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Storytelling for Leaders Who Want to Make a Difference

Storytelling for Leaders Who Want to Make a Difference

The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller. The storyteller sets the vision, values and agenda of an entire generation that is to come.” Steve Jobs 

Are you a leader who wants to inspire change and hold the room’s attention with your storytelling? Maybe you know the benefits of storytelling for leaders, but you don’t know how or where to start? 

You may have questions such as; What stories can leaders share? How to find the right story for a presentation? My industry is technical, so how can I tell a story and remain credible? 

Storytelling for leaders who want to communicate more effectively

If you are eager to become a better storyteller, read on. If you want to discover some practical tips to enhance your storytelling, let’s chat

The good news about storytelling for leaders is that no special skills are required. As a leader, you need to engage, inspire and motivate people to action. Storytelling will enable you to be more persuasive. 

Boring PowerPoint presentations, reading from notes, a lack of interaction and dull monotones will not move any room to action. Leaders who have incorporated storytelling into their spoken word communication are ahead of the rest. 

When you add a story to your data, you can simplify your material to offer greater meaning, interpretation, and insight.

Humans are hardwired to tell stories, and in the distant past, it was natural to us. Think back to when you were younger. You developed the ability to tell stories (often a tall tale) by the time you were around four years old. Then, like many skills, you became more self-conscious and less carefree and confident about sharing. 

Storytelling is how we make sense and meaning; we can create order out of chaos and turn random ideas into something coherent. 

We begin to weave our stories from the rich tapestry of our lives. 

You may remember Aristotle’s Triangle of Rhetoric from high school or tertiary studies.

  

Persuade Boost your Business Storytelling
 

Aristotle believed that a speaker’s ability to persuade an audience depends on how well they apeal to that audience in logos, ethos, and pathos

Our ethos is clear cut as leaders and includes your position, title, experience, skills, and qualification. In other words, do you have the credibility to be leading the room?

Logos is the area that many leaders, particularly technically trained, feel comfortable about. Logos is an appeal to logic and is a way of persuading an audience with reason, using facts and figures. 

You are probably comfortable with this one. But before you deliver another data-rich PowerPoint deck with charts and figures, give a thought to the power of pathos. 

Pathos is emotion and imagination, as well as beliefs and values. And is a way of convincing an audience by creating an emotional response to an argument or story.  When considering pathos, we can use vivid examples, details and images to engage the listeners’ emotions and imagination and appeal to the values and beliefs they relate to or care about.

Storytelling for leaders 6 story types

There are different types of stories that make up an overall narrative strategy. Here are the six indispensable stories that sit well in any leader’s communication toolkit. 

1 The Signature Story 

2 The Founding Story

3 The Client Journey

4 The Aspiration Story

5 The Values Story

6 The Change Story 

There are plenty of ways you can engage with a story and there are a few basic storytelling guidelines to consider 

You may end up with multiple stories, and storytelling consultant Paul Smith recommends ten stories every leader can tell. A good starting point that I suggest is to draft your signature story.

What is a Signature Story?

According to Aaker and Aaker, researchers at  Stanford University, “A signature story is an intriguing, authentic narrative with a strategic message that clarifies the brand, and the business strategy.”

Creating your Signature Story 

The first step is to mine your life for stories. Story Mining is the discovery stage, finding those stand out moments from your life and turning them into a story structure. 

There are four phases in creating your stories.

  • Mining
  • Refining
  • Polishing
  • Presenting

When we are story mining, we dig for those natural resources to uncover what we have and then refine the more significant pieces until we have that golden nugget.

6 Story mining questions to get you started

1 Write down 50 things that have led you to today. Include the wins, the losses, the ups and downs, and the defining moments. In doing this exercise, you will capture significant moments in your life that hold your uniqueness’s valuable lessons. 

2 What has been the most significant point in your life leading to your career or business? What was the catalyst for that change if you had had a career switch? Was it by design or default? Did life throw a curveball at you?

3 Why does what you do matter so much? This can be answered from a personal or a career perspective. This is the opportunity to articulate your passion for what you do. Your values and what you hold dear to you may be added to this part. 

4 Why should others care? This question reframes your story to address the WIIFM – what’s in it for me? This is where you make your story relatable.

5 How does this make you different? What is unique about your journey, your leadership and your story? 

6 How do you help others? Be clear about what you stand for and how you are of service to others. 

Remember….

