Storytelling has been around as long as humans have roamed the earth. Even without words, drawings conveyed stories. And like many things related to humans, the way stories are told has evolved.
From cave man drawings to smartphone apps – storytelling is woven through our history, our present, and reaches out to our future. But like many things common in our lives, the power of storytelling is taken for granted.
Some look to storytelling as the latest buzzword for business with all of the books and courses on weaving storytelling into presentations and corporate messages. Others recognize it as the timeless communication tool it is. Either way, until you actually develop the skill set – you won’t know the power a story can wield.
If I asked you to picture storytelling, what do you see in your mind? Do you go back to the memory of your mom or dad reading you a story at bedtime? Or perhaps of you reading to your own child? Do you think of that first campfire where one of the older kids told ghost stories and made you wear out your flashlight battery in your tent that night?
Maybe you suddenly smell the salty smoky aroma of popcorn, as you watch the epic tale of Frodo Baggins on a screen taller than your house and with sound you can feel vibrating in your chest.
What doesn’t often come to mind is the corporate boardroom or your office with those spreadsheets and looming deadlines.
One of the last things we think about in business is storytelling, maybe because we don’t take storytelling seriously.
It’s not serious business and we are serious business people. We don’t have time for stories. This is real life we are dealing with! Our bosses, stockholders, and clients don’t want to hear stories, they want results!
But what if I told you that telling stories is a strategy that will help you achieve those desired business results? Would you be interested then?
Storytelling is an interactive art – using narrative to reveal the elements and images of a story while stimulating the listener’s imagination. It draws the listener in by encouraging and tapping into their active imagination so that it becomes a two-way interaction. That interactive nature accounts for its immediacy and impact. At its best, storytelling will directly and tightly connect the teller and audience.
Precisely because of this power to connect teller and audience, storytelling is a powerful method of gaining buy-in, remembering facts, recalling information, connecting ideas, and inspiring others into action.
Business is built on a foundation of relationships between people. Stories are important because they strengthen that connection between people in a number of ways.
STORIES DEFINE US
Foremost, our stories define us. Just as stories define a culture or society, they also define an organization, the leaders, and the individuals who make uptheorganization. Storiesarethevesselcapturingtheessenceofour existence at a point in time. They combine a number of elements that go beyond facts and figures to include: emotions, how people interact, the norms and rules of human behavior, and the values and character we represent.
Stories are also a great opportunity to define you as an individual. The stories you tell in your interview, on your resume, and as part of your communication throughout your career define you, your values and skills to your varied audiences. A well-crafted story can demonstrate your values and skills with more clarity than a list on your resume.
STORIES CONNECT US TO ONE ANOTHER
Stories in business help us to connect to one another at a deeper level than simply through pure fact. If we are able to communicate more effectively with a story, we increase our likelihood of connecting to the people who hear the story.
You need to make a connection to the audience before you can persuade, teach, inspire, or motivate. Stories incorporate elements beyond facts. Stories convey and evoke relatable emotions and provide context. Stories ‘show’ instead of ‘tell’ your key message. For example a story demonstrating your loyalty is more powerful than stating you are a loyal person. With a story you can answer the question in every audience members’ mind “who are you and why are you here?”
STORIES PROVIDE MEANING & CONTEXT
The human mind is always searching for meaning in the world. It’s one of the reasons we love stories so much: they give meaning to what might otherwise be random events. Without the appropriate context, the data we provide in our message (especially in business) is meaningless. Stories provide context which helps to assign meaning to the information we share. Telling stories about or around that list of facts and figures will give your audience context in which to review, assess, and accept your point of view.
STORIES CLARIFY THE COMPLEX
We respond and remember stories more than facts and understand complex ideas easier when related to something we already know or understand. In a way this is about showing instead of telling someone about an idea. With the use of analogies and metaphors we can demonstrate the concept more quickly while also providing pertinent context for the audience.
Storytelling in business combines art & science. The science of storytelling brings logic and structure to the process, which includes both the conversation elements and story elements.
The art of storytelling involves timing (knowing when to tell a story), being discerning (knowing which stories to tell), and creativity (developing your personal delivery flair).
This book* will give readers insight into crafting the art & science elements into stories. A word of warning: there is no easy way to develop this leadership skill. You will need to study and apply the structure and logic of the science and understand the art through actual storytelling practice.
Through a commitment of time you will become a better storyteller.
Keep this skill strong by telling stories – lots of stories!
*This is an excerpt from the book Everyday Storytelling For Success.