Now that we’ve established what Business Storytelling is and why it can benefit your business, it’s time to focus on the how: how do I effectively tell my story?
3 models for building a business story
Not all people naturally tell a story like the brothers Grimm, and not all audiences are reachable through only a story. Think of storytelling as a spectrum ranging from the incorporation of anecdotes in a presentation, through the building of a main theme that is present throughout, to turning the whole presentation into a story.
1. Incorporating anecdotes in the presentation: The idea is to embed short stories in the presentation as routine breakers. It’s just like cooking rice; without salt and pepper, it would still be edible and nourishing – but tasty? Probably not. What makes rice taste good are the added spices; it changes completely if we choose one spice or another, and the same goes for our message. If we spice it up with anecdotes, scattered proportionately over dry data and facts, we can boost audience attention and create a positive stimulation towards us and our message. From here on out, our chances of engaging and persuading our audience are much higher.
Our stories must:
Be relevant directly or indirectly to our message
Have a surprising, exciting or moving punch line
End with a concluding sentence which connects to our message
How do we know where to incorporate the stories?
There are 2 critical, essential points: beginning and end
According to the audience’s attention positions
Based on our familiarity with the message and its complexity
Based on our familiarity with the audience
2. Our story as a main theme: The first thing we need to do is find a main simile, metaphor or analogy that serves the main value at the basis of our message and encompasses the entire idea. This means interweaving elements such as anecdotes, pictures and videos throughout the presentation, all taken from the same metaphorical world, and making the audience link symbiotically between our message and the chosen metaphor. Finding the main theme allows the audience to understand your message from a different, less conventional point of view, and intensifies its sense of identification. When the message is presented as a main theme, it is perceived as more creative, more innovative and especially more unique and memorable.
3. The whole presentation as a story: You start by creating a complete, yet short, story around your business – your product, project or idea. This story should describe how your business was born, by whom it was founded, what hardships it encountered, how it almost collapsed, what eventually saved it and so on… the goal is to tell the story of your business instead of the banal “who we are, what we do, who are our clients”. Give your audience a sneak peek behind the scenes; who pulls the strings, how it all began. This model is based upon the literary element of personification, while giving your business/product/idea/ a life of its own and in effect turning it into an admirable protagonist, the real star of your story. Some sales experts claim this to be the most effective formula for conveying a promotional message, and they predict that in the near future this model will replace the elevator pitch.
In fact, every business has more than one story: who they are, how they got there, what made them successful, their brand’s story, their employees’ story and more. Alongside these stories, there are those of the consumers: what the consumer really needs and what you can do for them that no other business can.
The most common business stories are:
Watch this video to get a better idea of how a business story should be told:
“Follow the Frog” – The customers story
5 Elements to building a good story:
Setting: Putting the story within a certain context, including a time and place.
Characterization: The process of crowning the story’s hero, which must include a full name, role and a personal / professional trait.
Plot: A sequence of events, which demonstrate progress or change throughout the story.
Conflict: Every story has to have a conflict or problem, whether internal or external, in order to create interest. Often, the story touches pain or difficulty familiar to the audience.
Relevance: A short link between the story and the current circumstances – the reason we chose to tell it. Usually, this reasoning is also the resolution to the conflict – and it has to be relevant to our presentation and audience.
Put the WOW factor in your story:
Atmosphere: the process of creating emotion, closeness and affinity between the listeners and your story. We create atmosphere by using:
The non-verbal level: tone of voice, body gestures, face expressions etc.
Descriptions: this helps the listener visualize the story and sympathize with the characters. It is important not to overdue this; descriptions are wrapping paper, not the actual present. How do we know the right amount of descriptions? We’ll make sure every sentence we say somehow advances the plot or reveals one of the characters.
These two elements are easier to convey when recalling the situation and experiencing it again while telling about it.
Point of view: It is important to create focus and cohesion by choosing to narrate it as either first or third person, and by using names in order to mention a change of perspective.
Connecting with the characters (depending on audience): give the listeners at least one character with whom they can identify, someone similar to them who is facing the same challenges, someone they will root for. You know that feeling, when a friend tells you a story and two weeks later you tell him the same story as if it was your own? This is not only normal, but also one of the most powerful ways to sway people with your ideas and thoughts. According to Professor Uri Hasson of Princeton University, storytelling is the only way to activate the parts in our brain that make us absorb the story as if we actually experienced it. So the next time you’re struggling to get people to join your project or embrace your ideas just tell them a story – and make sure that story leads your listeners to an understanding of your message.