No one cares about your story until they care how your story helps them – Lisa Evans

When we can balance logic and emotion, we give our listeners a reason to care.  If they dont care, they dont listen. It’s simple. 

Want to know about storytelling for leaders? 

If you are based in Australia, you may be interested in hosting a facilitated storytelling for leader’s workshop. I have delivered these workshops to groups worldwide, both in-person and online. There is a format to suit every group, from two hours to two days. Click the button below, to find out how you can get ahead in your communication using the power of storytelling. 

Lisa Evans helps professionals to craft compelling business stories and become exceptional speakers. Lisa is a certified speaker coach, TEDx speaker coach, four times author, NLP practitioner, graphic recorder and visual storyteller, improvisational actor, and host of the Business Chat Podcast

She has coached thousands of leaders across a range of industries, including resources, banking, finance, engineering, retail and sales as well as not-for-profit and community associations. 

If you wish to take advantage of a complimentary session in order to chat about how you can become an exceptional and successful speaker with a stand-out brand, then use this link to book a time to chat. Download my e-book – How to Build Confidence and Overcome Nervousness.

Lisa Evans

Professional Speaker

Graphic Recording will make your message more memorable

Graphic Recording will make your message more memorable

Graphic recording Lisa Evans

I am often asked about my work as a graphic recorder and the question most people want to know is, how to get started. 

In this post I will share basic tips on how to take that first step in putting pen to paper, or stylus to device (depending on your chosen medium). 

If you would like a 1:1 coaching session or an interactive workshop for your team on how to record any information in a graphic recording, then get in touch to find out about my workshop.

Sketchnoting for Business (even if you think you cannot draw) 

Firstly,  what is Graphic Recording? 

Graphic Recording is a way of capturing visual content in an eye-popping and compelling way, using a combination of lettering, words, shapes and figures. Graphic recording is Ideal for both online and in person events or meetings, in fact any occasion where you want your message to stand out and to grab people’s attention visually.

A graphic recording will help to spark imagination, highlight the key talking points and keep the conversation going long after the speaker has finished. This form of visual storytelling appeals to busy people who want a snapshot of information in a one page summary. 

‘But I cannot draw’

I hear this everyday. The truth is I can’t draw either, and it’s not necessary. The purpose of a Graphic Recording is to quickly and efficiently capture ideas and highlights in a fun way, whilst improving the chances of recall of information as our brain loves visual imagery to help us connect the dots and remember things. 

Anyone can draw basic shapes and all you need to get started is to be able to draw a square, circle triangle and a straight line. These are the building blocks. 

How to get started? 

Initially you will need to decide if you would prefer to capture your ideas via pen and paper, or whether you would like to use a digital device such as the iPadPro. 

Choose your Medium

Digital Vs Paper.

If you choose digital, you will need a tablet with a stylus and a drawing app. The benefits of using a tablet is that your graphic recording can be transmitted easily and saved in different formats. It is also possible to edit and undo and correct mistakes. On the down side, I personally found that mastering the IPadPro with Procreate and Concepts (the main apps I use) to be a very steep learning curve. 

I started off using paper. I prefer a combination of flip chart sized paper as well as moleskins and sketch pads. 

You will also need pens/textas/markers

Tip:   It is faster to get your ideas down onto paper, so you might like to start with this and progress to digital.  Of course, digital is much quicker to be able to share, so take this into account if you need to get the content out quickly to attendees/participants.  

Also,  starting with paper is a low cost way to dip your toe into graphic recording.  You don’t need to get fancy with markers when you are starting out.  You can definitely borrow some from the kids, or just pick up a basic pack at the supermarket or stationary store. 

To start I recommend;

  • A pack of Staedtler highlighter chisel tips  in both pastel and brights
  • Some calligraphy markers and lettering pens – Artine is a good starter option
  • A pack of brush lettering pens – make sure there are a range of skin tones.

Once you feel ready, you can invest in quality pens and tools.   I like to use Neuland Markers from Graphic Gear.   

Next, you need to develop a visual library.  Shapes, lines, lettering, figurines, faces, objects.   Be patient – it takes time and practice.   9/10 adults say they can’t draw, but you can.  You are not aiming to be the next Picasso, this is about capturing the essence and points of a meeting or event.   If you are struggling for inspiration, have a look on Instagram or Pinterest for some ideas or check out my gallery!

