Use everyday moment storytelling for maximum impact

You’d have to have been hiding under a rock if you weren’t aware of the power of storytelling in business. EVERYONE seems to talk about it now. Well, it’s for good reason. Storytelling captures people’s attention, engages them emotionally and therefore helps to cement the messages you’re trying to convey.

The thing is though, I don’t want you to think that you have to have a big sweeping hero or rags-to-riches story to be an effective storyteller. This is a common misconception, born out of the umpteen conferences we attend in our corporate lives, where paid speakers trot across the stage, tug on our heart strings then leave, and the myriad trumped up entrepreneurs we hear on virtual stages across the world delivering talks to make money.

When most people think of storytelling, they think big, elaborately crafted stories like we see in movies or perfectly designed TedX talks. The ones that use techniques like plot structure, character, and scene design and usually either a bunch of comedy or tragedy.

There’s certainly plenty to learn from that kind of storytelling, but it’s not practical for everyday use in business.

The truth is you don’t need a BIG story to have an impact as a business leader.

Instead, what is needed is the ability to use ‘everyday moment storytelling’. This is the ability to identify the value in the little moments of your day; the ability to communicate the anecdotes concerning real-life experiences that come out when someone asks you how your day was. These are the conversation starters, the funny moments over dinner, the chats at the school gate or around the water-cooler. In fact, there’s research to suggest that when we talk informally, 65 percent of what is said is storytelling.

You just have to learn to listen for them. And then know how to translate them into useful communications for your audience.

For leaders, small stories have big power. When told consistently, these everyday stories help employees and followers to better understand the actions required to make a change, the value that the leader offers and how to implement the lessons in their own lives.

So how do you use small stories in your business?

To begin, you’ll need to understand the characteristics that make up a good business story. Because once you can identify stories, you’ll discover that they’re everywhere in your business.

  • Time. Stories occur at a particular moment. “Last week…”, ‘Yesterday…’, ‘In the Monday meeting…” These are indicators that a story is beginning; keep your ears open.
  • Place. Every story has a place. “At the gym…”, “At the conference…”.
  • People. Stories need characters; relatable people who things happen to. Your audience needs to be able to identify with a character to increase the impact of the story.
  • A series of events. Stories describe what happened first, then next, then after that. And the best stories have built-in tension, a climax, then a resolution.
  • Surprise. This helps to give a story impact. A story doesn’t have to offer earth-shattering insight, but include something that is unanticipated.
  • Relevance.  The best business stories provide context that supports the lesson being delivered. It must be relevant to your audience otherwise it won’t land.
  • Emotion. Don’t just describe what happened. A powerful story helps the audience ‘feel’ what happened. You need to make an emotional connection.

Great, impactful storytelling doesn’t happen without practise. But it needn’t to be rehearsed either. And you certainly don’t have to have a life-altering backstory to have something to say.  We all have the ability to tap into the everyday moment storytelling techniques that I love so much. As a leader you should always be on the look out for times when you can make a point, then use a story to illustrate it, thereby reinforcing your message. You’ll no doubt be pleasantly surprised at the response you receive.

 

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Leadership storytelling: a crash course

What is leadership storytelling? Why is it important to understand this concept?

Let me give you my opinion on this…because that’s what ‘thought leadership’ is….giving your opinion, offering your original thought around a articular subject.

Leadership storytelling is the intentional assertion of your point of view.

The key word in this sentence is intentional.   Deliberate. Purposeful. Planned. You intentionally take a stand on a particular topic and then illustrate that stance via a story. The story gives the stance context. It offers the listener/reader a memorable framework in which to concrete the lesson.

Used well, this under-utilised leadership skill will create cut-through, will inspire your tribe, and will elevate your standing in your niche/community/industry.

But how do we sharpen these business storytelling skills quickly?

Let me share my top tips to getting started with leadership storytelling, inspired by 5 great quotes.

  1. “Given the choice between trivial material brilliantly told versus profound materials badly told an audience will always choose the trivial told brilliantly.” (Robert McKee, author of Story)

You don’t have to have invented a cure for cancer, or created the next Facebook to have the right to tell your stories. Your life, your experiences are more than enough fodder to illustrate your value. You do need to have the right tools however, and you do need to practice intentionally and you do need to solicit feedback that will help you improve.

