Why Story Telling is the Most Valuable Skill For Any YouTuber: TubeTalk 201 with Jordan Bower
Why do we gravitate towards the same YouTube creators, publishing the same kind of content again and again? It's not like nobody else is talking about those same topics, but yet we choose to go return to certain channels. There is something that draws us in time and time again. Why is that? Well, there's a secret sauce, a magic ingredient, and on today’s Today episode of TubeTalk, we're going to be discussing that exact ingredient.
I think it's fair to say that I've seen a fair number of channels, big and small, with creators across virtually every vertical, and every niche. Something that's always struck me is, how come two channels, which are virtually the same could get radically different audiences? How come some get more subscribers, and more views, versus others which may have equally great content, but are just not resonating with the YouTube audience? What's that missing ingredient that the one channel doesn't seem to have?
Well, one critical element is the way the story is told. Being a great storyteller is critical on YouTube. We've been telling you this forever now. Which is why I'm super excited today to speak with Jordan Bower, who is the Founder of Transformational Storytelling, a facilitation coaching and consulting business based in Vancouver, Canada. Jordan spends most of his time leading business storytelling workshops for some of the biggest companies in the world. In this podcast you will learn:
- How storytelling is the key to connecting with your audience
- How every creator has this skill, they just need to build on it
- The audience wants to build that connection with you so let them
- Why copying other creators will stop you from finding your true voice
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Why Story Telling is the Greatest Skill For Any YouTuber: Full Transcript
Liron Segev: Jordan, welcome to TubeTalk.
Jordan Bower: Thanks, Liron. I'm happy to be here.
Liron Segev: Tell me, what do you do, this transformational consulting, this storytelling consulting? This sounds exciting. What do you do that?
Jordan Bower: Yeah, so I'm a Storytelling Consultant. Maybe I'll just take a quick second to give you a sense of how I got into this in the first place. When I was about 26, 27 years old, I went through what I called at the time, my quarter-life crisis. Imagine, I had a job I hated. I had a girlfriend I liked but didn't like enough. I was feeling like I just didn't know who I was in the world. I wanted to do something more meaningful.
I wanted to do something more creative. I had an okay job, but not a great job. I was thinking like, "What do I do?" One day, over the course of more or less two weeks before my 26th birthday, I quit the job. I dumped the girlfriend. I moved out of my house and I bought a plane ticket to India.
Over the next more or less three years, I went back and forth to India, three times for about six months. India is cheap, which meant it was an easy place for me to travel for that extended time. I spent a lot of time when I was there, wandering around, meeting people and really poking at my own story. "Who am I? What does it mean to be someone like me in the world and what do I want to do?"
At the end of a bunch of soul searching that ended up taking about five years, and ended with me walking from Canada to Mexico, I founded this business called Transformational Storytelling. The work that I do in the world, is often with big organizations. Although I work with everybody, from small entrepreneurs, all the way to some of the biggest companies in the world. I teach storytelling in a way that's a little bit different than most people think.
Most people tend to think that storytelling is like, I'm going to get up on stage and I'm going to tell you this anecdote. For me storytelling, like what story literally means, is taking information and infusing it with emotion.
Who want to motivate people to change, the leaders of organizations, salespeople. I work with lots of people across some of the world's biggest organizations, teaching them how to speak with more emotion. Which is going to give them more trust, more credibility and most importantly more connection.
You can imagine like, what's the most common question any of us get? You know that question, "What do you do?" Maybe you've got an answer. "Oh, I'm a YouTube creator, I've got a channel like this. I'm a consultant, I'm a whatever." People would say, "What do you do?" I noticed myself having to tell the story over and over again. Gradually what literally happened is, I got sick of my story.
I started having to think, "Well, how can I tell the same story in a different way?" That insight is the heart of what I teach people now. How to tell the same story in a different way, so it's going to be more meaningful, more trusting, more impactful on whoever your audience is.
Liron Segev: Well, and whoever your audience is is pretty important. Identifying who you're speaking to, do you then adjust your story accordingly?
Jordan Bower: Yeah, and I mean, this is maybe the jumping-off place for good storytelling. Is, there's never one story. What you learn, what we all learn as we're communicating is, how do we find a match between the story we want to tell and the whoever we're trying to connect with? I use the acronym harmony, we're going to get into this a little bit later.
