, she’s spent a lot of time thinking about how to address the objections an audience might have to her. “What preconceived notions would people have about me? When they pull up a video, and they see me in that first millisecond, what are they thinking about me that I have to deal with? And can I deal with that in a story?”
A mentor suggested that she open with a story defining her expertise to counter assumptions that people might make about her because of her youthful appearance, hair color, or gender, but Kindra decided to take an alternate route: she starts many of her talks with a story about when she was younger.
“If I tell a story of when I was younger, every person in that room goes back to when they were younger. When we’re younger, we’re all a little awkward. We’re all trying to find our way. And we look back on that time with a certain cherishedness. So, if I can introduce them to that person, they like me more for the person standing in front of them.”
Whether she’s speaking to a live audience or to a camera, Kindra remains hyper-aware of the actual humans she’s communicating with.
“If you imagine the people who will be viewing this story, who will be moved by it, it will make you so much better on camera.”
“That’s really all I’m thinking about, is my relationship with them. [With speaking engagements], it’s easy to do, because they’re right there. When it’s to a video camera, I think of the video camera the same way. I’m looking into the lens, but what’s happening in the back of my mind is all of the people who are watching it.”
The biggest question Kindra asks before producing any story is: “What do I want my audience to think, feel, know, or do as a result of hearing this message?” Throughout your entire storytelling process, from honing in on a message to writing a script to producing a piece of content, don’t lose sight of the people you’re talking to. “Anything that makes it about me has got to be eliminated from the equation.”
We had a ton of fun chatting with Kindra at the Wistia office, and we learned a ton over the course of an hour with her! We’re relieved to hear that even the pros get nervous on camera, but you’d never know by watching Kindra’s videos. We hope you were as inspired as we were to keep honing your business’s story. And we hope you’ll consider joining us at WistiaFest in a few weeks!
Want to learn more from Kindra Hall and other business video experts? Join us at WistiaFest!