Once upon a time in a company like ours...
When was the last time you told someone a good story?
I bet it was recently but you probably didn't realise you were actively doing it and the power it had (if you've told people that anecdote of what happened to you on your commute or at the supermarket or when meeting friends, those are all good stories that they are probably telling someone else at this very moment).
We're all born storytellers and story listeners (it's how we convey information to our family and friends) but too often we think we need to be very creative to tell proper stories; trust me, it doesn't need to have dragons and aliens to be a story. As long as the people you told were interested and can remember it then you have a story on your hands my friend!
Now, how often do you use that storytelling ability in business? Hmm, that's probably a bit trickier to answer but there's absolutely no reason not to use stories at work. Human beings don't switch persona once they enter an office, they still like to be entertained and for things to be as easy to understand as possible - hence a story is a powerful tool to deploy.
Maybe it's because I was a former school teacher but I embraced the power of stories to make learning more fun and more understandable for the students. Once I got into business, I soon realised that the executives I worked with were no different so I carried on using the same techniques.
It doesn't matter if it's for a presentation, a speech, giving feedback, a debate, an interview, a coffee chat, an argument...these can all be made easier by utilising the power of a story.
Based on my years of experience I believe that the key to a good story in business (and elsewhere) is 3 things:
Make sure it's well told - the best stories are the ones that we are comfortable telling in a structured and consistent manner. There's a reason everyone laughs at my story of setting fire to myself on a first date; it's because I've practiced telling it lots of times :o
Make sure it's memorable - it's rare for anyone to remember a story that's just plain boring. If you can make it simple, entertaining and with some standouts (either verbally, physically or experientially) then it'll be hard to forget
Make sure it's relevant - if your audience can associate with the story and identify the 'So What' then they will take it to heart and carry it with them, so to speak
Beyond this there are many style choices you can make around:
how much of a story you tell (is it just at the start or all the way through your presentation?)
how long it will be
what balance of fact and emotion you put in
how many people will tell it
whether the audience will participate or not
whether to use supporting material and props
what analogies and metaphors to use
whether it is forward or backward looking
whether it creates positive or negative imagery
whether you tell people the 'So What' or whether they work it out themselves
The other important thing to remember is that different people like different types of stories so know your audience and tailor effectively; if you really want to up your game have multiple ways to tell the same story.
If you're an absolute master storyteller then you may want to start to think about things like the environment you tell your story in and the other needs of the audience (such as food, warmth, psychological safety, etc) but let's get the basics done first before we go all fancy.
Ultimately, the number one, best thing you can do is prepare, practice and polish (keep trying new things until your story can get no better).
If you want some help with your storytelling or want to understand how it can help with your business then drop Shiageto Consulting a line. If not, good luck with your stories and let us know the best ones.