Three Steps to Effective Business Storytelling
Link your personal learning to your organizational message.
The number one question I get in the classroom is, “What story should I tell?” The number two question is, “Okay, now that I have this personal story that connects with the hearts and minds of my audience—how do I use it in a business context?”
It’s easier than you think. As complex as our lives are, as mysterious as our past experiences can be to us, there is a fairly systematic way of integrating stories into your leadership communication as a way to inspire and motivate your audience.
The 3 steps to effective business storytelling
- Determine your message. What is the succinct, “sticky” message that you want people to walk away with?
- Think of a past event from your life when you learned a lesson that relates to that message. Think personal—family stories, coming-of-age stories, a story about a time that you had to make a big decision, etc.
- Link the personal message to the professional one. A simple way to do that is to name what you learned from the event in the story and then tie that learning to what your audience can learn as an organization.
Here are some examples:
- A leader whose company was going through a major merger told a childhood story of her mother remarrying and welcoming three stepchildren into their household. After an emotional rebellion, our storyteller had to embrace her new family in order to help her mother succeed: “What I learned is that I had the power to make this ‘merger’ successful by adjusting my attitude. What we can learn is that our participation in the success of this merger is crucial.”
- A V.P. of Marketing was trying to motivate her team to innovate, even as they were being asked to do more with less. She told a story of signing up for a skydiving class to conquer her fear of heights: “As I stood at the edge of the plane door waiting to jump, I knew that taking this risk would pay back ten-fold. I know the same will happen for us if we, as a team, are willing to jump.”
- A C-level executive needed to communicate that the economic meltdown would require serious change but acting on that change would ultimately bring the company back to its former glory. This leader told a story about his father who, at the height of The Great Depression, at 13 years old, left his family because there wasn’t enough food for the younger kids. He went on to join the military and become a senior Army officer: “I stand before you, a success story, all because of my father’s enormous sacrifice. This organization is a success story because of the sacrifice of our founders. Now it’s our turn.”
Now it’s your turn. Tell a story at your next meeting or presentation. Link your personal learning to your organizational message. Not only will you connect with the hearts and minds of your audience, but you’ll make a powerful business point as well.
Want your organization to be better at telling compelling stories? Download our storytelling eBook.
This blog was originally published April 1, 2011 and was updated August 29, 2017 for accuracy.