We've been running more Storytelling tailored work in the pat two months than we have in the past two years. The idea of using stories to make a good business case is catching on and we couldn't be happier.
Cartoonists have had a ball illustrating what happens to people when they sit through dull, unimaginative and purely factual presentations. Recently, I actually fell asleep during one such presentation despite using every technique I know to force my eyes open. Dull doesn't begin to describe what and how the chap was presenting.
If you think about some of the elements that good stories share there aren't all that many of them that are needed to draw you in and keep you listening or reading: characters you want to know more about and a plot to keep you interested. There are many many ways to embellish plot and character (and we have a lot of models to do that), but if you don't have those two key ones then dullness is the most likely order of the day.
So what's this got to do with business? How can stories make a difference? And how can a bunch of facts and figures have characters and plots?
I think people who are used to dealing with end results sometimes forget what it takes to get to that end result. The drive to be precise and concise and distil things into what they believe is manageable data usually leaches out the drama, the hard work, the myriad decisions, mistakes, corrections and most of all the people who made it all happen.
We know the reason our Storytelling courses are so popular is that we guide our delegates through the whole process of bringing their stories to life: we start with the personal because that's what connects people to each other. The journey ends with the business side of things but by the end of one or two days of training with us, those business stories sound and look very different indeed.
Here are a couple of tips on how to breathe life into factual data focusing on character and plot.
Identify the people involved. This is where you build your cast of characters. Who are they? What are their roles in the organisation and what makes them special. Any little titbit helps titivate or intrigue your audience. Look for something quirky to toss in, even if it has no relevance to the data you are presenting.
Version One: "These figures have been verified and are an accurate summation of the first two quarter sales this fiscal year."
Version Two: "Andrew Williams, our Sales Director, who's about to take 8 fifteen year-olds on a camping trip, verified these first two quarter figures. I'm glad he checked them before the trip."
The Journey to the End Result (plot). This is where you build your plot. Think about key milestones, anything that created tension or was a problem that had to be overcome. Linking plot to characters, is there something 'Andrew' did that you can add to the mix?
Version One: "As you can see from this graph, our sales increased significantly in the second quarter in comparison to the first."
Version Two: "Andrew, our intrepid camper, pulled out all the stops this quarter and turned into a Rottweiler chasing after the Sales Team to exceed their targets. He got some friendly rivalries going and his strategy clearly worked because as you can see from this graph, sales really did take a jump and are significantly up on the first quarter figures."
As soon as you focus on character and plot your language also has to change; it has to be more descriptive and less dry.
These are just two elements that will help pump life into your stories so your audience is engaged.
Check out Impact Factory's Storytelling courses.
By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Director, Impact Factory