This week we celebrated World Storytelling Day and the art of telling stories to underpin myths and legends, traditions and folklore.
If you want your message to be memorable, storytelling is one of the most powerful tools in your influencing toolkit. It will make people remember you. It helps you break down the complex and make it simple. Storytelling helps you build your brand personality.
Storytelling is almost as old as time, and yet its power today is enormous. So how does storytelling work when it comes to business communication?
First and foremost, how are you reaching your audience? How do you make your content really clear and compelling? How do you stand out or apart, and how do you make sure people remember you? Storytelling will elevate your messages and create mental movies for your audience, instead of bombarding them with facts and figures.
Do you lack confidence when it comes to speaking in public? A storytelling approach might be just what you need. Why make a series of dry statements when you could weave a tale – not least because it helps you remember what you want to say (as well as helping your audience to remember it).
In fact, memory experts use storytelling to master their craft. World memory champions create stories or journeys to memorise long chains of information, even numbers. I use a similar trick for telephone numbers, making short stories out of the number sequence; our brains are wired to recall stories more easily and more accurately than data.
People talk often of “lived experience”, and using personal experience and anecdote to better understand or describe a situation or issue. Here at Lucy & Emma, we use case studies and stories a lot to bring techniques to life in our training courses and programmes, and we encourage coaching clients to use stories to find what is holding them back and instead identify actions they can take.
There are many exercises that will help you develop your storytelling skills, and techniques that will build your mastery. But for now, here are five simple ways to get started or get better on your storytelling journey:
HAVE A CLEAR FOCUS
Like all good stories, your business story needs a beginning, middle and an end – with a point to it all. Very few can ramble around and then swerve seamlessly back to their point – and, to be honest, if you can do that you’re probably on the stand-up comedy circuit already. A good story is memorable – but your main objective is less to entertain and more to share, inspire, educate or influence, so above all else make sure it’s relevant and serves your point.
MAKE IT PERSONAL
People want to hear from you, so your experience or anecdote is the best story to tell. It helps people get to know you, decide to trust you, and get a feel for your brand.
But what if the story you need to tell is about someone or something else? Well, first of all, don’t be tempted to adopt it as your own story – stay honest and authentic. What you could do is tell the story in the context of how it made you feel when you heard it, or what you learned from it.
TELL THE STORY AS IF IT WERE…A STORY
If you’re using a storytelling approach to make a point, make sure it really is a story. Bring it to life with characters and dialogue. Don’t be afraid of the odd dramatic pause.
PLAY TO ALL THE SENSES
One way you can really take a story, and bring it to life, is to play to your listeners’ and readers’ senses. In your story, think about what you could see and hear, how you felt, even smells and flavours. The more vivid a picture you paint, the more memorable the words of your story will be.
You might be surprised to know how many people I have heard start their story with an apology. They say things like “you’ve probably heard this before, but…” or even “I’m not very good at this sort of thing, but…”.
Most times you’ll be talking to people who wish you well and are waiting to be impressed, but even the most well-intentioned audience feels its warm reception cool right down when the speaker or writer starts with some kind of apology. After all, would you bother to listen hard to a story even the storyteller has just implied isn’t really all that good? Please don’t do that!
We hope this helps you think about your storytelling, and we promise you a good story will really take your business communication to another level. Remember, we share practical hints and tips on different communication topics every week in the blog – with our compliments. Why not sign up to have the blog delivered to your inbox each week, and make sure you never miss a thing?
Until next week,