How to tell your authentic story and make your business offer more compelling

Too many business presentations and other marketing materials fall short because they tell the wrong story. The focus is on what the business does, not on the benefits they offer. We all need to know what makes us interesting; it is our Added Value. If you don’t know your own Added Value, you will probably say the wrong things about your business and about yourself as the business owner.


Let’s review some examples and the lessons they provide about how to tell a compelling story.


Not where you’ve been but where you can take them


Margaret is someone who needed help to get a new job. She was quite senior in industry and was badly shaken by being made redundant. All her job applications were being rejected.


We met on Skype and I set up a mock interview. I said, “Tell me about yourself” and she ran through her job history. I stopped her, saying, “Wrong story. They don’t care where you’ve been. They prefer to hear where you can take them – how they will benefit from taking you on.”


I showed her the picture of two men holding up placards. One stated, “Hire me. These are my qualifications.” The other stated, “Down but not out.” I asked her which was the more interesting person. She picked the latter.


Based on her understanding of the point in that picture, I helped her to realise her own Added Value, telling her, “This is what you bring to the table. This is who you are, and this is what you tell them you are offering.” She sent a rewritten CV to six companies, got five interviews and four job offers. All because she told the *right* story and believed in her own Added Value.


Tap into an evocative story


25 years ago, I went to St Ives, where I met a brilliant artist called John Sim. He was painting an underwater scene depicting a sunken man-o’-war with a couple of divers exploring the wreck. He called it The Final Resting Place. Someone had upset him by saying no man-o’-war had ever sunk complete, as he was showing it. But he did some research and discovered that The Royal George had done just that.


I quoted, “Toll for the brave, the brave that are no more, all sunk beneath the wave, fast by their native shore.” Startled, he said, “What’s that?” I told him it was a poem called “On the loss of the Royal George.”


I picked up his leaflet promoting the new painting and said, “The Final Resting Place” is simply about a ship that sank. It’s a literal description. You are saying you have no imagination. The Royal George is about the valiant men who went down with their ship.  It’s a better story.” His leaflet was redesigned and given a new headline, “Toll for the brave, the brave that are no more.” Now that is a far more evocative story.


One word can make all the difference


Also in St Ives we met an artist called Hilary Mayes. She asked me to help her with her leaflet. It stated: Hilary Mayes, Wildlife artist. I said no, that’s the wrong story. You are saying you are just another artist who paints wildlife. But you are better than most others.


I added one word to the front, the word “The”. To read: Hilary Mayes, The Wildlife Artist. What a difference that one word made! On the inside I added one sentence, “She captures the essence of the wildlife she portrays.”


What had I done? I positioned her as distinctive and better than all the other artists who paint animals and birds. She had been saying the wrong things about herself. I gave her the right story.


Next steps


Consider the way you talk about yourself currently. Is it linear, it is formulaic, is it just plain ordinary? And is that who you really are? Are you sharing your Added Value?


Here are a few tips to help you on your way:

  • Identify what would induce people to deal with you and not with others
  • What is your Added Value?
  • Avoid using any terms about yourself that can be construed as negative
  • What can you call yourself “The” something or other?
  • Don’t be linear (this, then that, then the next thing)
  • Above all, don’t define yourself by your title. What’s the benefit of what you and your business do?


By taking this approach you will be able to tell a much more compelling story, selling both yourself and your business in your own authentic voice.



Phillip Khan-Panni is a member of Toastmasters International –



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