There are also some great books about graphic recording;

Practice every day!   Use a conversation as a prompt, or something you see in a coffee shop, or read in a book. You can make a graphic recording of anything.  Maybe find a drawing buddy or enrol in a workshop.

Don’t leave home without them…your pens that is!

I found a nifty grey felt holder from Ikea that is perfect for carrying pens around with me. 

I suggest you always carry some tools with you (even just a notebook and a few coloured pens) as you never know what you might come across, and there are so many opportunities to draw!

Have fun, be creative and you will be on your way to becoming a visual storyteller!   


About the author

Lisa Evans helps leaders and entrepreneurs to craft compelling business stories and become exceptional speakers. Lisa is a certified speaker coach, TEDx speaker coach, four times author, NLP practitioner, graphic recorder and visual storyteller, and improvisational actor. 

She has coached thousands of leaders across a range of industries, including resources, banking, finance, engineering, retail and sales as well as not-for-profit and community associations. 

If you wish to take advantage of a complimentary session in order to chat about how you can become an exceptional and successful speaker with a stand-out brand, then use this link to book a time to chat.

Here’s how I may help you

Whether you have a hidden story of your feet, or you want to nail your next presentation, I can help you.

My services include:

Business Storytelling Coaching – together we can get started to create your suite of stories. A minimum of three sessions is recommended 1:1 in person or virtually via Zoom.

Executive Speaker Coaching – if you have an upcoming guest speaking opportunity, funding pitch, conference talk or you want to be an outstanding speaker, we can work together on your technique. You will see the results after one session.

Storytelling for Leaders Interactive Workshops – I can come to you, or we can host a workshop offsite for your team. From half-day to two-days immersive, this customised workshop is an ideal way to kick start your business storytelling strategy and get the whole team telling stories.

Keynote/Guest Speaking at your next conference or event – I have several topics to choose from ranging from a 30-minute talk up to a 90-minute interactive session.

Storytelling for Business Workshop – 5 Business Storytelling Secrets

Storytelling for Business Workshop – 5 Business Storytelling Secrets

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

Here I’ll share some tips from my storytelling for business workshop and coaching sessions. 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, is that 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 common method of presentation is the fall back and this is a main focus with clients from my storytelling for business workshop and coaching sessions. Perhaps you are ready to try storytelling, but you are not sure where to start? We live in an information economy. We have access to more information than we can 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 hear a balance of logic and emotion, we are far more likely to take action.

Here’s an inside look at some of the main take-aways from my storytelling for business workshop and coaching sessions.

Storytelling for Business Workshop: 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.

What you’ll learn at my storytelling for business workshop:

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. 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 perfection, not every story will have a happy ending. 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.

Focusing on the customer is one of the main things we focus on in a storytelling for business workshop.

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 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 want to get through to people. It is one thing to get information “out” but entirely 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 and something I focus on with my clients in my storytelling for business workshop and coaching sessions.

Storytelling – a skill worth learning?

The person with the title leader is not necessarily the one who naturally inspires others to follow. 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.

Leaders who embrace storytelling as a strategic tool can share “values in action” stories, translate lessons learned to pass on to others, express the struggles fought and won, and tell stories of success. A real and relatable story will break down barriers and demonstrate the essence of your leadership style and intention.

People want genuine heartfelt leaders, who are willing to share their core, what makes them tick, and the stories they can bring to the table to provide meaning to their actions.

Leaders who are exceptional storytellers are entertaining, engaging and memorable. Their listeners can recall and repeat their stories long past the event. Why? Because they know how to create a “sticky” story, and have learned not only to put together a story plot but to deliver a story while capturing the imagination of the audience.

If this is something you’re struggling with, attending a storytelling for business workshop could be a great boost for your skills.

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 mere 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. A major skill I teach in my storytelling for business workshop is 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.

Here are 5 simple business storytelling tips

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. There is 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 is 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™ and it’s what we use in my storytelling for business workshop.

The stages of the story plot are as follows: Context, Challenge, Choice, Change, Carryout. 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

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 a step further and develop them. To help 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.

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 a step further and develop them. To help our audience to feel drawn to 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 traits that help others experience them more fully.

