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Professional speaker/author/business consultant plus painting contractor
Seattle, Washington
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Writing a Biznik Article

Writing an engaging article is similar to writing a great speech.  Never make a point in an article without a story, and never tell a story without making a significant point.

Written May 09, 2008, read 1681 times since then.
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In 1978, I was asked to give a series of talks at our church on four consecutive Wednesday evenings. As I was going to be paid for these talks, I decided I needed to fully prepare. I devoured ten books, minimum, wrote down exactly what I would say for each week, and took one year to get ready. I was up for the speaker’s challenge after my stint in Toast Masters. I had visualized the audience being in awe of my speaker prowess.

The first night arrived. I had all my ducks in a row ready to impart all this wisdom, and then proceeded to die 100 deaths when I finally stood up in front of the massive crowd of 50 people. Sweat was pouring off me so badly that I had to take off my drenched jacket. My glasses had fogged up so that I could not even see the pages of notes, much less read them. My stomach was in civil war mode, and I was counting the seconds to when I could exit off that stage, and promptly refund everyone’s money!

I had neglected the most important part of giving any presentation. I had forgotten to start with a story; a story about myself where I spoke of an experience relating to what I was about to teach.

Thank goodness! After what seemed like a very long 10 minutes, in reality only 60 seconds, one of my friends in the audience came to my rescue. “Jack, tell us the story of how you dealt with this issue when you were growing up in North Dakota”. In that moment, that man was my guardian angel! It was what I needed to get back on track, and I went on to relate various stories that evening, and throughout the course of the four weeks. Even so, the memory of my discomfort that evening is easily remembered.

I had been in Toast Masters for five years before, and had even learned the imperative of telling a personal story in your seven-minute talk. But all that went out the window when I realized I was going to be paid for a presentation. I was so nervous, I had forgotten even the basics of speaking to an audience, much less wowing them!

Giving a speech, writing a speech and writing an article is much the same process. Never try to make a point in an article without telling a story, and never tell a story in your article without making a significant point.

In 1971, I received a phone call during dinner, and my eight-year old daughter, Lorrie, answered the phone. She said it was long distance, and as I picked up the phone, there on the other end of the line was a voice, “Hi Jack, this is Charlie Tremendous Jones”. Now I had just read Charlie’s book, Life is Tremendous, and I didn’t really believe the voice, so I asked, “No, who is this really?!” Once again, he stated he really was Charlie Tremendous, and went on to inform me that he was heading for Hawaii to give a speech, had a two-hour layover in Seattle, and wanted to join me for breakfast. It was the most tremendous two hours I had spent in a long, long time.

I ended up hiring Charlie to speak to all my managers and employees at Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlours. During his presentations, Charlie constantly was telling stories to drive home each of his points. Even if you remembered nothing of his main points, you would remember the stories, and eventually the impact of his message through the stories would begin to sink in.

After all these years, I have drilled in my mind Charlie’s words which he would repeat at least 4 – 5 times in every talk: Never make a point without telling a story, and never tell a story without making a point.

Hopefully by now, you are starting to get the ‘point’ of this article. A good newspaper article always starts with a story about a person or a family to grab your attention. The Wall Street Journal has been practicing this simple formula for years, and they are masters. “Yesterday, Joe Smith went to his mailbox only to find a foreclosure notice giving him one month to come up with the money or the bank takes over his mortgage”. There usually follows some information about his family, his job that he lost, and so forth. Well, by then, you’re hooked! Now, you have to go to page 6 to find out about all the other Joe Smiths across the country and how they are dealing with the same issue, and then, finally at the end, you read about the statistics. Now, if instead of the personal story, the article had opened with the statistics, and the general information of all the other Joe Smiths across the country, the article would never have been read by as many people. Individual readers connect with the story of that one person, and that’s what peaks their interest and keeps them reading further.

In Summary:

  • Always begin your article with a story grabber to hook your reader.

  • Invest as much time in writing the opening paragraph as you do on the rest of the article.

  • Make your story one that the majority of readers can connect with, and not soon forget in the near future. One helpful way to do this is to integrate as many specifics as possible, both emotional and sensory. When your reader can make a connection with either a physical and/or emotional experience in their own life, chances are they will read that article through to the last word.

Good luck and good storytelling!

Professional speaker/author/business consultant plus painting contractor 
Seattle, Washington 
Jack Fecker

Jack is well known for his franchise development (NW) of Farrell's Ice Cream Parlours, and some 20 successful companies. He is considered one of the finest business consultants in the market place today.

100 Ideas an Hour

Learn more about the author, Jack Fecker.

