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How to Make Your Proposals Less Boring

Just for fun, I recently looked a proposal I wrote for a prospective client back in 2012. It wasn’t pretty.

Besides containing outdated advice (hey, I’m a lot smarter now than I was back then), it was loaded with corporate speak.

Corporate speak -- jargon, data, cliches, acronyms, and big, impressive-sounding words -- is a horrible way to communicate. My proposal was three-and-a-half pages of corporate speak laden dreck.

No wonder it never resonated with the prospect. It was boring as hell!

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What I should have done is told the prospect a story. I’ve come to realize since that time how powerful storytelling is.

Why is storytelling better than corporate speak?

It’s more interesting
This should be obvious. Characters, heroes, struggles, and triumphs are far more interesting than facts, data and features.

It makes things real
You can tell people facts and give them data all day long. Chances are, you’ll bore them to death. Stories bring the data to life and show how it impacts people’s lives.

It captures emotion
Humans are emotional beings. We usually make decisions -- even important ones -- based on emotion. Guess what has emotion in it? If you guessed stories, then you’ve been paying attention.

It can disarm your audience
Typically, in a business setting, when you’re communicating you’re trying to persuade someone. In other words, you’re giving a sales pitch. Whether or not it’s an actual sales situation is irrelevant. You’re selling.

The thing is. People don’t want to be sold to. And when you come at them with data and big words and jargon, their guard goes up.

But when you start with a story, their guard doesn’t go up. They’re interested. And then...

It can start a dialog
If your story resonates with people, if it’s interesting and human and emotional, it can give you the chance to start a dialog. They’ll want to know more about your story, and that gives you the opportunity to engage them in a discussion.

Would a storytelling approach have resulted in the prospective client signing me to a huge retainer? I’ll never know. But I’m fairly certain I would have been able to engage the client in more discussions.

And I would have had a lot more fun than writing a boring, corporate speak-filled proposal.

Want to become a better storyteller? Visit the Storytelling Coach section of this site.

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