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INDUSTRY 2023 - Don’t Convince. Inspire! Lessons on storytelling and product evangelizing.

Petra Wille
March 13, 2023

INDUSTRY 2023 - Don’t Convince. Inspire! Lessons on storytelling and product evangelizing.

Most product people know that storytelling and product evangelizing skills are essential in their roles. But many PMs struggle to build that muscle, especially if their inner critic is telling them that they are not a great storyteller. Sound familiar? Join this session if you want to mute your inner critic and learn more about the power of stories.

Petra will talk about the evolutionary advantage of telling good stories and why everybody has the power and ability to create them. Plus, she will share some hands-on tips and proven frameworks to help you improve your storytelling capabilities.

Petra Wille

March 13, 2023

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  1. Petra Wille | @loomista Lessons on storytelling and product evangelizing.

    Petra Wille | @loomista Don’t convince. Inspire! INDUSTRY 2023
  2. Petra Wille | @loomista Petra Wille | @loomista Petra Wille

    is an independent product leadership coach and author of STRONG Product People
  3. Petra Wille | @loomista No professional storytelling skills • How

    do I make sure the team is aligned on what really matters right now? • How to I explain all the things I know matter in a compelling way?
  4. Petra Wille | @loomista I'm on this stage today to

    share what I've learned in countless coaching sessions on business storytelling. Therefore, this talk is packed with tips and tricks for product people to improve their storytelling and product evangelizing skills. Let's start with a small task.
  5. Petra Wille | @loomista Think back to a business experience

    where someone truly inspired you to change course and take action. A meeting after which you felt energized and motivated to return to your desk and tackle your next task. What was the occasion? Who was the person talking/inspiring you?
  6. Petra Wille | @loomista Would you like to be as

    inspiring as the person you just noted? ?
  7. Petra Wille | @loomista Let me help you re-frame storytelling

    to mute your inner critic* *Shout out to Denise Jacobs here 
  8. Petra Wille | @loomista Why stories are important - especially

    if you are working in product Why I call them a design tool Why it´s easy to improve your storytelling • Structures and ingredients of compelling stories • Some great resources to learn more And to do so, I will share:
  9. Petra Wille | @loomista Why stories are important While we

    are not exactly born telling stories….
  10. Petra Wille | @loomista Photo by Austin Pacheco on Unsplash

    Each one of us has the ability to tell stories from a very early age—it’s built into our DNA. We perfect our storytelling skills throughout our childhood because we learn early on, that a good story helps us to get what we want.
  11. Petra Wille | @loomista By making her wish part of

    a bigger narrative, she was more convincing. Winterboots?
  12. Petra Wille | @loomista Photo by quokkabottles on Unsplash And

    it’s not only the active storytelling: We love to listen to stories from a very early age because they entertain us, captivate us, and help us to gain new insights.
  13. Petra Wille | @loomista Photo by Halacious on Unsplash They

    have a biological impact on us, triggering the release of hormones that act on us in very powerful ways
  14. Petra Wille | @loomista Oxytocin which causes us to build

    trust, generosity, and a personal connection Endorphins which can make someone laugh or help them deal with fear, pain, or uncertainty Dopamine which leads to a desire to know what happens next when you tell a story with peaks and cliffhangers That’s useful in our product management practice. Wouldn’t it be good to help people build trust and help them deal with uncertainty?
  15. Petra Wille | @loomista “We think in stories, remember in

    stories, and turn just about everything we experience into a story.” Carl Alviani (October 11, 2018). The Science Behind Storytelling. Retrieved from https://medium.com/the-protagonist/the-science-behind-storytelling-51169758b22c After learning these things about stories I would totally agree with Carl Alviani:
  16. Petra Wille | @loomista This ability to use stories to

    inspire others to work with us to solve problems— particularly as a group—has given our species Homo sapiens, a unique evolutionary advantage that has enabled us to collectively survive and thrive on this planet.
  17. Petra Wille | @loomista What Stories Do We've learned why

    stories are important and that every one of us is, by default, a storyteller. Now let's dive a bit deeper into the power of stories.
  18. Petra Wille | @loomista #deathtostock As you have probably experienced

    throughout your career, it takes a story to unite a group of people Business storytelling is a thing!
  19. Petra Wille | @loomista One well known use case for

    business storytelling is used by the iconic brands we all know: They are masters at telling brand stories. Even their shortest slogans (often, just a few words) can evoke images in the brains of customers that encourage their minds to wander to a better future. Foto von Alexander Shatov auf Unsplash Brands are Masters in Story Telling
  20. Petra Wille | @loomista Photo by Nelson Ndongala on Unsplash