Comment on this article

  • Digital Marketing Strategist, Data Geek, Co-Founder 
Overland Park, Kansas 
Brody Dorland
    Posted by Brody Dorland, Overland Park, Kansas | May 10, 2008

    Great article Jack...(of course it was, lots of stories).

    You certainly have a smooth way of transitioning into a story (and making your point) without the reader even realizing they've been hooked. I've always tried to include personal stories in my articles, but thanks for the reminder about "leading" with a story to get them hooked.

    Brody Dorland

  • Graphics Awesomizer 
Sandy, Oregon 
David Billings
    Posted by David Billings, Sandy, Oregon | May 10, 2008

    Oh, I really need to do this. Your article came to me just in time; I'm about to write a series of tutorials. A few stories will help keep them alive!

  • Linked:Seattle Community Chairperson 
Seattle, Washington 
Joe Hage
    Posted by Joe Hage, Seattle, Washington | May 10, 2008

    We're lucky to have you as part of the community, Jack!

  • Vedic astrologer 
Seattle, Washington 
Kathleen Whalen MS AOM
    Posted by Kathleen Whalen MS AOM, Seattle, Washington | May 11, 2008

    Thank you Jack, what great reminders. As I read your piece, I was simultaneously transported into the classes of my teacher, who is constantly telling stories; some stories repeatedly. His message always gets across, and I believe it from this very approach.
    I am inspired to remember this approach with my communications. Now, 'what' to write about that is unique, fresh and helpful to our community...

  • Creative Clarity Coach 
Bainbridge Island, Washington 
Jennifer Manlowe
    Posted by Jennifer Manlowe, Bainbridge Island, Washington | May 11, 2008

    Thanks so much, Jack.

    To expand your point a little bit, I have this recommendation: Besides telling a story to make my point, I like to connect with my audience by asking them lively, yet broad-enough, hypothetical questions. I then ask them to take 4 minutes to explore that particular question with their neighbor in the audience (2 " for each anwer). I find audience participation to also BRING HOME key points along with a memorable experience that might also foster a connection during the break.

    As a Keynote speaker who often speaks on "Listening for Lasting Leads," I want people not only to connect with me and my points but to connect with each other around the same.

    Again, thanks for your inspiring story where you clearly practice what you preach.

    Jennifer

    p.s. for the would-be authors out there, contact me to help you get your "book" into print.

  • Professional speaker/author/business consultant plus painting contractor 
Seattle, Washington 
Jack Fecker
    Posted by Jack Fecker, Seattle, Washington | May 13, 2008

    Jennifer, thanks for the reminder. I have done that in the past and it is a great way to get every one involved. Thank you all for your comments. I really appreciate it.

    100 Ideas an Hour
  • Minister of Ceremonies 
Clinton, New Jersey 
Ruthann Brown
    Posted by Ruthann Brown, Clinton, New Jersey | May 13, 2008

    Timely, timely, timely!

    I speak for a living, but the stories are always given to me and are about someone else. My job is to weave them together and deliver a smooth flow from one to the next. But, now I have my first paid speaking engagement to my peers coming up. My morning cup of coffee is doing wild and crazy things in my stomach since I accepted the gig.

    You have just delivered the antacid I needed. When I meet all of these business owners, I can tell them MY story. After they see that I have been where they are, they may be more willing to see the paradigm shift I will be presenting to them.

    I'll let you know how it goes. But, you'll need to be patient. It's not until July. At least the coffee wiill be friendlier until then.

    Thanks so much, Jack. I really enjoy sitting under your tutelage.

  • Career, Job Search, Executive Outplacement Consultant, Author 
Maple Valley, Washington 
Allan Hay
    Posted by Allan Hay, Maple Valley, Washington | Nov 04, 2008

    Jack, your article is right on target in my book. I focus on this concept when teaching job interviewing skills. Story telling is as old as mankind, and yet it still seems to be one of the primal ways we seek to connect and give ourselves permission to listen to someone. This is an excellent article and great reminder that we must connect with our audience of many or one, before attempting to influence them at any level. Thanks Jack.

    Allan Hay

  • Minister of Ceremonies 
Clinton, New Jersey 
Ruthann Brown
    Posted by Ruthann Brown, Clinton, New Jersey | Nov 04, 2008

    Allan, Thanks for posting here. It jiggled my memory banks to update on my post.

    The July gig was a success. And I know the stories made all of the difference. There is definately a mental/emotional thread that connect us to a storyline. Once my audience felt I had suffered the same challenges as them and survived, they were willing to hear my message.

    Thanks again, Jack, for helping me see how important the opening is. I invested as much time on my intro as I did on the remainder of the program. It really paid off.

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