The Secret Business Tool For Success? Telling Stories.
You can’t argue that persuasion is a skill that is needed in the business world. Whether you are trying to expand your customer base, convince investors to come on board or sign a deal with potential partners, all these interactions require persuasion. Even as a leader managing a team, you want to influence them with persuasion to create motivated, high performing teams. Persuasion is an art that may not come naturally to many but it can be learnt.
In business settings, professionals try to persuade their audience with figures, data and the average PowerPoint slide. This is exactly why professionals have a hard time communicating with their target audience. Persuasion is a 2-way street where both parties need to be engaged but spitting facts and figures is bound to switch off and bore your audience. So, what’s the secret to engaging people? Stories. Storytelling weaves in ideas with emotions to tug at your heartstrings and make an impact. Stories are hands down more memorable than bullet points so if you’re hoping to influence a crowd, stories are the way to go!
Most of us don’t usually correlate technical business presentation skills to storytelling but that’s exactly what we’ve been doing wrong all this time. Stories are extremely powerful where features like characters, plots and climax points are added to keep their audience invested. Think about how engaged you are when watching your favourite TV series – some of us can sit through hours of episodes without leaving the couch! So why not use the storytelling tips in movies and books in your business pitch? After all, just like a movie, you want to make an impact and be remembered. So throw out everything you’ve learnt about PowerPoint slide presentations and be introduced to the world of business storytelling.
The Impact of Business Storytelling
We know that stories create an emotional response and these strong emotions can build a relationship between your audience and your idea, company or even you. Building a connection can also create trust, loyalty and interest and these are important when persuading others to buy into a business pitch. Stories are undeniably powerful and here are some ways they can help in your professional development.
Stories humanise your brand
The secret to a successful brand and pitch is to have a thoughtful story that your audience believes and buys into. Your consumers, partners and stakeholders want to support ideas and brands that show they care about their target audience. Unfortunately, you can’t build a connection through mere data and numbers. If you’re pitching your company to a partner, a brand story can capture their attention. You will need to have a clear vision and purpose that your brand champions and these can be communicated through an engaging story. You may think your brand is just a faceless entity but you have to create a character out of it and add in a brand personality that makes your audience want to interact with you. Characters are a key feature of stories that viewers can connect with and business storytelling can turn technical ideas into characters to influence and persuade your audience.
Stories trigger empathy
Think about the stories that grip and move you. For example, the life of Steve Jobs. We learn about his turbulent life from being ousted from his own company to making a dramatic return. Today, Apple has become one of the biggest and richest brands in the world. Of course, Apple has garnered its success through their products but many also relate the brand to Steve Job’s inspiring story. The pits and falls of a protagonist’s journey can make an audience empathise with them. When giving the perfect pitch, don’t just add in the rosy successes, slip in the challenges faced to make you relatable. Empathy can make an audience connect with your ideas and company and connection is a great way to close a business deal.
Stories build trust and loyalty
Not only do stories build a connection, they also make your audience trust you, which is exactly what leaders need in their team. Humans usually make emotional, not rational decisions so taping into their emotional intelligence when creating a story can build loyalty in them. Being a leader is not about micro-managing your team with dominating authority. You want to show your vulnerable side and prove to your team that you’re just like them with your own set of challenges. This is where stories can show the challenges of your journey as a leader or even the difficulties of formulating a business pitch when presenting to stakeholders. Stories use a structured plot that follows the highs and lows of a character and when your audience understands the journey you’ve experienced, you become more credible. After all, a story that’s all rainbows and butterflies without any pitfalls doesn’t sound very trustworthy, does it?
INSIDER INFO: Our Speak in Stories™ workshop goes into the simple narrative structures of storytelling that teach you to simplify technical business presentations into engaging stories that stick with your audience.
“The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller. The storyteller sets the vision, values and agenda of an entire generation that is to come.”
~ Steve Jobs
Tips to become a pro-storyteller
You already know the power of stories but how exactly do you tell stories that can make an impact, persuade and influence? Grasping the art of storytelling takes time to master but these tips can get you started on becoming a pro storyteller.
Structure & Delivery
Remember your goal is not to tell a story but to sell the story. The structure of your story and how you deliver it plays a key role in storytelling. Structure is important as it maintains a clear focus that guides your audience from the beginning to the end. A slip up can throw them off course and lose their attention in a matter of seconds.
You can establish a focus by asking yourself some key questions. These can be:
- Why am I telling this story?
- Who is the protagonist of the story?
- What is the protagonist trying to achieve?
- What is preventing the protagonist from achieving his or her goals?
These questions can also help you draw out some dramatic content that will add more meat to your story.
INSIDER INFO: Making a business case with insights and numbers doesn’t have to be a bore. The Pitch to Win™ communication workshop teaches you how to structure a case that connects with your audience and lands you a YES.
A simple storytelling tip but one that can make a whole lot of difference is being authentically you. You can’t fool your audience with a fake story because they will just see right through you and probably won’t appreciate it either. Stick to real stories even though it may not be as exciting. Many try to replicate other brands’ stories and styles but that won’t be unique to your company and ideas anymore. Show your audience who YOU are and make them connect with YOU.
Include your audience in your story
Stories are all about emotionally connecting with your audience and a great way to engage them is to include your audience as characters in your story. When making a business pitch, build a story that includes the stakeholders listening to your pitch. Sometimes others only care about what you have to say when they are playing a part in your story. This will require you to understand what your audience cares about the most and their end goal. Their goals should be directly linked to the outcome of your story pitch. When your audience feels like they are part of your story world and not a mere listener, they tend to become more attentive.
Leave the audience with a clear message
The beginning of a story is not as important as where the story goes and how it ends. The strongest business stories leave behind a message for the audience to ponder. When crafting your story or pitch ideas, be clear on the outcome you hope to have. Whether it is to inform, persuade or influence, be confident in what you want to achieve from your story. The end of your pitch or story should provide a thought-provoking message that makes your audience want to take action. When your audience takes action, they are also connecting with you or your brand.
Your brand story should be consistent across the board so you can be recognised and also build credibility. Branding is part of storytelling which shapes your ideas and company. With the internet, we have many different types of communication channels and your branding should stay consistent to build brand awareness. Even if you are pitching your brand to different audiences, understand your story thoroughly and stick to it.
Looking through history, you may notice that many great leaders are also great storytellers. Leaders use stories because they have the power to influence and people also want to listen to stories that resonate with them. Storytelling is not just about understanding the structure of a narrative, it also requires expanding your emotional quotient to connect with others and deliver your story with impact. With stories all around us, storytelling is always a good skill to have in your bag in both your professional and personal life.
5. Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash