December 20, 2016
Joe Fairless

How to Go From Invisible to Irresistible via Compelling Storytelling

“Those who tell the stories rule society” – Plat

Yesterday, I outlined John Livesay’s – who is an expert at helping people craft compelling messages to get customers and investors – techniques for formulating a successful pitch. But that is only part of the preparation process. The most important aspect of a successful pitch, and successful communication in general, is being a good storyteller. Continuing from our recent conversation, John provided tips on how to become a Best Ever storyteller and go from invisible to irresistible.

Get Your Mind Right!

It is important to be in the right mindset before even going into a conversation with investors, clients, etc. If you go in with a negative attitude and think you’re going to flop, what outcome do you expect? So, before going into a pitch, John recommends that you perform this exercise:

Write down 4 or 5 experiences that met or vastly exceeded your expectations.

In other words, “write down 4 to 5 time where you knew you nailed it. You asked somebody out on a date and you knew you were going to get another date. You interviewed for a job and you knew you were going to get an offer.” It doesn’t matter how small or big, but whatever it is, “put all of that in your head before you go pitch somebody.” John calls this exercise Stacking Moments of Certainty, and it is a very powerful method of putting yourself in a confident, certain mindset where you believe you will succeed!

Storytelling Structure

Once you’ve got the mindset down, the next step is preparing an awesome story. A good story contains at least three things:

  • A problem
  • The solution
  • What happens when that solution happens

“A good story has a problem (there’s an obstacle to overcome), the solution, and then the final part is what happens when that solution happens.”

Also, a good story “has exposition, which is the who, what, where, and when. You have to be specific enough to paint a picture to put people in the story…you need enough to pull people in and not to much to bore them, but just enough to really get them a sense of why you’re there.”

One of the best types of stories to tell are origin stories. “Tell people why you’re doing what you’re doing besides just making money.” A good outline for an origin story, for example, is “I decided I wanted to help people invest in apartment buildings because I saw they were making all the wrong choices and I myself made the wrong choices at first and I want to help people avoid the mistakes that I did.” You can use this as a template, and put in your own personal twist by inserting actual mistakes (the problem or obstacle) you’ve made, what you did to fix them (the solution), and resulting lessons you’ve learned or positive outcomes you’ve had (what happens when the solution happens). Sprinkle in some exposition and voila, you’re well on your way to becoming the Stephen King of storytelling.

The reason the origin story that incorporates your past mistakes is the best is because, according to John, “the best way to build trust is to be completely candid and not pretend that you are perfect.” You get this point across when you say things like “I used to stumble at this but now I don’t, but let me tell you, this is a very common problem in investing in anything…and I’m not going to pretend that I haven’t made mistakes because I have. But the good news is, I’ve learned from them.” Once you’ve been a little vulnerable, people will trust you more.

Another example of a good story to tell someone you’re meeting, especially if it is someone you’re trying to help, is “you know, I was talking to somebody else who reminds me a lot of you and they were in a similar situation. They were deciding between buying something where they live or buying something out of the country, and I advised them to do [X] and then [Y] happened. A few years latter, they sold the building for [Z] profit.”

Most Common Pitch Pitfalls

John has worked with countless people to create and execute pitches and stories. A recurring, yet surprising challenge he’s encountered is that “people have a really hard-time being clear and concise and compelling. It’s amazing how much work goes into a 90-second, 2-sentence pitch, because they want to tell you everything.”

Another challenge: People think, in the case of start-ups, “that if they show you how cool the product is, that you’ll give them money…That’s not how it works. The investors invest in you, the jockey, and you’re idea is the horse.”

The solution to both these problems is two-fold: (1) stop jabbering on and on. “Just tell [them] enough to get [them] to say ‘tell me more’” and (2) when you do a little jabbering, do so about yourself, not the product, investment, properties, idea, etc. You really have to sell yourself first.


Get your mind right when preparing for a pitch by writing down 4 to 5 past experiences where you did something, anything, and killed it.

The best stories consist of (1) a problem, (2) a solution, and (3) what happened after the solution was successfully implemented.

Two amazing story types are (1) origin stories and (2) stories about past mistakes. Both show your vulnerabilities, which will result in building trust more quickly.

The most common pitfalls of pitches and storytelling is not being concise, clear, or compelling or only talking about the product. The solution is to only tell enough to get them to say, “tell me more” and instead of focusing on the product, focus on selling yourself

Pick one piece of advice and in the comment section below, explain how you plan on taking action and implementing it into your business.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog post are provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as an offer to buy or sell any securities or to make or consider any investment or course of action.

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