the power of story

The power of story

‘A Story is like the water you heat for your bath. It takes messages between the fire and your skin. It lets them meet and it cleans you.”  - Rumi, StoryWater.

As a storytelling expert, I live for helping leaders to tell more powerful stories. And I recently had the opportunity to run a workshop for L&D experts at Impact’s Learnfest.

But why do stories matter in business?

Let me tell you why.

If you’ve ever needed to explain a change in your business, your strategy or your plans and found that the day after, no one understood what you said, then you need story.

If you have ever discovered a completely inaccurate misunderstanding of your key messages and found that the gossip at the water cooler was wrong and distracting – you need story.

If you are a team within a business and need to communicate the business value of what you do but can't seem to be deeply understood by the rest of the company…you need story.

If you are a team within a business and need to communicate the business value of what you do but can't seem to be deeply understood by the rest of the company…you need story.

You see, you may already know that storytelling is a real ‘buzz’ word in business at the moment but you may not really know why. What you may not know, is that a story is much more memorable than facts and data alone and is much more replicable. So if you want the right message told in the right way, then you need to know how to tell a story. This story will be shared, virally in your business and will be told accurately, time and time again.

Secondly, stories are emotionally motivating and much as we might like to deny it, actually, we still do stuff in business based on our motivations – either moving towards our desire or a need to avoid pain. So if you want people to move, or to get behind your idea or to feel really excited about the work you do, you need to be able to tell the story of the journey so far and the sparkly bright future you will realise if everyone mucks in.

And lastly, story telling  is fun – and anything a bit unusual tends to attract attention and pique interest. This is crucial because we live in a time of information overload. So people need to make choices about what they consume and digest. If you tell a story, you are much more likely to find people engaged and interested rather than bored to tears through death by powerpoint.

I work with leaders over a whole day to craft their story, but here are my top three tips for telling great stories:

  1. Stories always have a challenge to be overcome. What’s yours – what is the reason why? This challenge needs everyone to be part of it – so you need to make sure that the person listening understands how they play a part in overcoming the challenge.
  2. Stories always have an enemy – this could be an enemy within the industry, an enemy in terms of something that sabotages performance or a big problem that needs solving – keep telling the story of the enemy and make sure the enemy is understood.
  3. Record your story to disseminate in video and also repeat it over and over and over – the higher you are in firm, the more you think everyone knows the story – they don’t! So you need to keep telling the story.

Erica Sosna is an Impact Associate. For more help and ideas on storytelling in organisations, check out her blog.