One look tells you that Vin Clancy is not your run-of-the-mill motivational speaker. But while his look and presentation style may be a bit unconventional, the storytelling and audience engagement tactics he employs are much more tried-and-true. You could argue it’s Vin’s blend of the unconventional (style and delivery) and the conventional (storytelling tactics) that are his ingredients to success. And Vin’s success to garner attention and engagement for his and his clients’ companies is undeniable. He now travels around the world, presenting at conferences, events and corporate functions.
We were fortunate enough to get Vin to slow down long enough to answer a few questions about his formula for success and the role that storytelling has played in it.
Your presentation style is like a roller coaster ride; twists, turns, ups, downs, lists, stories, etc. Where did that come from and how do you feel it helps make for the most impactful presentations?
Vin: Haha thanks man! That’s the impact I’m looking for. But yeah, my style and what it is today, it didn’t really come from one single place. It’s grown and changed over time. I’ve read a lot of Dan Kennedy’s stuff on how to produce copy that resonates. My mentor Dan Meredith has been a huge influence on me as well. One thing I’d say I notice with a lot of writers (who write for social media) is that they write as if they’re putting together a high school essay or a white paper. The easiest way to get over this is by writing how you speak. So really I’ve just grown my style by following my mentors and just writing how I imagine it’d come out of my mouth.
Storytelling is a major buzzword, but for good reason. What’s your secret sauce for engaging an audience with a story?
Vin: Again learning a lot just from practice and following my mentors advice. But the thing they taught me was how you’ve got to prepare your story like a Hollywood movie or a great novel. Rags to riches kinda stuff. Now everyone’s starting point will be different. In my mid-20’s I found myself on welfare, staying in a crappy apartment in one of the sketchiest parts of London. I couldn’t hold down a real job, my heating broke in the winter, my girlfriend at the time was going crazy. So I draw my “rags” from that time in my life. My co-founder of Traffic & Copy, Charlie Price, reached £0 in his bank account, broke his leg and was stranded in Brazil. We’ve both bounced back and now live pretty incredible lives. So yeah, find your bottom or any struggles in your life and talk about how you’ve overcome them. Building a narrative around that is the key to my storytelling. Celebrate wins and mention the journey. Your readers want to know all the juicy stuff. So make sure you tell that: A) You started from a difficult place B) You had a process you used to get out of it C) Highlight milestones/ setbacks and D) It’s possible for them to do it. Revealing everything has been one of the easiest ways to generate serious interest in my story. Yeah it’s not easy to reveal all as you feel a bit naked afterwards aha, but I just write it down and press that publish button.
One of key tips for growth hacking from your talks is, “Speak to your customers and define messaging.” What have been the best methods and research you’ve deployed to gather customer feedback and develop/refine messaging that resonates?
Vin: As manual as it is, I’ve built a community of sorts with nearly every business I’ve launched. So I just dive in there, speak to the people asking them what they want. Building a community (Facebook groups have been the key) is also great because you can just sit back and see how your customers speak and behave online. Then from there it’s just down to experimentation, A/B testing and trial & error. Defining a message and a ‘language’ takes time but once you get it, you’ll start speaking it fluently. Currently me and my team have really gone deep into measuring and strategy, but before that I’d recommend just “moving fast and break things” talk a lot to your audience, every day, almost ‘too’ much, and you’ll work out what type of people they are.
In our world we talk about “Contagious Engagement” for engaging with an audience and getting them to preach you to their circle of influence. What are your Top 3 tips for creating engagement that will become contagious?
Vin: I’m going to say a cliche’ here but “under-promise and over-deliver.” I can’t honestly rate this technique any higher. In my talks, I just go in those rooms with an hour-long slide deck filled with actionable growth hacks, great pieces of software, and the best content techniques. I think people get blown away with how little fluff there is in my slides. I also give people my slide decks so that they can use them as they wish. Some share it with their marketing teams, send them to friends and connections so it’s just great to give people what they want.