Harmony is like two voices different singing together. When you're communicating information to somebody else, even if your information is smart, solid, logical, one person is going to think a bit differently than the next person will.
To be a good storyteller, is to have an aspect of being kind of like a chameleon, where you find creative, innovative ways to tell the story a little bit differently. Depending on what you're trying to get across, and who you're trying to get it to.
Liron Segev: Does that mean that storytelling can be done effectively, by all types of niches, all types of industries? Whether you are a vlogger, but also the how-to type channels. The, looking for a solution channels, like “How do I unblock my toilet?" Once people know how to unblock the toilet because you've told them how to do this, there really isn't a reason to subscribe to come back to your next video, because you've just given them a solution.
__Could we use the storytelling elements, to not just give them the information that people want, but also to connect with that audience? __
Jordan Bower: Yes, and I would even go one step further to say that, you are already telling a story no matter what you think. There's already a choice that you're making. If you're just talking about your toilet, and you're shooting your toilet and you're shooting how to fix it, I mean, you're telling a story.
Liron Segev: Are there certain elements of a story that we need to pick out, and we need to deliver in a certain way? Or maybe I should just give them the facts, give them the specs and then get out of there.
Jordan Bower: Well, I like to say that, learning storytelling is different than say learning code or learning a foreign language. If I tried to learn... I don't know, Russia. I have to start from scratch. I got to learn, what does the alphabet look like? What are the basic words to say things like me and you?
I have absolutely no basis for that learning framework. Storytelling is different. Every single one of us has been steeped in stories. We've been listening to stories and telling stories, since the moment we came into this planet.
It's a very interesting skill to learn, because all of us start with no experience and gradually and steadily build up experience. I like to say that, when we're thinking about storytelling or learning, or trying to become a better storyteller, there's really three Ts. I call these Ts: tools, tactics, and taste.
Good storytellers are iterators. Which means they try, we fail, we try again, we fail. Gradually, we slowly get to the heart of the story. We need to go through a process of trying things out, and seeing how the audience reacts. It's one thing to have a thought, and it's something different to take that thought and put it into form. The tools of storytelling are all about iteration.
Of course, they can be learned and they're simple. It can be as simple as writing something out, doing some reflective writing, editing, coming back to it over and over again. The tools are simple. The tools are all about effort.
The second T, I call it tactics. What you'll see about tactics, is that there are certain commonalities of great stories that apply across the board. Whether we're talking about how-to videos, whether we're talking about one-on-one connection videos from influencers, or Hollywood movies, or good advertising or great books, or speeches, or Ted talks.
Any or most of them are built on the same basic foundational tactics. The reason those tactics work, is because they're linked to the way our brains work, right? There's like certain ways that we learn and process information as human beings, and the cognitive biases that go with it. That makes us more susceptible and more interested in narrative techniques or tactics.
The third thing is taste. I think this one is really important. It's really important that we know what a good story looks like for ourselves, so we have something to aspire to. The more that you can develop your taste of what's good and what's not, that helps to guide the creative development.
All three of those things together, tactics, tools, and taste are essential for the process of becoming a good storyteller.
Liron Segev: Could talking-head videos still be able to make those connections? Or our visuals and story go so hand-in-hand, we have to think much bigger?
Well, I want to equivocate and say both. Which means that, if you're going to make a talking-head video, your talking-head video will certainly be much, much more interesting by becoming a better storyteller.
Storytelling can be a massive business, and it can be a totally micro-business. The important part to know is that the approach and the tactics are exactly the same. Once you start getting good at it in an inexpensive way, then it's quite natural to start to see how you might be able to scale.
If you know how to grab people's attention and connect to them, people are interested in you. They want to be able to find the people who have that specific skill.
Liron Segev: Okay, what are the elements that make up a good story?
Jordan Bower: I've used this word, harmony because it really rings true in terms of, storytelling is emotional and it's something that we should feel resonating inside of us. When we're thinking about a good story, it's important not to take these ideas and call them how-tos. They're more like ideas, guiding ideas that can help us understand good composition.
It's important to know first, before we go any further, to know that these aren't rules. Storytelling is an art. Like any art, rules are made to be broken. You're going to find these kinds of principles across all good stories, no matter what they are.
Every great story is based on hooks. It's not just a hook that starts the story, but it's the series of hooks that move us through the story. The English word, ‘entertain’, literally means to hold between. If you look at that in the etymology, at entertain, hold between. What is it that we're getting held between? One really easy way to think of this, is the question and the answer.
