Years ago, I was a speedskater. Though I never competed on the level of a Bonnie Blair, I did skate in the same circles as her brother for a short while. (Even at 4 years old Bonnie showed great promise as she tagged along after us on the ice.) Little did I realize then the lessons to be reaped from skating all those laps at the rink.

One of the most important things that any serious speedskater must learn when starting out is how to sharpen their blades. And how important it is to keep them at their sharpest at all times.

Speedskates are flat ground to reduce resistance which gives them the ability to turn tighter and stop faster. But, unlike figure or hockey skates, speedskates require an edge that only you can give it, since ice rink sharpening tools are geared for figure and hockey skates. They must be hand sharpened for perfect definition and precision.

Why the need to be so sharp? Start with a dull blade and you’ve already racked up an unnecessary preventive handicap for yourself. The sharper the blade, the more edge. The more edge, the more speed. The more speed, well, that’s pretty obvious. A sharpened blade just makes you more efficient and more aerodynamic. And solidifies that moment of contact when blade meets ice.

That sharp blade lets you race without hesitation. It also allows you to cut corners faster. Not in a dollars and sense way, but to shave off a few hundredths of a second that can make a difference in winning a race or placing out of the top three.

Sharpening is both an art and a science that can be applied to any number of areas. Crafting a powerful brand story, for instance, is much the same way. As in skating, speed and precision matter. A lot. The more speed, the greater your ability to connect at the right time with the right message.

To slice through all the other thousands of messages consumed in a day, your message needs to be smart, sharp and to the point. And it needs to connect fast by resonating on a relevant emotional level.

To speed the right thoughts, emotions and feelings to the brain you need a clear message that resonates quickly. Otherwise you’ve lost that critical moment of contact when in a fraction of a second someone decides to engage with you. Or not. That moment is crucial, because it’s often the moment of decision. They’re either going to go forward, or they’re done.

Unfortunately, most of the creative experiences consumers are having at that critical point are either poor or irrelevant. Knowing that today’s consumers demand relevance, there’s really no good excuse any more not to be. On the one hand, programmatic and mobile let brands connect customer data with highly relevant details, such as location, weather, time, etc. – personal logistics that matter.

But, being emotionally relevant takes an ability to capture attention and pique interest at the initial point of contact. Captivating them just long enough to create a moment of desire. That moment of decision, of feeling compelled to act or purchase, doesn’t last long. Distractions happen. The feeling passes. Minutes go by. And they forget because they’ve moved on to something else that’s grabbed their attention. Their focus shifts and you may not get it back.

However, sharp, powerful storytelling can keep audiences engaged at breakneck speed. Since the human mind is naturally programmed to remember stories, a laser-focused story that targets with precision and impact can make all the difference.

A recent Nielsen research study has found that nothing helps consumers feel connected to a brand story like tugging at the heart strings, providing a good laugh or connecting with them on a personal level. We all learn when we find meaning in things, rather than just being fed facts, which can be quickly forgotten. Yet when incorporated into a story, those same facts are experienced more deeply and make an emotional connection.

A compelling story employing persuasive words and images can cut through and give any brand narrative an edge. It can shave precious seconds off the moment of contact when you and the consumer actually connect. And connecting emotionally at that precise moment means consumers are more likely to buy.

Speedskaters race against the clock. Brands trying to connect with consumers do, too. Sharpen your story by adding an emotional component, and you increase your chances of winning every time.