For a moment, let me request you to close your eyes and think about some of the best memories from your childhood. I am pretty sure, a lot of us will recall a family member (grand-parent/parent/relative) narrating stories to us. I personally used to love hearing stories and anxiously looked forward to every opportunity for a story session (even if the story was being repeated). Now let’s visualize, if different stakeholders (whom we interact with in our professional world), would also be eagerly awaiting to hear what we have to say, wouldn’t that be an ideal case? And that is exactly the reason, why I wanted to draw your attention towards the phenomenal power of story- telling and its relevance in professional environments.
Are you having trouble visualizing the applicability of story-telling in a business environment? Let’s discuss this through an approach taken by a sales person when confronted with a tough customer. A sales person was trying to pitch the benefits of cloud applications to a customer who was cutting him off by stating that he was not willing to look at any other alternatives since he is happy with his on-premise applications.
The salesperson decided to share a personal story about his experience in airline travel. He initially enjoyed a high status with a particular airline and leveraged it for all his travel needs. A few months back, he was trying to schedule a family vacation but his preferred airlines was sold out. That made him go to a travel portal and he was amazed at the plethora of options available– several flights, closer airports, convenient times, lower prices. By choosing one of these great options, he was also able to spend an additional half a day with his family at the tourist venue. By clinging to one airline in the past, he had deprived himself of having better travel experiences. He then summarized this for his customer, explaining that he too was shutting himself out from better options by not evaluating the cloud applications. The same customer who was earlier not even willing to talk, ended up having an extremely productive and open dialog on how to migrate to cloud applications.
When, we are sharing experiences, making presentations or trying to invoke actions from others, story telling is a very great and useful tool. This is applicable to all professionals who interact with others (externally or internally) and is not limited to a team or group. Story telling is a beautiful mix of science and art. It helps people connect emotionally with the data being presented. Here’s a quick summary on some of the benefits of storytelling –
- Differentiates the presenter from others. Sometimes, to process a big idea holistically, we need to step away from the situation & think about it in a different context to bring fresh perspective.
- An effective channel to communicate with the target audience: easily relatable while retaining the message.
- A Faster connect with the audience, because the data is applicable to real people in the real world and it motivates them to act.
Not only for presentation by individuals, but a clearly communicated story is also the solid backbone for a strong marketing strategy for any organization. This helps in –
- Removing clutter – Every piece of the content has an intention/value proposition, tied into the overarching vision of the organization.
- Removing complexities of a vision- Conveys a business purpose to the outside world.
- Connecting people and improve brand loyalty.
Some organizations have already invested into establishing their brands through story telling. These organizations are not afraid to tell the full story – the struggles, conflicts, setbacks, successes, etc. to help people understand the passion and heart that went into creating and building the brand. This phenomenon ties very well into the famous quotes “People would rather invest in a human than a company” or “People do business with people”.
Studies have shown that such organizations with shared values can outperform their counterparts in stock price and profit performance. By wrapping their vision into a beautiful captivating story, and communicating it clearly via heartfelt marketing strategy, organizations can be assured of long term brand loyalty. Story-telling is a great competitive advantage.
As professionals, we owe it our ourselves to create our own unique style of story-telling to communicate key messages. Here are some suggestions on how to accomplish the same-
- Determine what idea/key point you want to communicate. The takeaway message is important. It must linger with the audience and has to connect well with the story.
- Keep the stories short, around 2-3 minutes.
- Portray the story like a movie and make it interesting/intense by revolving it around a challenge/conflict and how was it fixed. You may even pick a funny situation and bring out your witty side and sense of humor.
- Add some fluff/details with ups and downs to create the desired impact by leveraging vivid language. Create some drama/tension.
- Practice and practice. You may do it in front of a mirror by saying it out loud to get a hang of it.
- Keep it authentic and personalized.
- Connect the dots between your message and story.
While the above are just guidelines, I would highly encourage you to develop your own unique style which you as an individual should be comfortable with. All organizations should invest in training it’s employees on how to tell effective stories as well as enhance their brand via marketing through story-telling. “Great stories happen to those who tell them.”
Are you ready with your story to communicate your point of view to the world?