  1. “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” (Maya Angelou, poet and civil rights activist)

Your audience is the most important factor when it comes to business storytelling. This is where most so-called leaders fall down. Don’t get wound up in your own importance and brilliance. When delivering your story, it must resonate with your audience. Tell it from their point of view. Always be thinking: ‘how do I want to leave my audience feeling at the end of my story?’ Continue reading

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Your truth vs the marketer’s truth

I read somewhere once that you should get new trainers (you know, sneakers/joggers/sandshoes/runners) every 3 months if you exercise regularly. Apparently if you don’t your shoe will no longer provide you with the support and shock absorption you signed up for.  You’ll be ‘at risk’ of all sorts of things.  I’m wondering whether that was purely marketing hype put out by a sports shoe company, but regardless, it stuck with me.

Every 3 months I should be shelling out around $150 for a new pair of trainers.

Really?

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Is your business persona solid to its core?

So I was watching the Voice last night. I’m a little bit obsessed with it, although I am now at a point when I can actually feel a ‘backstory’ coming on before it happens 😫 (jaded? not yet, not really!)
 
And so last night as I saw Sheldon step on stage, and then the first notes of Alessia Cara’s ‘call-to-arms’ song “Scars to your beautiful” played, I immediately wondered whether he is really living the story he is portraying. He makes no secret that he is battling with accepting who he is (a very flamboyant and theatrical young guy who loves wearing makeup and ‘dressing’). He’s trying to figure out not only what kind of artist he is, but what kind of person he truly is, all whilst doing it in one of the most public forums possible (with harsh critics everywhere). That song, which is all about acceptance of self, seemed to perhaps be more aspirational than a reality for him.
 
I was so interested to hear Delta’s comments afterwards about whether he was fully congruent and genuine. There was definitely something left unsaid. It was an interesting angle for her to raise, but given she sees him off-screen as well as on maybe there was merit?
 
I make no judgments about him at all, because I don’t know him one iota, but what the exchange threw up for me was this whole notion of creating a public persona, then stepping into it, versus uncovering who you really are and wearing that with pride.
 

Then the question arises…are we ever able to truly know who we ‘really’ are?

 
Or are we all just versions of a persona we created yesterday, five years ago, when we started our business, when we got married, when we became a parent, or when we were teenagers…?
 
Too often I see people on social media, whose business personas start to crumble at the slightest hiccup. The slightest nudge in the wrong direction makes them quiver, the first ‘bad client’ sends shockwaves through their bones, the mere hint of criticism serves to knock them sideways. And their bravado falters, and sometimes shudders to a halt.
 
Is your persona, your story, your public face, solid at its core? Is it yours or one you’ve bought or borrowed from someone ‘successful’ in your industry? Are you living it every day, on and off the stage?
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From BLISS to BLACKOUT; counting my lucky stars

How life can change in an instant…

Just wanted to say a few quick words about my past 7 days. For those who don’t know, which is probably quite a few, I had a terrible car accident last Monday night. It happened on a local freeway, at high speed, and I sustained a head injury. The good news is, it only knocked some sense into me.

In short, I’m bloody lucky to be alive.

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Gifts for absent husbands

I was buying a present for my husband for this birthday this morning from one of his favourite stores.  I felt a bit rushed and somewhat perplexed about what to buy him.  Normally I don’t struggle at all but this year it’s a tad different. There was an added element of complexity to the ordinarily joyous process of gift-giving. The gift had to be small and light and not contain anything ‘tricky’, so that it could make its way effectively overseas to where my man is currently living.

I was staring at all the stuff, beautifully displayed, hoping something would jump out at me. The woman working in the store came up gently and said “you look like you need a hand”.

I explained my situation and as a I did she slowly nodded and leaned in with this look of ‘knowing’ on her face.

