We all know that business has to run on data. Charts, reports, graphs, spreadsheets, and databases are critical for almost every business today.
But what really grabs people’s attention? Stories.
Our love of stories is why we spend time watching Netflix, going to the movie theater, and reading novels. Our ancient ancestors would sit around the campfire spinning tales as a form of entertainment. We may not always be sitting around a campfire today, but we love stories just as much.
That’s why storytelling is such a critical skill for Business Artists. As humans, we think in story. Yet in most business settings, communicators gravitate toward sharing data instead of stories. What if you could harness the power of storytelling and speak in a way that truly captures other people’s imaginations?
My peers and colleagues have told me again and again that storytelling is my primary strength. Even though I have a natural gift for it, I believe anyone can learn to improve their storytelling skills.
Here are seven tips that can dramatically improve your skills in this area.
1. Start with a great hook.
The first episode of Breaking Bad began with an incredible opening sequence that grabbed your attention from the first second. A good story works the same way. Spend time crafting the first sentence or two of a story so it hooks your listener from the start.
2. Use stories instead of case studies.
We’ve all heard a million case studies in business presentations, seminars, and workshops. Can case studies be effective? Of course. But stories trump case studies every time because they lean on the story component (the most interesting part) rather than trying to analyze every detail of a story for deeper meaning.
3. Communicate with the right motive.
We shouldn’t use stories as a manipulative tactic just to make a sale. Instead, we are sharing them as a means to drive collaboration and connection. The goal is to invite someone to enter a specific part of our own human experience. This is why the best stories are not generic. They are personal to you.
4. Make sure the story is relevant.
You must know your audience. More importantly, know what your audience doesn’t know. What do they need to know about how your product or service or you can help them or improve their lives? Make sure to highlight that information in your stories.
5. Include a proper amount of tension.
Imagine how much less effective Phil Collins’s classic song “In the Air Tonight” would have been had he used drums in the first two-thirds of the songs. Instead, he held off until the second chorus, knowing that the three-and-a-half minutes of tension would pay off in one of the most memorable drum fill in pop music. This is how stories should work as they build and release tension.
6. Make your stories emotionally engaging.
This is where you need to use language and gestures to draw out the listener's experience. Do they need to feel joy? Pleasure? Distress? Delight? Sadness? Anxiety? Surprise? Fear? Play on those emotions to pull them into your story’s world.
7. Include a clear takeaway.
This is the reason you are sharing the story in the first place. You can state this up front and then again at the end of a story. For example, “I recently worked with another client that struggled with buyers not consuming their software post-sale. Would it be okay if I share a quick story of the work we did together that led to increased customer adoption?”
You may not feel like the world’s greatest storyteller. But I guarantee that the more you practice, and the more you put yourself in situations where you can share stories with others, the better you’ll get. Telling great stories is one of the most important skills any Business Artist can build.