If you’re using business storytelling regularly, how do you assess the impact?
How do you ensure you craft the very best stories that leave your audience not only inspired, but with an inkling of what to do next?
There’s no question, stories are one of the very best ways to send a message your team will remember
Done right, great business storytelling explains the why behind your asks, reinforces what’s most important, and builds deeper trust.
And yet, done poorly, your team will roll their eyes and brace themselves when they see you coming. “Oh gosh, here comes one of his stories,” is not what you’re going for.
We’re constantly hearing “Bless his heart he means well” stories of likable leaders who waste their team’s time and drive everyone a bit batty with their rambling yarns.
Of course, if you’re the boss they may nod along and laugh politely at the right spots, but that doesn’t mean you’re necessarily making the impact you hoped for. If you’re looking to take your business storytelling to the next level do this, not that.
What to do for better business storytelling
Be clear about your message
The difference between business storytelling and a telling great story around the campfire or in your favorite bar comes down to one thing – the point.
Whether your audience is an employee in the passenger’s seat of your car on the way to an event, a small group of direct reports in a team meeting, or a thousand people at a town hall meeting, ask yourself this: “What do I want my audience to think, do or feel as a result of this story?” Be as specific as possible.
Think beyond the obvious feelings of “encouraged” or “motivated.” And consider specific behaviors or key actions you want them to take next.
Pick a Relatable Scene
I can’t tell you how many corporate events we go to where the CEO starts with a story from an unrelatable setting. “When my family of five and I were on a cruise last week, the funniest thing happened…”
And all the frontline workers who are struggling to make it through the month, tune out. They lost that story at hello.
Keep it Tight
It’s tempting to offer every chronological detail and play by play. Don’t. Great stories focus on the emotional truth. Don’t make stuff up, but it’s perfectly okay to condense the details and the characters to build suspense, intrigue, and most importantly reinforce the point.
Give Your Characters Character
Paint a picture of your characters. What did they look like? What did they wear? Why? Give us a glimpse into their fears and motivations. If you’re the main character in your story, give us a look behind the curtain. What were you feeling? Why?
Check for Understanding
It is important to have a solid check for understanding in every communication. At the conclusion of your story, instead of saying, “and the reason I told you that story is…” Try, “Why do you think I share that story?” If they don’t get it, keep refining your story to ensure it conveys your most important message.
Don’t do this
Be the Hero of Your Own Story
Even if you are the hero, who else was involved? How can you emphasize their impact? And then I met __________ who had the best idea I’ve heard in a long time…
Tell Stories Within the Story
Life is messy. No story happens in a vacuum. But, the most impactful business storytelling happens one story at a time. Do what you can to avoid the detours.
Great storytellers make it look easy. Like the story just came to them and off they go. The very best storytellers know there is nothing further from the truth. Becoming a great storyteller takes practice. Try out your stories in low-risk contexts, ask for feedback and keep refining.
Karin Hurt is a keynote speaker, author, consultant who inspires transformational change. Recently named on Inc’s list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers and American Management Association’s 50 Leaders to Watch, Karin Hurt helps leaders from around the world achieve breakthrough results without losing their souls. She is the co-author of Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results—Without Losing Your Soul (2016).