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Take a page from Arlo Guthrie and connect with your audience by telling stories.
Last year on this day, we were in Boise, Idaho (the town Shadra spent most of her life) to see Arlo Guthrie in concert. We go to a lot of concerts, but this was a bucket-list kind of show – the 50th anniversary of Arlo’s song, “Alice’s Restaurant.” It was an important tour to catch for those of us who were too young to see him perform the song the first time around. Arlo tends to avoid playing “Alice’s Restaurant” unless it is the 10th anniversary of the song, so if you want to hear it live, you may need to wait until the 60th anniversary.
The concert was an incredible experience. We walked out of the venue feeling we’d spent the evening sitting across from Arlo. It wasn’t simply the songs that left an indelible impression; we’d heard most of them before, many times. And we have faithfully watched the movie, Alice’s Restaurant, every year at Thanksgiving.
So what made the performance memorable?
It wasn’t simply Arlo’s singing that made his performance “stick to [our] bones,” as our Boise State poetry professor might say.
What made Arlo’s performance memorable was the stories he told.
The man can tell a story! And as he weaves a narrative, you’re pulled into the time and place he’s revealing, and the people in the story become tangible. And as he speaks, you feel like he is talking only to you – that if you were not sitting there listening, the story would not be worth the telling.
We can all take a page out of Arlo’s book when it comes to engaging with our audiences. Whether you’re writing, giving a speech, or meeting with a client, it’s the stories you tell and the attention you give to your audience that are going to plant you and your message firmly in their memory, not your presentation, pitch, or hard sell.
Tell a story. That’s how to connect with your audience.