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.