The business of story telling
Many of us grew up listening to stories from our parents and grandparents, from Aesops Fables to the Brothers Grimm and beyond. The stories all had some kind of message, be it moral or some kind of way of convincing you of a way of behaviour. The power of these stories across cultures has bonded communities and families together but what about story telling in business? What would your story collection contain? Can you think of a time where you've created positive impact at work? What about outside of work?
What are the stories that you can recall that brings a smile to your face; a story that would encourage someone else to take action or tells of your challenges overcome? They may seem minor now but when you relive that story, imagine the kind of impact it not only has on you but also of the picture you're helping to paint in the minds of others when vocalising it.
Stories can help shape your brand, position you as an authority in your industry as well as make you to stand out and make you memorable.
So, what's this whole issue of storytelling in business?
As human beings, we're consummate story tellers. In businesses, we have water cooler moments where we share our personal stories. If there are issues of change in companies, we spend time sharing our fears, joys or anxiety about them. We don’t do this in some kind of strict clinical narrative. We don’t pull up a list of numbers on a spreadsheet where people’s emotions are concerned. We tell stories.
Leaders of organisations and small teams continue to recognise in many quarters that the power of storytelling helps to communicate change.
Don't hide behind bullet points
True storytelling is about getting beyond all the props and just telling it as it is.
Since its inception and uptake, people have totally bemoaned the use of PowerPoint. Many people who have no concept of the nuances of design, decided that by changing the fonts, having whizzy animation and implementing the dreaded bullet point that they could tell a story. As soon as I see bullet points on a screen, I secretly pray for a power cut so the story can be told without them.
Using this principle to communicate change
In a constantly changing business world, people want to be assured. They don’t want dry facts and figures when something quite fundamental is about to happen.
Coming back to the opening point about the stories we were told as children or even those we read when we got older, it allowed us to conjure strong visual images. Those images helped us to remember the core points of the story and to think on a deeper level about the message that was being conveyed. Powerful words like: think, imagine and suppose got us thinking about possibilities and finding ways in our mind to explore those possibilities.
When a change comes about, be it good or bad, being able to inspire or brace staff for such a change is critical. It becomes relevant and pertintent to them for engaging and empathatic stories to be told as opposed to cold hard facts. This shows that leaders and managers actually are concerned about the wellbeing of their staff.
Story telling to demonstrate your human side
People across all levels should learn and practice more on story telling, using it as a vehicle to engender trust. Rediscovering that energy that we had as children when first exposed to the power of metaphors and allegory. Taking people on a journey of past experiences through success, and through failure, to allow them to just be themselves.
So, next time you have a presentation to give. Instead of thinking about how many hours you are going to spend poring over a presentation, which in many cases, people don’t have the design skills for, think about how you can tell a story that is relevant, authentic and trusted by the audience. Which can compliment hard facts, but at best, it shows that you're human.