Business Storytelling – How to be Memorable

By | July 4, 2017

Lisa Evans - Speaking Savvy - Storytelling

5 Secrets to Memorable Business Storytelling.

Business Storytelling. Everyone is talking about it, few do it well.

Business Storytelling is a buzzword among entrepreneurs and leaders. But honestly, how many people actually do it well? You are probably a “natural” storyteller, think of the “water cooler” stories. But what may happen when you present to a group on a topic that is business related, you default to a formal data-driven approach, leaving aside your natural charisma and conversational style.
Most people agree that business storytelling is a useful tool of influence, but then continue to create another presentation that is top heavy with poorly designed slides or chock full of data. Often this uninspiring method of presentation is the fallback, but due a lack of knowing when to tell a story and which one to chose.
 We live in an information economy. We have access to more information than we can possibly use, more facts than we can process. What we do crave is help to “join the dots”, to make sense of data, to find inner wisdom. When we are presented with a balance of logic and emotion we are far more likely to act on what we hear.
Lisa Evans - Speaking Savvy Storytelling Logic Emotion

“Logic makes people think, but it is emotion, that makes people act.” Zig Ziglar.

It’s not about telling fairy tales

Business stories are supported by facts, leaders are not there to tell fairy tales! Instead, the idea is to create a story narrative that is compelling enough to stick in the minds of the listeners, long after they have heard it. A good story lives on, and on.
The good news is, that you have all have all the tools you need to be an effective storyteller, but you may need to sharpen the tools to fully unlock your storytelling prowess. If you really want to make a lasting impression, aim to be a master storyteller. It takes effort and practice, but I believe it is worth it.

An effective story has key ingredients

You have plenty of experiences and material for stories at your fingertips, but for many, it is the link between a story and a strategic objective that is not so clear. The difference between personal and business storytelling is, that the latter has a purpose. A good story also has a plot, at least two central characters and a call to action.
But once you learn to capture and harness your stories, you will have a story suitable for every occasion. If you want to foster real change then be prepared to dig a little deeper. Just scratching the surface, rarely will do the trick. storytelling is not about perfections, not every story will have a happy ending, you need to be prepared to share the “warts ‘n all version”, it may even be a little messy, but so is life and business. Aim to be vulnerable if need be, but most of all be authentic.
In business storytelling, remember that you or your business is not the hero of the story, the customer is.

 

Without emotion, there is no change

According to Steve Denning, author of The Leaders Guide to Storytelling, “the idea that storytelling is a rare skill possessed by relatively few human beings is nonsense.  We tell stories naturally in the informal setting, it is usually only when we get up and stand in front of an audience that we forget to be ourselves and enjoy sharing the ancient art of storytelling”.
Forget the rational and objective, that will get you so far but quite simply without emotion, there is no change. Data alone won’t get your message across in a way that is easy to remember and recall.
To be memorable in your message, aim to appeal to the full array of senses if you really want to really get through to people. It is one thing to get information “out” but quite different to get “through”. No-one feels inspired or motivated to change by being “talked at”, we prefer a two-way interaction, and that is what a story can bring.

Storytelling – a skill worth learning?

Gone are the days when the person with the title of leader has to be followed. As leaders, we have to be able to demonstrate our values, our integrity, and our purpose. It is not enough to have a mission statement framed on the desk or a set of company values printed on the stationery. Are you ready to learn to become a better storyteller?
Leaders who have embraced storytelling as a strategic tool are able to share “values in action” stories,  translate lessons learned to pass on to others, express the struggles fought, and the celebration of success. All this can be done in the form of a real and relatable story.
People want to be led by genuine heartfelt leaders, who are willing to share their core, what makes them tick, and what stories they can bring to the table to bring meaning to their actions.
Leaders who are exceptional storytellers are entertaining, engaging and memorable. Their listeners are able to recall and repeat their stories long past the event. Why? becuase these leaders know how to create a “sticky” story, and have learned not only to put together a story plot but to deliver a story whilst capturing the imagination of the audience.
According to Annette Simmons author of The Story Factor, “The power of even a simple story to affirm someone’s connection to your organization’s people, values, and vision, can mean the difference between simple competence and fully realized ownership. Simply put your stories help your people feel alive”.

Where do people go wrong when storytelling in business?

“I’m going to start by telling you a story….” This is a sure way to ruin the spontaneity and curiosity that surrounds any great story.  Yet so many people begin like this. There is a better way!
Telegraphing is a term commonly used in sports, particularly in boxing.
According to Wikipedia, “Telegraphing is to intentionally alert an opponent to one’s immediate situation or intentions”. The boxer may move his shoulder and body in a particular way before throwing a punch and this movement can be read by the opponent.
The skill is in being able to hide telegraphing so that you don’t give your intention away.
If you want to create a memorable and sticky story there are a few golden rules to create a memorable story without giving too much away or “telegraphing”, and to keep people curious to know more right to the very end.

 5 Secrets to Memorable Business Storytelling

1. Avoid Telegraphing when storytelling

It’s not necessary, to begin with, “I’m going to tell you a story” or another one I hear is “May I start by telling you a story?”.  The best thing to do is jump right in and start your story, no need to ask permission or to “telegraph” what is ahead.