Name your characters. Tell your audience a few key things about them. For example, if my grandmother is part of my story, I would say, “my Nana Doris is 89, despite her bird-like 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 grandmother’s characteristics, I’m able to paint a 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 a true story!). If I were retelling this story, 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. With a great big smile she would buy her ticket, 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 accents to take on any characteristics of that person. This adds another dimension to your story.

5. What life lessons does your story offer?

The most important part of your story is the lessons you learned that you could 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 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. If you’d like to chat about how I can help you create the right story for your business or attend a storytelling for business workshop or coaching session I’d like to hear from you.


As a storytelling expert, known as The Story Midwife, I help leaders to create compelling presentations through business storytelling.

Before becoming a Professional Speaker, I worked for over twenty years as a midwife.

I now live and breathe stories as a speaker, trainer, performer and coach.

Are you looking to attend a storytelling for business workshop with me? As a World Class Speaking & Storytelling Coach, I’ll help you mine, refine and deliver a captivating story for your business or brand. Whether it is the boardroom, podium or stage; I can show you how to develop a persuasive presentation with a compelling story that will be hard to forget by anyone who gets to experience it.

If you would like to find out about training for you or your team or attend a storytelling for business workshop, I’d love to hear from you.  Contact me lisa@speakingsavvy.com.au or call +61 (0)438 902042.

10 ways to boost engagement by sharing a signature story

10 ways to boost engagement by sharing a signature story

What is a Signature Story?

The five core stories that make up the Story Blueprint are the; Signature Story, Founding Story, Values Story, Aspiration Story and the Customer Story.  

At the centre of the Story Blueprint is the Signature Story. In my previous post about the Signature Story I wrote some questions to guide you in discovering your story.

This story carries the essence of who you are and what you stand for, and when you can articulate this in a way that is relevant to others, it will set you apart. 

According to Aaker and Aaker, researchers at  Stanford University, a signature story is an intriguing, authentic, involving narrative with a strategic message that clarifies the brand, the customer relationship, the organisation and or the business strategy. 

What makes an engaging story?

There are different ways to share your story, you can mix it up, tell the story in different lengths and for different purposes. I believe that the measure of success in storytelling is not when someone says, ‘I really enjoyed your story’. What I consider is a story well-told is when someone says, ‘I really enjoyed your story as it reminded me of…’, and then they share one of their own stories. 

My story is not about me, it is about how I help others. If people cannot see themselves as part of your story, they won’t be able to relate, and they won’t care. 

According to Arthur Graesser, professor of psychology at the University of Memphis, Storytelling is the best tool we have for helping people care about issues. People are more likely to remember information they get in narrative form.

Your Signature Story evolves

Once you have crafted your suite of stories, these stories will evolve. Your story may take a different direction and you may find yourself navigating unfamiliar territory If there is a life lesson in that experience you may revise your Signature Story to include that part of your life. 

You may end up with several different versions of your Signature Story, despite the essence of the story remaining the same, some of the examples and the significance of different parts of your story may change. 

There’s no one size fits all when it comes to story-telling. Once you have crafted your story, here are some ideas on how you may use that story as part of your leadership narrative.

Here are 10 ways that you can use your Signature Story

Speaking

1. Speaking at a conference. Your story may form part or all of your talk. This may be a short TEDx style to a keynote speech that is typically 30-60 minutes in length. 

2. Being interviewed or as the host of a podcast. Your story can be used as part of your introduction or when you are in conversation with the host. It’s handy to have that 60- second version of your story when somebody asks ‘so why do you do what you do’. 

3. Speaking pro-bono as part of your marketing strategy. Speaking in public should be part of every business marketing plan. It is an easy and effective way for you to be front and centre to your ideal clients. In this case your story may form part of your introduction, or be used to share ideas throughout your presentation.

4.  Speaking on a webinar. Again you may be the host or the one being interviewed.  You can craft an introduction that includes a brief snippet of your story. Keep it short and simple. 

Writing

5. Writing your Signature Story as part of your book. You can include relevant parts of your story into the introduction of your book, or many books have a section title,  ‘why I wrote this book’. 

6. Writing your story to include in your About Me page on your website. In this context your story helps visitors to your website get to know something about you and get a feel of what it may be like to work with you.

7. You may use parts of your Signature Story in your blog posts, articles, and other social media marketing. This is particularly relevant if your story is strongly associated with your brand. 

