Everyone Loves a Good Story
Stories make us laugh and cry, they teach us lessons about our lives, they connect us to each other and give us a sense of belonging. We’ve been telling stories for thousands of years, since prehistoric man first began to daub images of animals on cave walls.
Now there is a growing awareness of the power of stories in business… to sell an idea, to persuade and motivate our teams, to define our individual and organisational values. Facts and figures speak to the analytical left brain while stories engage the emotional right brain. A well-placed success story can inject your colleagues with passion and purpose, where your 23 point action plan may leave them in a state of dull resignation.
Bring colour and emotion into your meetings and presentations, enthuse your people and drive your business forward with our TOP 5 TIPS:
1. Get your audience leaning in
What we’re talking about here is an impactful opening statement that engages your audience from the moment you start talking. You want to create interest and a sense of anticipation BEFORE you make your point. There are lots of ways to do this, for example a bold or surprising statement: ‘The decisions we make today will have a lasting impact on the future of our organisation. A question: ‘Can you remember the last time you helped a stranger in need?’ A description that sets the scene in a specific time or place: ‘I’d like to take you back to June 2003, to an office on the tenth floor of 1 Canada Square’. Or a statement from the heart that underlines the importance of the story: ’This is a day I’ve been looking forward to for two and a half years’ (Steve Jobs, iPhone launch 2007)
2. Paint pictures
Descriptive details of objects, people or places add depth and colour to a story. We start to paint pictures in our minds, mental images which in turn trigger memories and emotions and make us connect on a much deeper level to your content. This is what makes your message stick. Give us things to see, hear, touch, smell and taste in our imagination. Instead of ‘I arrived in Hong Kong with very little and not knowing what to expect.’, how about ‘I remember walking through Hong Kong airport with just two Samsonite suitcases and a small map of the city. Heading towards a line of taxis, shiny red and white, my head was buzzing with questions about what the future held.’ Now we are there with you, seeing what you saw and feeling what you felt.
3. We want villains and heroes
Batman and Joker, Robin Hood and The Sheriff of Nottingham, Alice and the Queen of Hearts, Hamlet and Claudius. All the best stories have a hero, a villain and a battle of wills. Without an arch enemy and obstacles to overcome, a hero is not much to get excited about. If Luke Skywalker’s problem was a spot of rust on his X-Wing, we probably wouldn’t bother seeing the movie. So who’s your villain? Conflict, problems, competitors, economic uncertainty, anything that is an obstacle to achieving a goal. Spend some time describing the problems, and creating a real sense of threat and struggle. When you’ve done this, bring in your hero! This can be an idea, a person, a product or project that saved the day. Again you want to really flesh out how you came to a solution and what was done to achieve success. You’re taking your audience on a journey from darkness to light, from despair to hope, from failure to triumph.
4. Let your body and voice support your story
Albert Mehrabian’s famous research in the 60s into the power of non-verbal communication teaches us that the words alone are not enough. We need to see your body and hear your voice aligned with your words to really drive your message home. So when you tell your story, if you want to create real emotion and get real buy-in, you need to let your own feelings show through facial expressions, posture, hand gestures, vocal emphasis and intonation patterns. When we recognise the signs and sounds of passion or frustration or relief we also experience those emotions. This is what makes a story exciting and memorable. One word of caution: keep it real. Audiences can detect fake emotion in a nano-second and that can really compromise your credibility. Most importantly, do share your eye contact with everyone in the room, regardless of whether or not they seem to be reacting. Some people are very still listeners. Stillness on the face and in the body isn’t necessarily a sign of boredom or indifference, and might even be the opposite. So keep everyone engaged and connected with you by using your eyes.
5. Finish with a moral or a call to action
A story without a good ending is like a joke without a punchline. If you’ve hooked people in, they’ll want the gratification of a meaning or a rallying cry. Consider what you want people to think, feel or do when you’ve finished speaking. You can spell out the moral. You can explain why you told them the story. You can invite your audience to draw conclusions. You can end with a thought-provoking question. Or a memorable quote. Abraham Lincoln said “In order to win a man to your cause, you must first reach his heart, the great high road to his reason.” Stories are the way to reach our hearts.
Katy Miller - Training Consultant at Impact Factory
"I can say that I’ve been using and encouraging others to use more pausing as well as encouraging them to use more storytelling for purposes of creating a personal connection and engagement."
Bryan D. Bullock - Senior Advisor - BD Medical
Freephone: 0808 1234 909
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