The word ‘suspense’ literally means asking a question and then suspending the answer. Let me give you an example. "You'll never guess who I just saw in the coffee shop. Before I tell you that, let me just give you a little bit of background."
You see what I did? Is I offered you a question, with some sort of compelling answer and now I'm suspending the answer. It's worth thinking about, well, what kinds of questions are compelling? If I said like, "You'll never believe what's on the bottom of my shoe." Or like, "You'll never believe what the most popular word in the newspaper was today."
The most compelling questions are the ones that promise an emotional payoff. If I ask you a question that promises some sort of emotional payoff, you're going to be interested.
People can't remember what they had for breakfast yesterday, but they can remember the climax of a movie they watched 30 years ago. How is that possible? Well, the answer is emotion. The stronger the emotion, the more meaningful it's going to be for the audience. We hook people with emotional content.
__Liron Segev: You give them a pitch, more of, "Today, I'm going to show you five reasons or five ways to make your Wi-Fi faster. Stay tuned, and I'll show you how to do that." We told them about the same kind of hook. __
Jordan Bower: That's a really nice clear hook. The next question is, how do you take a hook like that and add an emotional payoff?
I'm linking two things together. I'm linking the piece of information that I wanted to communicate, but I'm wrapping it in emotion that's going to make it more interesting for folks. In great stories, there's not just one hook. There is a progression of hooks that build on top of each other. One question leads to the next question. What happens over the course of the story is that questions become more specific because we know more now. You know this pattern because it's in every single movie you've ever watched.
When it comes back to a YouTube video, even if you're doing a how-to, it's like, how do you find a number of hooks that are going to lead somebody all the way through to the end? How do you hold the juiciest, most emotionally meaningful moment of the whole video to almost at the very end, so people will watch all the way to get to that? Yeah, that's the question
Liron Segev: We've got H. What's the A?
Jordan Bower: The A, is of course Audience. How do we know our audience? We might say, "Oh yeah, my followers are women aged 24 to 30. Or my followers love toilets. The question for all of us is, how do we go one level deeper? Who are they really, these people? What is it in our story that's going to be truly interesting to them? Who are they as people? What values do they have? What are they yearning for at a real human level deep inside?
Being able to reach your audience at that level, that really captivates us. It's really important when you're considering your audience and think about, "Which of these major deep human themes are going to be the one most likely to resonate?" Remembering that the audience isn't just looking for toilet advice, they're looking for life advice wrapped up in toilet advice. How do you bring those two things together? Does that make sense?
Liron Segev: Yeah, so you're already thinking of your content very differently. Instead of, first you put A, and then you do B and then you do C, that's the boring bit. That's just the how-to, it’s how else do you bring people along for that ride?
Jordan Bower: It's a strange thing about making content because you write a book, you make a video, you do any of these things, you spend so much time thinking about what you think you're trying to get across.
Most of us spend much less time watching the video from the audience's perspective, and seeing the stream of content as if you were them. What A reminds us to do, is to get out of ourselves, however we can, and literally switch sides of the screen.
Now, you're your audience watching back at you. How do you look from their perspective? What do they know or not know about you? What might they want to know more of about you, or the subject matter or so on?
Liron Segev: Love that, because I think that a lot of us would probably put a tick mark into, "Well, me as the audience member, did I receive the information I was looking for? Do I know how to make my Wi-Fi faster? Do I know how to get the best out of myself on camera?" The answer is probably, yes, because I've delivered enough value in the video. That's where it stops, brilliant.
Jordan Bower: On to R. R is about relationships. Relationships are the real reason we love to watch and we love to engage in any story, because as we all know, we're social animals. What we try to do as storytellers, is start a relationship between what we can call our characters and the audience, as quickly as possible. A subtle way to do that is, "Hey, I'm Jordan and I'm going to be introducing you to my toilet."
If you can give me a little bit more detail about the character, then it's going to be interesting and more fun for me to watch. Think of the difference between shooting a cell phone camera info video, in a white room by yourself, and shooting it in one of your favorite places in your house.
If you can create a relationship, not just with you, but also with the setting and the world around. What it does is, it transports us. Now, we're not just sitting alone in front of our computer or in front of our phone, consuming your information. We're literally there with you, in relationship with you as you're moving through stuff.
