Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Power of the "New Me" or "Transformation" Story

September 2008

The Power of the "New Me" or "Transformation" Story

Let me say right up front that this is not a political commentary. This is a commentary about how to communicate more effectively, more persuasively, through a certain style of story, what I call the “New Me Story” or the “Transformation Story.”
Like 40 million other people, I watched John McCain’s speech at the Republican convention, and although I support him politically, I was not impressed with his presentation. Not impressed, that is, except for one part near the end, when he told the story of how the direction and focus of his life was changed.
If you missed it, Senator McCain described how his experience as a POW, and in particular the brutality he endured after he refused his captors’ offer of an early release, changed him from a hot-headed, self-centered, Top-Gun punk into a person whose mission in life is to put service to his country about all else. This, he said, was the defining event of his life and this is what drives him to want to serve his country as its president.
Of course the facts of his capture and torture are well-known, so he wasn’t saying anything new, in one sense. But in another sense, this was an entirely new narrative which he had never shared before in public. For me, this brief segment of his speech made all the difference in the impact of his message. For me, it gave a compelling explanation for why he wants the job, and how he’ll treat the job differently than previous presidents or current candidates. Shots of people in the convention audience wiping away or fighting back tears confirmed that I was not the only one affected by his account.
So how was it that this story worked and worked so powerfully?
The answer: it was not the events of the story but the way it was told. It was a classic “New Me Story” or “Transformation Story,” one of the skills and tools I have long taught in SunBridge, in Mastering the High-End Close, and in Professional Story Selling. And whether you agree or disagree with John McCain’s politics, you really should re-listen to that little piece of his speech after you read this. See if you can identify the structure he used in telling the story, which caused an old, well-known story to have such impact.
The “New Me Story” is very simple and has four parts:
  1. The Old Me: This is who I used to be.
  2. The Transforming Event: This is what happened to me that sparked a change. 
  3. My Reaction and Response: This is how I first reacted; then this is how it caused a deeper change. 
  4. The New Me: This is who I have now become, and this is how I am now more able to help you.
John McCain followed this format to a “T” and the result was a transforming experience for his audience. It’s a skill set great communicators have learned to master.
 If you want to put punch and sparkle into your workshops and speeches, or if you want to transform the way prospects and clients see you when you sit down in an engagement meeting with them and they make the decision to hire you or not, you need to create, practice, and tell your own “New Me Story.” You may or may not have a transforming event as dramatic as John McCain’s, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that you’ve experienced real life, and real life has changed you, and as a result you’re better equipped to help them deal with their real-life issues. The result is the same: you’re more authentic, you’re more trustworthy, you’re more valuable to them. You’re much more likely to get hired, at a higher fee.
More about the power of story is available in my book “Like a Library Burning: Sharing and Saving a Lifetime of Stories,” which I wrote with Peggy Hoyt. (Visit

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