    Think of Nike’s “Just do it,” or Apple’s “Think different,” or BMW’s “The ultimate driving machine.” And it is not only their marketing claims that transport the brands story. They also have great personalities who tell these stories to the world and also within their own organizations.
  21. Petra Wille | @loomista https://guykawasaki.com/ One of the first Product

    Evangelists of our time: Macintoshs' Guy Kawasaki I think, this is a highly underrated skill, and many organizations are unaware that better storytelling would make a big difference and ease some of the internal pains they are having.
  22. Petra Wille | @loomista Uninspired Divided Stakeholders were not convinced

    to support the effort I have seen many products that never saw the light of day because the storytelling was off. As a result, the product team was
  23. Petra Wille | @loomista A lesson that I have learned

    the hard way myself. Despite my efforts to effectively manage the backlog and prioritize tasks, our team's output was not making a significant impact.
  24. Petra Wille | @loomista We were running several product discovery

    initiatives to better understand our products’ shortcomings but continued to add features without seeing any improvement. Frustrated by our lack of success, I sought guidance from my product coach.
  25. Petra Wille | @loomista The problem might be your Product

    Evangelizing and Story Telling skills… He pointed out that I was not effectively communicating the findings from our product discovery efforts to the rest of the team and the company. So, important information was lost, sparks did not fly, and the team was neither inspired nor motivated by what we told them about our discovery learnings and what we could achieve next.
  26. Petra Wille | @loomista They did not have enough information

    to innovate on behalf of the user. And without a clear understanding of our user's needs and how they fit into the bigger picture, how this ties back to my product strategy, the team lacked THE inspiration and motivation to innovate on behalf of the user.
  27. Petra Wille | @loomista The connection between my pain and

    the potential solution of becoming better at product evangelizing
  28. Petra Wille | @loomista Storytelling is something I should work

    on. But as every great coach Marty did not only share his observation and help me realize that storytelling is something I should work on, but he also left me with some ideas on how to start my self progression journey. Marty recommended that I read Guy Kawasaki’s book, Selling the Dream, and I did exactly that.
  29. Petra Wille | @loomista Guy Kawasaki, Selling the Dream, Harper

    Business (1992) After reading the book, I realized how Guy Kawasaki's ability to tell great stories is vital to the overall Macintosh success story. I understood the critical importance of storytelling.
  30. Petra Wille | @loomista Developing this skill changed the rest

    of my career as a product manager I started telling stories that: united my product development team and convinced stakeholders that we had done our product discovery homework. And my stories helped marketing colleagues position the product in better ways. But, most importantly, I figured out what mattered to our users in the process of creating a narrative and made sure to put them, the users, at the center of my stories.
  31. Petra Wille | @loomista Stories are a perfect design tool

    • Everyone has the ability to create one, • they’re easy to iterate on, and • they help you gain more clarity. So, you might want to reframe storytelling and think about it more like you think about creating a prototype or click dummy. It is a tool that you could add to your PM toolkit. I’ve learned that ultimately
  32. Petra Wille | @loomista Creating and telling a Good Story

    A good story has a well-defined structure that makes it easy for people to understand and navigate. It has a beginning, a middle part and an end. Now let´s dive into the process of creating a compelling story
  33. Petra Wille | @loomista Let me share one high-level structure

    that worked well for many PMs so far. A story that helps others to get exited about something has a few key elements: • It paints a picture of a desirable future • It makes it clear why one should become part of this future • It acknowledges the current situation while describing the potential difficulties that may arise and why it’s worth overcoming them • It suggests a common goal with just enough information to make next steps clear for listeners
  34. Petra Wille | @loomista The hero’s journey starts in the

