Storytelling and communication
People told stories even before the writing was invented. The first stories were unfolding on cave walls for the great achievements and magical tales to be remembered and passed on. Stories could be told in many different ways – through oral narrative, music, dance and even tatoos. The new era came with the possibility to record the stories on paper, stones, pottery, and later, digital platforms.
What is storytelling and why is it so important?
Storytelling is the art of telling stories. While stories are the sequences of events, that obey certain structure, with characters, acting according to a particular design. Like traditional tales starting with “Once upon a time” and ending with “They lived happily ever after”.
What does it have to do with business and entrepreneurship? – you would ask. A lot.
Our lives are stories and when we die there are only stories left. The only thing that remains. The only thing that is being remembered.
Still no clear connection to business sphere. Why should we tell fairytales when we want to be serious about what we do?
Again, because people remember stories. And that is what you need today – to be remembered in the overwhelming flow of information. Stories are often based on experience, but you sure have noticed that learning from an experience does not come automatically. Usually, turning the experience into a story and telling it to others help us to remember better. Only after that the author himself realizes the value of this particular experience. That is why storytelling is also an extremely effective educational tool.
Importance of storytelling for entrepreneurship
When you start your own business, the first thing you should think about is your customers. Who are they and why do they need what you give them? Therefore, it is crucually important to engage your customers, to learn about their needs and make them remember you, as well as your message.
This is where storytelling appears especially useful. Listening to a storyteller can create intense personal connections between the audience and the message. It can promote innovative problem solving and foster a shared understanding regarding future ambitions.
World-leading scholar in entrepreneurship Professor Bill Gartner means his students learn more from the entrepreneurs talking in class than from the traditional lecturers. Personal stories of successes and failures teach students more about the real life challenges than any theory.
As an entrepreneur you will need to pitch your ideas, products and services to your customers every day. But not only customers, also vendors, partners, investors, as well as your team members. Only a good story can attach them to your product. Many entrepreneurs, especially in technical sphere, attract attention of their audience with impressive facts. But you won’t always have impressive facts at hand.
Besides, people not always make rational decisions. But they love good stories.
Good storytelling skills is an asset no matter what your occupation is. Thus, when applying for a job, it is crucially important to stand out from hundreds of applicants with identical CVs and boring applications. Here is where the art if storytelling can help. The ability to tell a story about your own life is one of the most preferable skills on the modern labour market.
Here is how to land a job with a good story during the interview, according to a storytelling guru David Crabb. Whe the interviewer asks you to tell shortly about yourself, you:
- The introduction
Set the scene and prove to the interviewer it is worth listening to you. Shortly summarize your previous position and passion for the new job.
- The inciting incident
Show something personal and maybe even touching, here it can be useful to show yourself a bit vulnerable. You can say how you actually felt in your previous position.
- Heavy arguments
This is the part when you become specific about the details and make them memorable for the interviewer. Get the audience intrigued by the ending of your story.
- The main event
Or the climax of the story. A change, a shift to the current decision to apply for this job.
- The resolution
Highlight what makes your story unique. Tell what you’ve learned from your experience and about your competency.
Communication skills for business storytelling
How often were we inspired by a great story of success or moved while reading about the courage of people with disabilities? The stories can be very powerful when they influence our minds, make us feel unusual feelings and act in a different way. Stories can capture our imagination, illustrate our ideas and inspire us. You will never get inspired by the cold data and facts.
Many successful business leaders know how to use the art of storytelling to engage their teams and customers.
With the help of stories it is possible to share and interpret experience. Stories, though being individual, are actually universal and can be applied to anybody. The story is successful when people can recognize each other in it or to somehow relate to the characters. A thrilling climax and satisfying conclusion of the story are very important to engage the audience.
When you should use the story in business:
1. To build trust among your colleagues and within your team. The more people know about you, the more willing they will be to trust you.
2. To prove your company’s value and effectiveness.
3. To prove something is worth doing with previous examples.
Annette Simmons, the author of the book “Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins” defines 6 types of possible business stories:
You as a person: your dreams, goals, accomplishments, failures. Such stories are essential to build trust.
The aim is to replace suspicion with trust, you should show your passion for doing this for people.
Such stories show how a change in the behavior, perspective, or skills can lead to meaningful results. It also works for best- or worst-case scenario stories.
Meant to inspire people, to encourage them to feel hope and happiness. You can use it to motivate people to change their behaviour, to overcome frustration, obstacles and challenges in order to achieve their goals.
This kind of story’s aim to reinforce the values you want to present to your audience. It can be both in a positive and negative way. For example, you can highlight the attitudes you don’t want to see in others.
You discuss possible questions, concerns and objections before they are expressed by the audience.When you tell this type of story, you validate the audience’s thoughts and worries, which allows people to feel that you’re on their side, that you are concerned about their emotions. This type of story suits sales, negotiations and pitches to key stakeholders.
The story should touch, move or inspire the audience. Emotions are so important that people often make decisions based on how they feel at the moment.
Peter Guber, a leader on this subject and long-time business executive, in his book “Tell to Win: Connect, Persuade, and Triumph with the Hidden Power of Story” argues that we all today are a part of “emotional transportation business” and that creating a captivating story is the best way to secure promotion to your business.
All in all, it’s important to be authentic when you tell a story. Stories should be used to tell more about who you are, and why you’re here. You should not be afraid of appearing vulnerable while telling the story. People like to hear honest stories about failures, poor judgments and mistakes. It makes you human in their eyes. When you’re prepared to appear vulnerable in front of others, you can quickly establish trust and rapport.
How to master the art of storytelling?
In the modern world where we constantly experience information inundation, it is hard to attract attention to your message. The only thing people make exception for is a good story. Everyone likes to hear other people’s stories or fantasies. Nothing will help to promote your business better than building a thrilling and significant story around it.
But the art of storytelling is not that easy to master. With good and long practice it is possible. You will have to constantly test your story with the audience and make corrections. You need to focus on your customer, to get to know him as better as possible and try to guess what might be his needs. And if you succeed, it is impossible to overestimate the customers’ engagement with your product.
Here are some useful recommendations:
1. Know your audience and tell a suitable story
2. Choose the best time and place for your presentation (you need to get audience’s full attention without them being distracted or you interrupted)
3. Constantly collect the story material in forms of anecdotes, metaphors, etc.
4. Make sure the audience understand what message you try to convey
5. Get in the right state for your story, prepare your body and mind
6. Be energetic and enthusiastic about your own story, because it is contagious
7. Don’t be afraid to share your fears and concerns
8. Add interactivity, address your audience to make them feel part of your story
9. Engage the senses of your audience, use nonverbal communication
10. Try to listen to your audience, their interest, engagement, attention, trust
All great entrepreneurs tried to tell their consumers a good story. Famous for his storytelling art, the founder of Starbucks Howard Schultz gives these 5 pieces of advice for beginners in storytelling:
1. Use details to bring colours to your story
To stand out from your competitors it is important to add lifely details that will attract attention to your message.
2. But be succinct
Say only the necessary, try to be laconic not to bore your audience and loose their attention.
3. Offer metaphors and examples to illustrate your message
Any message becomes visual and clear when it is supplied by good examples.
4. No “Me, myself and I”
Don’t focus too much on yourself and your product, instead, focus on the audience
5. Be explicit
Make sure your audience understands the message
Storytelling is important in various spheres of life. And business and communication fields are far from being excluded. Any good business creates a community around its product or service via telling its customers a thrilling story. Today there are lots of possibilities for producing creative and visual storytelling in media. Understanding the importance of storytelling is a secure way to success.