Sales and Marketing

8. Your story may be part of your sales presentation. Perhaps you can include a paragraph that incorporates a shortened version of your story. This could be during face to face conversations when the topic comes up, during a meeting with a prospective client or in your sales documentation.  

9. As part of your slide deck. Is there a strong visual that sums up your story? This can form part of your introduction. 

10. Remember that whilst your Signature Story is about your life experience, the purpose is not about you. Your story needs to have others featured. When you are meeting with people ask them about their story. To become a better storyteller we need to become better story listeners. 

Tell me the facts and I’ll learn. Tell me the truth, and I’ll believe, but tell me a story. And it will live in my heart forever. An old Native American proverb.

Read about other key parts of your Story Blueprint:

__________________________________

If you are a senior leader or business owner who is keen to develop your business storytelling skills, then you can book a 30 min complimentary virtual story coaching session with me. 

To help you find significant moments in your life, I have developed a set of storytelling prompts. My Story cards are a set of 50 cards in a sturdy box. The cards are ideal to help you find memories and experiences from your life. You can use the cards alone or as a game with others. The cards are available in Australia with free postage. If you are outside of Australia, please contact me for postage rates. 


How I can help you

Virtual Masterclass – This live masterclass Communicating with Influence or Business Storytelling for Leaders can be delivered as a 30 minute session x 3, or a 90 minute session. 

Virtual/Online Training – A live class (not pre-recorded) This session is 4 hours duration, with 90 minutes of interactive content, a 30-minute break, followed by another 90 minutes. This session is ideal for small to medium teams. Topics include Communication for emerging Leaders, Communicate with Influence, Public Speaking for Business Success, Presenting Online for Leaders Managing Virtual Teams.

Virtual/Online Coaching – Public Speaking and Storytelling Coaching at concession rates for business owners and not for profit organisations until 30 June 2020.  

Virtual Presentation – Now is the time that event planners can access speakers to present virtually from anywhere in the world. 

Every leader needs a Signature Story

Every leader needs a Signature Story

As a leader, the ability to tell stories will empower you with a way to communicate that is engaging, authentic, and persuasive. 

When it comes to storytelling, there is not a one size fits all approach, and I recommend having a suite of stories at your fingertips. 

Every story told by a leader has a purpose

The Story Blueprint is the suite of stories that I recommend to leaders who are incorporating storytelling into their communication. 

Each story has a different purpose and application which is why we need more than one story; it is the Signature Story that highlights your journey and life’s purpose. 

The Story Blueprint identifies the essential stories that form part of a leaders storytelling toolkit. The five core stories that make up the Blueprint are the: Signature Story, Founding Story, Values Story, Aspiration Story and the Customer Story.  

These five stories are by no means the only stories you will need, but I suggest you start by crafting these ones initially. 

At the centre of the Story Blueprint is the Signature Story. This story  carries the essence of who you are and what you stand for, and when you can articulate this in a way that is relevant to others, it will set you apart. 

Although you may start anywhere in crafting your stories, the Signature Story is a logical place to start. It is also the story that can be used in different settings and applications. In this follow up article you will find 10 ways that you can boost engagement by sharing your Signature Story.

signature story blueprint image

Does it feel a bit awkward? 

As a business storytelling consultant, I work with leaders to help them get their ideas heard using storytelling as a medium.

For some leaders, storytelling comes easily, while others feel less comfortable sharing information about themselves in the business setting. To clarify before I go on. By sharing personal information I mean personal to you and your life experience, not things that are deeply personal. It’s not about opening up your innermost thoughts to the world. Authenticity is a key element in storytelling, and being willing to share the person behind the leader will empower you with a way to communicate that builds trust and rapport. 

They might judge me.

When I began my journey as a speaker and coach, I chose not to share my story with people until I got to know them.  I left my 20-plus year career as a health professional to a vocation that couldn’t be further from my original calling. Others were curious to know about my journey, I often dodged the question if it came up. You may be wondering why I did this.

The simple reason is because I held the limiting belief that people would judge me. That if people were to find out the reason why I left my long term career, I would have less credibility and perceived expertise as a speaker coach (even though I had the credentials). 

Whilst that perception turned out to be widely unconfirmed, that was the story I told myself at the time, and it was a story that didn’t serve me well. 