During the course of her ‘recommendations’, she spoke to me about how her husband spent 30 years travelling overseas for work, how it took time to reconnect when he returned (but that it did get easier), how her children were often wary of their dad and where he fit in to the scheme of things when he got back, how she encouraged immediate bonding with the kids and their dad by disappearing for the weekend with girlfriends, and how she used to cope with it all.  She joked about how she always struggled with gift-giving when he was away, so eventually they simply celebrated when they were next together. She told me how now, in semi-retirement, they travel back and forth to Noosa more often (the place they would take family holidays) and enjoy each other’s company in different surrounds.  She runs her own interior design business and he consults in the city, but they allow themselves breaks after a big project. She spoke of the simple pleasure of the perfect small leather travel bag which she keeps packed with only the essentials, so that she’s ready to join him wherever and whenever their fancy takes them. And the big lesson… she spoke of how she’s come to realise that a marriage is about quality not quantity.

The strategies she imparted were wonderful and her gift ideas were spot on. The way she relayed her experience touched me deeply, as it was emotive, personal, yet helpful, and therefore highly powerful. I bought more than I intended to because I was so intrigued by her story, I just wanted to keep listening. I believed in her and the ideas she proposed, so I chose them all.  I wanted to breathe in her experiences and make them my own. Hell, I want to be her in 15 years time!

Again, the lesson is clear. Be relatable to your prospects.

Tell your story in a way that matters to them. Find some common ground. Help them with their predicament. Make your story interesting, intriguing. And they will ask for your help. They will buy.

Go and be you. Unapologetically you. And tell your stories to those who need to hear them.

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The moments in between

A friend of mine was once upgraded to First Class when flying for work.  She was stoked! To be fair, her company had paid for all the flights that gave her the status credits to be chosen for the upgrade, but that’s cool – she was the one actually travelling!

The cabin crew, of which there were four, only had eight passengers to look after – how’s that for a ratio! There’d be no “umm, excuse me…excuse me….excuse me….can I please have a glass of water? Oh ok, when you’re ready….”

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13 Reasons Why it’s a great story

I have a hangover. A ’13 Reasons Why’ hangover. And it’s a bad one.

If you don’t know what I’m referring to, it’s a TV (Netflix) series, based on the 2007 novel Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. The show revolves around a student who kills herself after a series of negative incidents brought on by school mates.  Running over 13 episodes, the central character, Hannah Baker, narrates the story via tapes she has left as evidence for her suicide.  Each episode ‘outs’ one of the students, outlining their impact on her final decision. It is harrowing and compelling, and has left a lasting impression on me as a parent.

I binge-watched the last 4 episodes last night because I needed to know what happened.  I simply couldn’t think what Clay, the shy boy who loved Hannah who acts as an audience surrogate as he listens to the tapes, could have done to her so I had to watch his episode, tape 11. And then, well, there were only 2 left and I couldn’t sleep not knowing what had compelled this young bright girl to finally take her own life. (In the end, I couldn’t sleep anyway, because the content was so alarming that I kept dreaming about what life-changing horror the suicide of one of my kids would bring.)

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2017: Your voice matters more than ever

2016 was a very interesting for many of us. I know upon reflection, we can pretty well say that every year, but last year the universe really seemed to rock for many people.  I know little about stars and planetary alliance, but apparently that had something to do with it. Or maybe it was just people pissing each other off.

There were many political and cultural challenges (Trump, immigration, gay marriage, legalisation of cannibis and Syria to name but a few), which prompted outrage, annoyance, confusion and hurt.  And there were many amazing artists and icons lost (Bowie, Ali, Fisher, Cohen, Cole, Lee, Rickman…the list goes on). And whilst we didn’t know them, they entertained us, changed us, made their mark on the world. Why? Because they had the courage to use their own voice. Sometimes it was used well, others inappropriately. Regardless, they had the guts to stand up and be counted.

The year was tough and tricky in many ways, but the tides of change have been fuelled.

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I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions

I don’t believe in regret.

I’m also not sure that people actually change that much. And I certainly know that what’s said in the heat of the intoxicated-midnight-moment is almost definitely never going to come to light in the cold hard reality of January 1.

This scepticism may sound odd, given that essentially my chosen pathway is to support and coach people through change…given that whether I’m working with groups or individuals, I am constantly talking about change, the affects, the stories.

But here’s the thing. I’m not completely without hope that people can morph or rehabilitate or alter their pathway.  It’s just that THIS is what I believe in: Continue reading

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