The strength of a relationship is what draws us all in. Relationships are like catnip to humans. The more you can tell us about the relationship, the more juicy the relationship is, the more we'll be hungry for it. Does that make sense?
Liron Segev: Does that mean that we have to give a little bit vulnerable, a little bit open and beyond just the content that we're trying to deliver, but also being ourselves? As opposed to acting a role?
Jordan Bower: Yeah, totally. Really putting the relationship first. Like you say, being vulnerable, it's so essential, because that's what we want as audiences. We don't just want the Google Maps voice talking to us. We want humanity, we want resonance, we want connection.
Liron Segev: Well, okay. Everyone, I just wanted to reiterate that point, because I think it's super, super important, so many people are still making that mistake - everything has to be a 100% perfect or it's a failed video.
That is such flawed thinking, because we're not all perfect. We all going to mumble, we all going to step over our own words. It's just natural. We would rather could make a connection with someone who's real, than an avatar or the Google Map voice. Love that.
Jordan Bower: Yeah, and I would say too, one last point on relationships is, don't underestimate that you have a relationship with your audience. You also define the terms of your relationship. Our first fear is, "Oh, we're going to get judged. These people are going to judge us."
When we're worried about other people's judgment, we're much more likely to be focused on the perfection. If we flip that on its head and say, "You know what? We want to give something to somebody. We're creators. We're bringing some creative product to the world. Something that no one else in the world has ever done before.
Only we can do it in our unique way." It's a gift. When we start to change our attitude about that, then we can become a little bit easier on ourselves as artists and creators.
__*Liron Segev: If you're trying to emulate somebody else, it's only going to get you to a certain level. People have already connected with that person. How can they connect with you? Why are you the best gaming channel? Why are you the best tech channel? Why would I choose you over thousands and thousands of other channels? It's because of you. That's what you bring to the party. __
Jordan Bower: My advice to you if you're someone who thinks like that, remember that every great artist started off in the same place you are right now. Like Michelangelo picked up sculpting hammer for the first time and had no idea what he was doing. Leonardo da Vinci, the same thing. Everybody starts from scratch. It's really important to love the process. What I would say is, find a favorite artist and learn about them.
Liron Segev: We've got the hook, we've got an audience, we've got relationships. What's the M?
Jordan Bower: M is Movement. What's really important to know, is that stories move. Imagine if I was a YouTube creator and I'm making a video, and the whole time I was talking in a monotone voice. Would you want to hear me talk for more than 10 seconds?
It's really important to remember that stories move. They move literally from start to finish, but they also move emotionally from start to finish. You'll see, if you go watch a movie, over the course of two hours, you're going to get all kinds of emotional experiences.
What we look for in good stories, is the diversity of emotional experiences. Even as you're starting to think about your video, how can you bring in different emotional elements? I would say, in the beginning, if you're just starting, just try to bring in one different emotional tone.
It's ironic. Like with the message, you want to be clear in your message, but with the emotions, you want to be experimental. You want to be creative. I remember when I was learning to be a photographer, that some of the advice I got was to change the angle that I was shooting at. The moment I start to go down and go up and move from side to side, I start to give myself a diversity of tools to work with. You're just doing something that breaks your habitual pattern. Now, over the years of being a storyteller, I've learned how to talk like a storyteller.
The emotion comes through, the passion, the pauses, all of that, all of that is totally learned. It doesn't mean it's inauthentic, but it's like something that I learned gradually, works with audiences. I want to be understood, I'm playing with these various tactics.
What I notice in workshops, is that when people tell their story, whether it's a story of how they became who they were or how they started their YouTube channel, they tend to tell it chronologically. It's like reading a police report.
Even just starting the story in a different place, is going to take you to a different level. Challenge yourself to tell the story in a different way. I already gave you a little bit of a hint of how to do this, in the first letter, which is hook. Look through the story and ask yourself, "What were the most emotionally impactful moments? When did something interesting happen?
When did I fail? When did I succeed? How do I tell a story where those are the main building blocks, as opposed to the chronology? My advice is, just experiment.
Liron Segev: All right, we've got a couple of more letters. We need to get on to the O now.
Jordan Bower: The O, is about Open. Open is a really interesting thing to think about stories, because you think like, "Hey, I've got a story to tell. I want it to have a point." As we talked about a little bit earlier, the best stories are open stories.
