The better we communicate through storytelling, the more likely we are to create a memory and drive action, explains Christoffer Wahlberg
When we hear “business storytelling,” we might imagine a bespectacled CEO in a black turtleneck, standing on a large stage in a pool of silver spotlight, a few beads of sweat on his concentrated brow as he delicately displays a new piece of technology to a captivated audience. Or we think of a TED talk where a woman in a suit the colour of frozen blueberries shares her life’s story and groundbreaking research in front of a smiling crowd. If this, or something similar, is what we picture, we are right. However, there is much more to business storytelling than that.
Imagine a large office building. Everywhere you look, people are buzzing, communicating, and hoping to get their point across. I am sure that somewhere in there, you see yourself, perhaps quietly debating internally whether or not to point something obvious out during a management meeting. Or trying to find the right words in an email in order to defuse an explosive situation. Each of these scenarios is an example of an opportunity to use storytelling.
For thousands of years, we humans used storytelling as our primary way to educate, inspire, entertain and build trust. As a result, we evolved with it, and it became hard-wired into our brains. Simply put, the better we communicate through storytelling, the more likely we are to create a memory and drive action. Need proof? Humans forget or ignore more than 80% of non-narrative communication. In other words, when we don’t use storytelling, most of what we say goes in one ear and out the other.
How Do We Use Business Storytelling?
First, we need to identify business situations where we could benefit from being more impactful and memorable through storytelling. Start by making a list of 3-5 potential scenarios using simple bullet points. For instance:
- Introducing myself to a new employee
- Giving my manager/leader advice
- Keeping attendees engaged during a meeting
The next thing we need is to consider which message we want to deliver during these scenarios. As an example:
- Introducing myself to a new employee = You can trust me
- Giving my manager/leader advice = What will happen if we don’t change the plan
- Keeping attendees engaged during a meeting = What you will get out of it by listening
Once you have done that, it is time to start working on a story that highlights the message you want to convey. To ensure your story has everything it needs, here is a tool I have designed to help you. I call it HOPE. Think of it as a list of ingredients rather than a final recipe.
A good story almost always has the following:
A Hero that we can relate to
An Objective we care about
A serious Problem that needs to be overcome
A satisfying solution to the Ending
A Final Thing to Consider
Storytelling was initially used as an educational or presentation tool for passive audiences. People are usually happy to listen to a longer story by a presenter if they are in a group. However, in a one-on-one situation, telling a long, one-sided story can do more harm than good. How do we turn a monologue into a dialogue? By asking questions. Don’t hesitate in a one-on-one situation to ask the person you are speaking to, “Has the same ever happened to you?” or “What do you think happened next?” By including them in the conversation, you are more likely to build a good relationship and get a positive reaction.
Want to learn more? Check out Christoffer’s #AdminChat on Business Storytelling on our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/K7SG95XgOq8