    ordinary world with a call to adventure—which could be in the form of a big dream or desirable future—and progresses through a succession of challenges, tests, and trials before reaching the ultimate destination where the hero has achieved their goal and is transformed, sharing what they has learned with others. One story structure using these key elements and maybe the most well- known story structures is “the hero’s journey,” which was elucidated by professor of literature Joseph Campbell.
  35. Petra Wille | @loomista We are called to adventure by

    the promise of a new product #deathtostock E.g. we have to get others to buy into our strategy and help them make tough tradeoff decisions during the process of building the product.
  36. Petra Wille | @loomista Besides using these helpful structures: How

    would I approach creating my first story? Step #1 undoubtedly is – make time for it in your calendar. Photo by NASA on Unsplash
  37. Petra Wille | @loomista Photo by Sonja Langford on Unsplash

    Creating and writing down a story is a lot of work, but, if you do it right, you’ll be able to use the same story for months or even years.
  38. Petra Wille | @loomista Photo by Sonja Langford on Unsplash

    A good story will save you hours of meetings convincing people that the things you are doing are the right ones to do It is a bit of an upfront investment but it is worth the effort. Creating and writing down a story is a lot of work, but, if you do it right, you’ll be able to use the same story for months or even years.
  39. Petra Wille | @loomista So, Step 1 is to make

    sure you have time for the actions suggested on the next slides:
  40. Petra Wille | @loomista Foto von Kelly Sikkema auf Unsplash

    Once you’ve done that, you start to write a narrative. Open your preferred text editor and just start laying out the story.
  41. Petra Wille | @loomista Once upon a time there was

    a team of five that wanted to change the world for the better…. Once upon a time there was this one person that had a big problem and technology came to the rescue…
  42. Petra Wille | @loomista Run casual interviews with a few

    people to reveal their reservations regarding your mission and where they are coming from to get that covered. Then make sure you touch upon that in your story: Communicate that you understand the reservations but make sure your story highlights that you believe in the talent and strength of the team and that, as a team, you will figure out how to overcome the obstacles.
  43. Petra Wille | @loomista Photo by Anne Nygård on Unsplash

    Kill the monsters that will stand in our way. There are always some monsters: from tech legacy to hardware pieces not yet invented.
  44. Petra Wille | @loomista Present the shared goal, create a

    sense of urgency and present information that enables action
  45. Petra Wille | @loomista Making Your Message Stick Now that

    you have your story, how do you ensure that it will stick? Humans are clearly inspired and motivated by the written or spoken word. But we are also inspired and motivated by…
  46. Petra Wille | @loomista The Tennis Court Oath in Versailles

    by Jacques-Louis David. Photograph: De Agostini/Getty So if you want to make your message stick, you have to come up with various formats of your story.
  47. Petra Wille | @loomista Photo by Sung Jin Cho on

    Unsplash 150 words 75 seconds
  48. Petra Wille | @loomista Photo by Hulki Okan Tabak on

    Unsplash 900 words 6 minutes repeat
  49. Petra Wille | @loomista Photo by Melyna Valle on Unsplash

    #deathtostock 3x800 words 18 minutes
  50. Petra Wille | @loomista I am a big fan of

    drawings, illustrations and pictures that help tell a story Find visualizations that support the various versions of your story
  51. Petra Wille | @loomista Sketch Noting ftw And once you’ve

    done all of that you are ready for your final round of story line refinements.
  52. Petra Wille | @loomista Getting ready to tell your story.

    Here’s my checklist for this phase of the process:
  53. Petra Wille | @loomista Be picky about the words you

    use! Photo by Glen Carrie on Unsplash • Avoid using buzzwords, tool names, and 3- letter acronyms. Grab a text marker and get rid of ALL of them! • Don’t use words that are used very often in your context or environment, such as “customer success” or even “product discovery”—people will tune them out
  54. Petra Wille | @loomista Pete Souza | Credit: The White

    House Relevant Important True https://strongpp.link/davidaxelrod Follow the advice of David Axelrod and check if the story you are sharing is:
  55. Petra Wille | @loomista Beware of Manipulation Photo by Agni

