Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Story-telling and Demos: The Hero

As I’ve remarked previously, story-telling can be an extremely effective method to communicate key ideas – and stories can be particularly “sticky” with respect to audience memory and retention.  An additional story-telling concept is the use of a hero – someone (or something) that the audience can identify with.  Traditional stories (e.g., sagas) typically have a hero that encounters and overcomes trials and adversity before achieving success. 

For demos, heroes can take a number of forms:

- Customer (an individual):  the customer can be portrayed as the hero (very effective!), with the payoff being the timely and on-budget completion of a project, accolades from colleagues or a promotion.  In my own experiences, it was gratifying to see customers I’d worked with over a period of years move from staff members to middle managers to senior and C-level management.

- Team (a customer team or group):  The logical corollary to an individual, a team can be presented as the hero in a story.

- Product:  your software can be the hero, similarly, enabling a customer to achieve their objectives in spite of (apparently) overwhelming challenges.

- SaaS:  Interestingly, the “cloud” can be positioned and perceived as a hero – “when our  own servers went down, we were still able to complete the project thanks to the ability to access the vendor’s software from the cloud…”.  I’ve heard a number of examples where the cloud is the hero, in addition to the one above:  access to key information via collaboration tools or capabilities, disaster recovery (“and we were able to get back up and running just in time for the opening…”). 

Any other hero types or ideas to suggest?


David Crankshaw said...

Hi Peter - Great article on the use of story! A variation I like is the sequence that Larry Brooks teaches (storyfix.com). It's the "reluctant hero" who:
1. Is leading his or her normal life when "blam!" something unexpected happens that the hero must face (equipment failure, competitor movement, company politics, new technology).
2. The hero flounders around, uses tried and true ways to address the problem, all of which fail.
3. Hero finds inner resources and courage hitherto unknown, gets serious about fixing the problem.
4. Hero becomes completely focused on the fix, will let nothing get in the way. Hero at last is triumphant.

This is just an elaboration on your customer or team "hero that encounters and overcomes trials and tribulations before achieving success," but I find it useful to think about the sequence of these four stages.

Thanks again!


Peter E. Cohan said...

Excellent - love it!