We love stories that have that feeling of openness. If you can find some way to make it more of an exploration or a creative experience, that draws us in. As audiences, we don't want to be lectured at. We want to be provoked with open questions that ask us to participate. Every great story is participatory. If a story isn't participatory, it's propaganda. Does that make sense?
Liron Segev: Again, we keep on going back to the unblock toilet for some reason. Once I know how to unblock my toilet, once I know how to get the best out of my camera on my phone, I will get the fastest internet at home. What else can I do to make them have that openness?
Jordan Bower: Well, let's think of the attitude you bring to your channel. If I was like, "Hey guys, I'm Jordan and I'm going to show you how to unblock your toilet." Like what I'm delivering to you is clear, but it's also very closed. If I was to say "Hey guys, I'm Jordan, the handyman. I am a home expert. No matter what goes wrong in your home for the rest of your life, I'll be able to help you with it. Whether it's your kitchen sink, whether it's the toilet, whether it's what to do with your leaves outside.
I'm the guy to go to, to help you with everything in your house. Today what we're going to do is, we're going to talk about the toilet." What I just did there, is I opened up who I am in the eyes of the audience.
Liron Segev: With YouTube, we were told specifically to follow a formula if you want to be successful." Whereas a lot of that needs to be unlearned now because the platform has changed. The algorithm has changed. The way people consume information has changed.
Jordan Bower: It's a really great way to roll into the N. H is Hook, A is Audience, R is Relationships. M is Movement, O is Open, N is Now. With now, it's all about thinking through how do you be relevant? How do you tell a story that's relevant to what your audience is experiencing now?
Again, going back to the, O, that's a great way to be open. Is now you're not just talking about your toilet, but you're Jordan, the handyman, who's helping give you life advice for what's happening in the world right now. Finding a way, and making sure that there is a way to link the story you want to tell, to what's happening in cultural context. That's so essential now because if you don't, somebody else will.
What does it mean to be a good storyteller? The world very clearly needs great storytellers right now. Developing the skill is so essential, not just to get people to watch your videos, as important as that is, but to also be leaders in your family, community and so on. Do not underestimate how impactful storytelling can be, throughout all aspects of your life, relationships too
Liron Segev: Tell us about Y
Jordan Bower: So Y is last. Again, a really nice segue. Y is You. Remember that, when it comes to any story, there are just three things that are happening. There's a human being telling a story to another human being. No matter whether you want to or not, you cannot escape the fact that your stories coming out of your mouth.
The moment that you are a storyteller, you cannot avoid being vulnerable. It's worth thinking through strategically, the level of vulnerability you want to bring. You don't need to bring it all, but you probably need to bring at least a little bit more than you're bringing right now.
The reason that we want to follow the people that we want to follow, is because we really want to connect to them as people. Maybe they're looking for a piece of information. Maybe they're lonely and looking for connection, and they're finding you.
Again, what we're looking for from you is humanity, is genuineness, is the kind of stumbles and failures that go with being human. That's the stuff of connection, It's nothing else. It's not fancy graphics. It's not fancy videos. It's not fancy technical stuff - we want you.
People want to connect. If you allow for that connection, that's what leads to viewership and success. Remember that, YouTube is new, but storytelling is the oldest profession on earth. The role of a storyteller is to help educate people.
As somebody who's taking on the role of being a storyteller, that's now your calling. "You're on stage, you're on camera. You're talking about things, people are going to invest emotionally in you. It's kind of par for the course. If you're going to play this game, you should expect that.
The more willingly you do it, and the more aware and consciously you do it, the more meaningful the connection. Which is going to lead to better audiences, and more views and all the other things that you want.
Liron Segev: Jordan, if you could post one tweet or one big billboard in the middle of Times Square, where every single creator will be able to see that message, what message would you give?
Jordan Bower: I think the most important skill that anyone can develop right now, is effective communication skills. I think it's great that you're learning how to do this with your audience.
Liron Segev: If people want to find you, how can they do that
Jordan Bower: My website is jordanbower.com. Right now, most of the work that I do is with organizations. One of my ambitions for this year and the next is to start to develop a bit of a storytelling training school. If you're come now, before I have any of that stuff up, sign up for my newsletter, stay in touch and let's see what we can build together.
Liron Segev: Jordan, thank you very much.
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