If you want to fulfil your potential and become an engaging, authentic and persuasive leader, you need to develop your storytelling skills. Business Storytelling is one of the key Soft Skills that help leaders communicate effectively.
The most memorable leaders throughout history have always been outstanding storytellers; Gandhi, George Washington and Julius Caesar used the power of story to inspire their audience, inspire action and spark positive change.
Although most of us aren’t trying to revolt against oppressors or lead a revolution (hopefully!), we too can use stories to achieve our unique business and career goals and get our teams engaged.
Every ambitious leader should be willing to embrace storytelling as an alternative way to open up communication and build a more promising future for all. Here’s why.
Why stories are an effective tool for communication
Stories have been a natural part of our history since time began. Almost every culture around the world has a strong tradition of sharing stories with others, whether that’s through oral storytelling, books or even our modern digital storytelling.
We love them because they help us to make sense of our lives and bring them meaning. They evoke emotions, stir our senses, spark our imagination and if they resonate with us, can even cause levels of the bonding hormone, oxytocin to spike.
But that’s not all- according to a 2017 study published in the Nature Communications Journal, stories are a uniquely human way of fostering cooperation in a social group and sharing cultural expectations. If you are the storyteller, you have a greater chance of being trusted, climbing up the social hierarchy and even having healthier offspring.
It’s hardly surprising then that storytelling is a powerful tool when it comes to business communication.
Stories can communicate messages and share values in a way that bare scientific or statistical fact can’t.
If you, as a leader, can share your data or information into a compelling story, you’re much more likely to drive engagement, your message will become more memorable, and trust will grow. By using story, you give your listeners a reason to keep striving for a better world.
Why your story is worth sharing (even if you think it’s not)
You’re likely nodding your head at what I’ve just shared. You’ve already read your fair share of books, watched numerous TED talks, and poured over the studies that encourage you to use storytelling to unlock your public speaking power.
But the problem is, you don’t believe that you have any stories worth sharing.
Or you think that others just wouldn’t be interested in what you have to say. Or you’re clueless when it comes to selecting the right stories to share and how to structure them for the best impact.
However, you can learn how to tell inspiring stories, even if you believe that you are hopeless. Although there are one or two gifted storytellers in the world, most of us learned through dedicated focus and attention, and you can do the same thing.
By identifying the most relevant stories to convey your message, tailoring your story for the environment, monitoring how people react and getting plenty of practice, you can perfect your storytelling skills.
Master the art of storytelling for leaders
Becoming an outstanding, engaging storyteller depends on three key pillars:
1) Choosing which ‘type’ of story you want to use
2) Identifying the right story for your audience.
3) Understanding how to structure stories so they have the greatest impact.
Let’s look at each of these in turn.
Which type of story
There are several stories that every leader should have at the ready. The first story you should begin with is the Signature Story. This is a story that is about you and your journey, but also includes how you help others (we want to avoid ‘all about me’ stories!).
Decide which story to use
Next, you should consider which of your stories will resonate with your audience(s).
This story doesn’t have to be long. In fact, a short story is better as you simply want it to complement your message, not take over entirely.
Select the stories that are likely to resonate with your audience and aim to weave a few through your presentation so they appear effortless.
When you manage to choose the right story for the right moment, you can create an immersive experience for your listener so they feel like they could be part of that story. Your audience will relate better to what you are sharing, you’ll foster trust and you’ll be more likely to inspire positive action.
And yes, it is possible to do this in a shorter time than you think.
If you’re stuck for ideas, you can create a story bank that includes details of the things you’ve seen, heard or observed an experience that has had an impact on you. Just jot them down and then you will be able to refer to them later.
Perfect the structure
An effective short story for presentations should follow the shape of an arc. It should have a clear beginning, middle and end and should be able to get a point across in a short time. There are three main elements to a story;
- Context: E.g. “Once upon a time…”
- Challenge: What happened to disrupt the status quo, and then what?
- Change: What did you/they do about it and how are you/they different now?
Storytelling is the most effective way to engage your audience, build your authority and encourage positive change for the future and can be learned relatively quickly.
Start by collecting stories, select the most effective and structure your stories carefully so they can have the maximum impact. Find out more about my Business Storytelling for Leaders workshops.
About the author
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, 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
My services include:
Business Storytelling Coaching – together we can get started to create your suite of stories.
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.
Tailored 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 either in person or via virtual means at your next conference or event.