    B on Unsplash Storytelling can be misused, and don´t want to become the master of puppets.
  56. Petra Wille | @loomista #deathtostock Run an experiment Start telling

    your story to a small number of people. Observe how they are reacting to your story. • Are they drawing the right conclusions? • Are they asking the right questions? • Did you succeed in inspiring them with your story? If they are struggling to envision the same bright future, you might want to go back to reflection mode and ask yourself: What do they know and do I need to share more details or insights to help them see what I see?
  57. Petra Wille | @loomista Photo by Ava Sol on Unsplash

    Check if the story really lights up the brains of your listeners. Make sure you… • Use words that provoke emotions • Use words that trigger their senses, including smell, touch, vision, sound, and even taste • And please try to make them laugh.
  58. Petra Wille | @loomista Once that is done you want

    to start sharing your story in it´s various formats. While doing so make sure you… • Show your curiosity and passion for the topic • Focus on speaking to the hearts and minds of your audience and not so much on convincing them of something
  59. Petra Wille | @loomista Recap How about your inner critic?

    To make sure you are, let me recap some of my key points. I want you to remember that…
  60. Petra Wille | @loomista Humans automatically think in stories. When

    we hear good stories, they trigger something in us. Stories help to facilitate group work by inspiring people to become part of a movement. Everyone can tell stories. It is worth investing in this skill. It takes a few simple ingredients and structures to get started.
  61. Petra Wille | @loomista • Think about the audience and

    what they want to achieve (What`s in for them?) • Use a proven storytelling structure to ensure nothing is missing (e.g., the hero, the journey, the destination) • Make sure there are a variety of ways to tell this one story: short, medium, and long, as well as written, spoken, and illustrated. • Make it your story. (Able to tell the story without lengthy preparation ) Only a few Ingredients…
  62. Petra Wille | @loomista I hope this leaves you with

    enough motivation and tools to start a written narrative exercise tomorrow. And if you get stuck, come back to this talk or allow yourself to be inspired by some of the best storytellers of our time.
  63. Petra Wille | @loomista Links to these talks will be

    included in the final slide deck I will share online: https://www.petra-wille.com/storytelling
  64. Petra Wille | @loomista A perfect example of how powerful

    it is to use words that light up other people’s brains. Sarah Kay: If I should have a daughter https://www.ted.com/talks/sarah_kay_if_i_should_have_a_daughter Do you think storytelling based on a lot of data is boring? Not if you are listening to Hans Rosling: https://www.ted.com/talks/hans_rosling_let_my_dataset_change_your_mindset Complex topic explained well: Al Gore: The Case for Optimism on Climate Change: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u7E1v24Dllk A great speaker telling stories that matter to you Simon Sinek on why good leaders make you feel safe: https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_why_good_leaders_make_you_feel_safe
  65. Petra Wille | @loomista Matthew McConaughey winning Best Actor at

    the Oscars. Pay attention to the simple, powerful structure: Something to look up, something to look forward, something to chase: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wD2cVhC-63I&t=127s One of the best product demos ever: Steve Jobs iPhone 2007 Presentation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vN4U5FqrOdQ Not possible to not listen to him! We need to talk about an injustice: Bryan Stevenson: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8cKfCmSqZ5s&t=1270s Nancy Duarte: The Secret Structure of Great Talks: https://www.ted.com/talks/nancy_duarte_the_secret_structur e_of_great_talks?language=en
  66. Petra Wille | @loomista Further Reading How Stories Change the

    Brain: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_stories_change_brain Strategic Storytelling Is Product Management: https://www.thisisproductmanagement.com/episodes/strategic-storytelling/ My product management toolkit: Storytelling: https://medium.theuxblog.com/my-product-management-toolkit-15-storytelling-46e65d7f061b Why We Need Storytellers at the Heart of Product Development: https://uxmag.com/articles/why-we-need-storytellers-at-the-heart-of-product-development Storytelling for Product Managers: https://medium.com/pminsider/storytelling-for-product-managers-fc1a758eb303 72 Rules of Commercial Storytelling: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/72-rules-commercial-storytelling-jeremy-waite/
  67. Petra Wille | @loomista Further Reading for Product Leads Petra

    Wille | @loomista https://www.petra-wille.com/blog https://www.amazon.com/dp/3982235103 https://strongpp.link/nl