I could inundate you with some research, a few facts and perhaps a couple of slides, but, that would fly in the face of everything I teach. To answer this question, I respectfully submit a…. short story.
Cara was giving a presentation about communication differences between generations. She said, “People often tell me that Millennials aren’t loyal.” She continued, “I can see how you might think that. When I was a kid, my parents divorced. My mother worked for three different major companies during my childhood, and was ‘downsized’ by each one. Every time, she would come home and say “Why me?” And it was my shoulder she cried on. Unfortunately, my family story is not unique for my generation. Loyalty? We don’t know what it looks like. We don’t know the meaning of the word.”
Wow! That last line made me sit up and take notice. Cara could have put up a Power Point showing the number of divorced families in the ‘Millennial’ generation. She could have discussed research that’s been done on emotional struggles of people in that generation. She could have elaborated on the financial data that shows how Millennials struggle to move out of their parents house in the current economy.
None of those, nor all of them combined, would have the same impact that Cara’s story did. I’ve been familiar with the difference in generational communication styles for years, but in 39 seconds [just 85 words] she left an impression that helped me understand this difference at a fundamental level. It will help me to better work with Millennials in the future.
How can this help you? Carefully review the text of Cara’s story. Notice how there is no wasted information or extraneous detail. She presents you with five essential story elements – Characters, Circumstances, Conflict, Change [in the point of view of one of the characters], Carryout Message. She gives only essential details and then hits you with a powerful closing line that summarizes her story. This short vignette was a powerful sub-point to her overall message of how to communicate with her generation.
As you prepare your next story, quickly get to the essence of it. Introduce your characters, their circumstances, the conflict they face, the change they experience, and the carryout message for the audience. Master this skill, and you can be a storyteller that people will talk about long after you speak.