People are naturally curious and they want to know about the person behind the business. When I felt more comfortable about sharing this part of my life, and the story of why I do what I do now  and how it came about people felt drawn towards my coaching style and way of teaching, which is influenced by my former work as a midwife and health professional. 

What is a Signature Story?

Aaker and Aaker, researchers at  Stanford University say that a signature story beats facts and is a powerful way to communicate a brand. 

According to them, “A signature story is an intriguing, authentic, involving narrative with a strategic message that clarifies the brand, the customer relationship, the organisation and or the business strategy. It is a strategic asset that enables growth, provides inspiration and offers guidance, both internally and externally over an extended period of time.”

Why is sharing your signature story effective? 

Simply put, we can’t move our audience without emotion. In his book, The Art Of Rhetoric, Aristotle the Greek philosopher said, 

“All convincing speakers draw on three modes of persuasion called ethos, pathos and logos.” 

Pathos is the key to telling any story effectively. You may have all the data in the world but if people aren’t able to relate to that information in a meaningful way it will be forgotten. Pathos is the element that stays with the audience, days or weeks after hearing the story, and part of storytelling which can turn listeners into fans, and advocates into customers or donors. Read more about ethos, logos and pathos here.

Creating your Signature Story 

The first step is to mine your life for stories. Story Mining is the discovery stage, teasing out significant  events from your past and then weaving the relevant parts into a story structure. 

There are four phases in creating your stories.

  • Mining
  • Refining
  • Polishing
  • Delivering

When we are story mining, we are digging for those natural resources to uncover what we have within, and then refining the larger pieces until we have that golden nugget.

6 Story Mining questions to get you started

Story mining exercise is a key part of the Story Blueprint. 

#1 Write down 50 things that have led you to where you are today. Include the wins, the losses, the ups and downs, and the defining moments. In doing this exercise you will capture significant moments in your life that hold the lessons that can be passed on to others. 

#2 What has been the most significant point in your life that has led you to your current career, your business and/or your product or service? Have you had other careers? If so, consider the same question for each. 

#3 Why does what you do matter so much to you? This can be answered from an individual lens or from a career perspective. This is the opportunity to articulate your comittment  and energy for what you do. 

#4 Why should others care about this? This question reframes your story to address the WIIFM (What’s in it for me?). This is where you can express how our product or service helps others. 

#5 How does this make you different? What is unique about your product,  your service, your leadership and your story? 

#6 Craft this into a short story. .Don’t overthink it at this stage as the first step is getting the information out of your head and onto paper.  

The signature story is the centrepiece. It is a way for you to articulate why you do what you do, what you stand for and why others should choose you, or give them a reason to care. The signature story has a small piece of each of the other core stories rolled into it.

In the next post, I will share with you some of the many different ways that you can use your Signature Story.

If you are a senior leader or business owner who is keen to develop your business storytelling skills, then you can book a 30 min complimentary story coaching session with me. The session will be held via Zoom. 

To help you find significant moments in your life, I have developed a set of storytelling prompts. My Story cards are a set of 50 cards in a sturdy box. The cards are ideal to help you find memories and experiences from your life. You can use the cards alone or as a game with others. The cards are available in Australia with free postage. If you are outside of Australia, please contact me for postage rates. 


How I can help you

Virtual Masterclass – This live masterclass Communicating with Influence or Business Storytelling for Leaders can be delivered as a 30 minute session x 3, or a 90 minute session. 

Virtual/Online Training – A live class (not pre-recorded) This session is 4 hours duration, with 90 minutes of interactive content, a 30-minute break, followed by another 90 minutes. This session is ideal for small to medium teams. Topics include Communication for emerging Leaders, Communicate with Influence, Public Speaking for Business Success, Presenting Online for Leaders Managing Virtual Teams.

Virtual/Online Coaching – Public Speaking and Storytelling Coaching Online at concession rates for business owners and not for profit organisations until 30 June 2020.  

Virtual Presentation – Now is the time that event planners can access speakers to present virtually from anywhere in the world. 

Storytelling is not ‘one size fits all’

Storytelling is not ‘one size fits all’

Adopting a narrative strategy will help you succeed in business storytelling. Different stories have different purposes and lead to different actions, so a one-size-fits-all approach to storytelling will not set you and your brand apart.

You know the importance of storytelling in business, and maybe you have created a story that encompasses parts of your business journey and values. That’s a great start, but there is more to do in order to stand out as a leader who is successful in business storytelling. 