You can launch into your story with a short preamble line that sets the context. For example “I remember a time, back in the 70’s growing up..” or “As the sun was rising, I was walking along the beach this morning”.  A good story that is relevant to your topic can be spontaneously woven into your material with a seamless transition between the content and your story.

2. Ensure every story has a plot

Every story needs a plot, otherwise, it’s not a story. People often think they are storytelling when all they are doing is sharing a short anecdote or a case study. A story has to have a plot.  There is a lot of in depth information and theories on the structure and shape of stories. The most well-known, the Hero’s Journey by Joseph Campbell. There are 12 steps in the Hero’s Journey. If you are interested in storytelling, The Hero with a Thousand Faces is an in-depth read. For the average storyteller or someone new to this form of narrative, it is quite complex I have created a simple framework to use when plotting your story. It’s called the 5C’s of Compelling Storytelling™.  The stages of the story plot are as follows Context, Challenge, Choice, Change, Carryout. If you are interested in creating your story using this plot contact me and I will send you a copy.

For the average storyteller, or someone new to this form of narrative, the Hero’s Journey can be too complex.

I have created a simple framework to use when plotting your story, called the 5C’s of Compelling Storytelling™.

The stages of the story plot are as follows:

  • Context
  • Challenge
  • Choice
  • Change
  • Carryout

If you are interested in creating a story using this framework you can receive your free download on this page.

3. Create characters to bring your story to life

Your story needs characters. Often when people tell a story they talk about other people in an impersonal way. My husband, the boss, my dog. Take your character is a step further and develop them. If we want our audience to feel drawn into our story, they need to be able to relate to our characters, either by seeing themselves as that character or someone they know. Experiment by giving your characters the personality and character traits that help others experience them more fully.

Name your characters. Tell your audience a few key things about them. For example, if my old grandmother is part of my story, I would tell you, “my Nana Doris is 89, despite her birdlike arthritic frame, she still loves to play Cockney sing-along tunes on the piano;  she smells of mothballs, mixed with 711 perfume”.

By describing some of my Nana’s characteristics I’m able to paint a better picture of her in your mind.

4. Use dialogue in your storytelling

Rather than retell or regurgitate your story, bring your story to life with dialogue. Instead of saying, there is a lady who gets on the bus every day and tells people how many days there are until Christmas. This is actually a true story, there was a lady who did this every single day on the bus I caught to work. If I were retelling this story, in order to make this scene come to life, I may say something like, “every morning, this larger than life middle-aged woman would climb aboard the bus, and with a great big smile buy her tickets, then announce to the whole bus in a rather loud voice ‘today is Wednesday, there are 203 days until Christmas’, then she sat down and didn’t say another word”.

Instead of telling you what she said I would become that character for that line of dialogue.  Try out voices and if relevant accents to take on any characteristics of that person. This brings your story to life.

5. What life lessons does your business storytelling offer to others?

The most important part of your story is the lessons you learned that you will share with others. I believe that storytelling is a great way to share your life wisdom. It’s not about saying, ‘Hey, look at me and where I am now”. Any good story has its’ share of challenge and struggles.

People don’t want to know how successful you are; they want to know what challenges you over overcame along your journey in order to get where you are today.

Are you prepared to share your challenges warts ‘n all? We have all made mistakes, there may be times when we wish we had done something differently or we messed up.  This is what makes up the rich tapestry of life and becomes parts of your story.

Here is a free e-booklet called The 7 Secrets to Spectacular Storytelling

Lisa EvansSpeaking Savvy Find a Story in Five Journal
If you are new to business storytelling and want some tips on how to start,  the first step I recommend is to create a story journal. My Find A Story in 5™ storytelling journal will take you through some simple, guided questions so that you can capture your experiences and turn the best of those into stories. You can purchase the e-version of the journal here, or if you prefer a hard copy with postage anywhere click here.
You can read more here about how you can sort and store your story bank
If you’d like to chat about how I can help you create the right story for your business I’d like to hear from you

 

 

 

 

For years I’ve lived and breathed stories. As a pre-internet child, I grew up on the richness of stories, when there was little else to do! Apart from photographs, storytelling was the way we learned about our history, family, and life.  As a young student nurse, often ill-equipped to deal with the challenges and traumas I faced during “on the job” training – if I didn’t have the “right” answers, I would share a story. I found to my surprise,  that often this was the very thing a patient wanted in a dark hour to help them feel less afraid.

Join The Story Tribe

For anyone living in Perth, if you would like to find out more about storytelling workshops and live storytelling community events, visit Stories From The Heart and join the story tribe.

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Lisa Evans, MBA is a Certified World Class Speaking and Storytelling Coach, Keynote Speaker and TEDx Speaker Coach. Based in Perth, Australia, Lisa works with leaders globally to help them craft and deliver powerful presentations and compelling business stories.

One day Perth Public Speaking and Storytelling for Leaders Workshop – next one 30 August find out more here

Storytelling for Changemakers half day workshop – next one 19 August find out more here

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