During the 2020 American Farm Bureau Annual Convention Vance Crowe, former director of millennial engagement for Monsanto, shared his experience of representing one of the most controversial companies in the modern world.  Vance shared how to tell stories that capture the imagination of rooms full of suspicious, even angry crowd members, to ultimately bring them around to a new way of viewing agriculture.

Storytelling is a tradition that has been around for over 50,000 years, but what makes a story compelling? Vance revealed the inner structure of stories so that you can be more compelling when talking with the curious, and even your critics.

Venture into the chaos

The world around us mutually coexists in the presence of Order and Chaos. Where do you live? All too often we can get comfortable in the state of Order, never challenging or changing the world around us, but all new things come from Chaos.  Push yourself to venture into Chaos, it can be uncomfortable, but it can produce impactful results if you accept change and uncertainty.   

Discover what you truly want

Stories with the most impact have external versus internal conflicts.  The hero has to decide what they want versus what they need and these are often in conflict with each other. The hero often has external goals like to win something, stop something (someone), retrieve something or escape from something. But internally, the hero wants something else- recognition, love, freedom, or to be relieved of the “hero’s burden” which is often a change in perspective.   These external goals conflict with the internal goal.

Listen to your mentors

Surround yourself with people who give you confidence, challenge you and people you trust. In turn, be the mentor for others on their journey.  A mentor guides and inspires the hero to reach their full potential. In the case for agriculture and telling our story, Vance mentioned that brands are not the hero, brands are the mentor. It’s up to us to make the consumer the hero by choosing a particular product. Buying that product makes them feel good! Vance recommended the books “Hero’s Journey” and “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” both by Joseph Campbell.  In order to tell good stories, you must read good stories.

Face your dragons

In classic stories, dragons are all that we fear and they hoard gold. We have to define what our dragons look like and also our gold. What are we willing to sacrifice to get our gold?   Facing your internal fears makes you stronger. Heed the call to adventure. What does that look like to you? You must be willing to look foolish to master something and you must be able to get over the fear of the unknown.

Make difficult sacrifices

Go in search of ideas that you don’t agree with- we often filter through like-minded people.  Attend meetings and events of organizations on the other side of an issue to understand their point of view.  It can be uncomfortable to venture into ideas and beliefs that you do not agree with but it challenges your own perspective and allows you to grow as a communicator.

Apply these core principles to your life and your stories…and your story will be one people want to hear.