You may think that you don’t have stories that are appropriate for sharing at work, or that others would not be interested in what you have to say.  When you discover how storytelling works and what makes a good story for a leader to share, you will never be stuck for material again. 

Why storytelling?

In addition to the essential soft skills that every leader needs today, the ability to tell the right story, at the right time and with the right audience, is also vital. It may come naturally to some, but if you are yet to find out how storytelling fits into your communication style, you’ll be pleased to know that it is a skill that you can learn quickly. The ability to engage, influence, inspire action and get noticed as a stand-out communicator, rests on your ability to balance data with emotion, and one of the most effective ways of doing this is through the power of storytelling. 

According to Stephen Denning, storytelling is more than an essential set of tools to get things done: it’s a way for leaders to embody the change they seek. Leaders establish credibility and authenticity through telling the stories that they are living. When they believe deeply in them, their stories resonate, generating creativity, interaction and transformation.

The pitfalls of storytelling

There’s more to telling a story than having compelling content. Telling a good story relies heavily on how you tell that story. As a speaker coach, I often hear stories read out loud from notes, memorised and delivered in a robotic monotone or from a static standing point behind a lectern. Words matter, but your message won’t land the way you hoped for if your delivery fails to connect with your audience.  

Some storytelling pitfalls to avoid: 

  • Rinsing and repeating the same story over and over 
  • Choosing the wrong story for the occasion or audience
  • Reading your story word for word 
  • Telling a story that’s meant for reading (writing to speak is different from writing for a reader)
  • Sharing an ego-centric story that is all about you

Creating a winning story every time

The good news is once you have a reusable storytelling formula, you can then create many different stories, meaning that you will have access to a suite of stories that both you and others in the organisation can share. When you use a practical story formula you can tweak, revise and revitalise your material stays relevant.  

Would like to book a complimentary session? I will share with you my five step storytelling framework so that you can get started on your story strategy.

Storytelling on purpose 

Before you start creating a narrative strategy for yourself and your organisation, there are ten questions to ask yourself and your team.

10 Questions to ask before you begin your business storytelling journey 

  1. Why tell stories? 
  2. What is the ultimate purpose?  
  3. What type of stories do we want to share? 
  4. How will we know the story is having an impact? 
  5. How many stories do we need?
  6. Who will we share our stories with?
  7. What medium will we use?
  8. Who is the best person in the organisation to share a particular story? 
  9. Who else in the organisation may share these stories?  Perhaps customers, leaders of all levels, sales team?
  10. How do we continue harvesting stories that are relatable, relevant and repeatable?

The suite of business stories every savvy leader can apply

There are different types of stories that make up an overall narrative strategy. Here are the six indispensable stories that sit well in any leaders communication toolkit. 

  1. The Core Story 
  2. The Founding Story
  3. The Client Journey
  4. The Aspiration Story
  5. The Values Story
  6. The Change Story 

Each story will serve a slightly different purpose and have a different narrative strategy. If it seems overwhelming, then the best place to start is with the Core Story also known as your signature story. This essential story includes the essence of you and helps others to connect on a slightly more personal level.

Why not get the whole team sharing stories?

When your suite of stories are fleshed out, there are multiple applications of storytelling in your leadership journey.

If you would like to host a facilitated business storytelling session for your leadership team then let’s chat.


Here’s how I may help you 

I am one of Australia’s leading executive speaker coaches, and my specialty is helping leaders to make an impact through the power of business storytelling.

To decide on the next step to level up your speaking and storytelling, let’s start with a brief chat.

My services include: 

Business Storytelling Coaching – together we can get started to create your suite of stories. A minimum of three sessions is recommended 1:1 in person or virtually via Zoom.

Executive Speaker Coaching – if you have an upcoming guest speaking opportunity, funding pitch, conference talk or you want to be an outstanding speaker, we can work together on your technique. You will see the results after one session.

Storytelling for Leaders Interactive Workshops – I can come to you, or we can host a workshop offsite for your team. From half-day to two-days immersive, this customised workshop is an ideal way to kick start your business storytelling strategy and get the whole team telling stories. 

Keynote/Guest Speaking at your next conference or event – I have several topics to choose from ranging from a 30-minute talk up to a 90-minute interactive session.