Bernard O'Riordan, Media Trainer
In my time as a business reporter and media trainer I've crossed paths with some very talented people in the world of business. But I have only met a select few who have been able to convince or persuade me through storytelling.
Too often people rattle off facts and figures without any context, making it so dull and technical that it's just not newsworthy, let alone memorable.
Understandably, we're not all born with a silver tongue. But if you want to engage an audience or persuade someone to act, then you need to move beyond pure facts and figures and start to tell a story.
Storytelling is powerful because it creates a connection and inspires understanding, not just with the media, but with clients and customers as well.
It is only through narrative that we can touch the entire brain: the left (feeling) hemisphere as well as the right (logical and rational) hemisphere, the subconscious as well as the conscious.
Since stories reach both our emotional and our rational sides, they allow us to see and feel information, as opposed to merely trying understanding it.
Storytelling is actually a great leadership skill and no one knew that better than the late Apple boss Steve Jobs. He was perhaps the world's greatest storyteller because he informed, inspired and entertained - even when things went wrong.
Steve Jobs was passionate about design and passionate about his products.
But the interesting thing was, he rarely focused on the product in media briefings or product launches.
Instead, he used storytelling to persuade us to think about the benefits of using his products and how they could make life easier for all of us.
And we went with him because he communicated on an emotional level that we all understood.
We only have to look back through history to see great political leaders who have also used storytelling to their advantage.
Former US President Ronald Reagan was a master storyteller. If Hollywood taught him anything, it's what political narratives were about and how they worked.
Reagan, like former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, used anecdotes and stories to convince voters that he shared their core values – even if in reality they opposed his policies.
That's why business leaders should take particular note of the successes and travails of political leaders through the ages.
At times of change or upheaval in any organisation, credible storytelling from on high can influence and motivate a workforce and ensure they remember a company's goals or expectations.
You might not be able to order people to toe the company line, but you can lead them there by telling a powerful and persuasive story.
Here's how to be a good storyteller:
Make it personal: When we tell a story using an anecdote or analogy, we tell it with much more energy and much more passion when it reflects our own experience rather than someone else's. Draw on your personal experiences whether it's a mistake from your past or perhaps a great achievement. It will be much more believable and engaging when it comes from the heart and the head;
Keep it specific: When you draw on an example, make it concrete and keep it brief. One story is all you need to hook a reader or listener;
Good stories include challenge or conflict. Without these elements, stories aren’t very interesting. The compelling part of a story is how people deal with a problem, so start with the people and the problem;
Use visual language: Analogies - along with metaphors, anecdotes, idioms and other visual linguistic tools - allow you to tell a story, capture the imagination or ignite a response that can't be achieved with facts and figures alone.
Be conversational: Effective communication is a conversation, so leave the business jargon and long-winded phrases in the office and write or speak with passion, using simple everyday words.There's no point getting too hooked on the difference between idioms and metaphors, just as long as you are creating word pictures to help the reader or listener visualise what you’re saying.
Tell it, don't sell it: Storytelling beats selling every time. That's because people don't just want to know about the product or service you might be flogging, they want to know the story behind it. Some of the best corporate stories are those that explain how a business has helped someone.
You Might Also Like:
PERSUADE OR PARALYSE
THE ART OF THE GRAB