We all love a good story. As little kids, we wanted our parents or someone significant in our lives to tell us a story. As we get older and supposedly more mature, we enter the world of business and seem to forget how powerful stories can be as a communication tool to move, motivate, inspire and yes, lead others. But some of that is changing and the art of storytelling is actually being taught to professionals who should have never forgotten it in the first place. Let’s explore this communication phenomenon.
Stories are fun. As a result, they are an effective communication tool. You don’t need to be an expert or a whiz to tell one. A good story with a memorable beginning, middle and end, told with passion and enthusiasm connects with people on a visceral and emotional level. Great stories are not intimidating like a directive from the top telling you some organizational change is required because “the boss says so.”
Too much data is numbing. Few will admit it, but many of us are overwhelmed by the constant barrage of information and data. Statistics, surveys, charts and graphs create a never-ending data dump. E-communication can overwhelm us. Very often this information is too abstract for us to get a handle on. It’s not in context. It doesn’t have a point or a moral, much less a message. Not so with an effectively told story. Many crave a return to a simpler, more clearly defined world, where leaders communicate a direction that has a purpose. We want to be included in that purpose. Stories have characters and great storytellers connect us to those characters so we can see ourselves in the story. The more cluttered the world gets with information, the more effective a simple story becomes.
Start incorporating stories into your communication. You have stories and anecdotes based on your life experience as well as the countless stories you were told throughout your life. These stories inspired you, and there is a good chance these same stories will inspire others. The problem is that we wrongly assume that stories aren’t appropriate in the world of business. Think of your favorite story or anecdote (the simpler the better) and ask yourself what the moral is, and then consider how the story and its moral can drive home a seemingly unrelated issue or point in your professional life.
We all make mistakes when storytelling. The biggest one is giving too many details and getting caught up in the minutia, forgetting what the point or moral of the story is. Great stories or anecdotes can be told in 10, 20 or 30 seconds. The key is to capture the essence of the story and then connect it to the existing issue or challenge facing your audience. (“So the point is…” or “What this means is…”) Another mistake, even for the most entertaining storytellers who capture their audience’s attention, is to not have their story tied to the larger message. An entertaining story isn’t enough to communicate effectively. Stories told in a professional setting must inspire people to action and move them in a direction they might not otherwise go. To do that, the storyteller must have a compelling and credible message. The lesson is to start with the message that you believe in and then identify the stories and/or anecdotes that drive the message home.
How do you use storytelling as a communication tool? Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org