Business Storytelling for Beginners

Business Storytelling for Beginners 400 544

Business storytelling for beginners was a hot topic years ago. It is still scalding hot at this very moment. I guarantee it’ll continue to be scorching as far as relevance and importance are concerned within the world of biz moving forward.

Why? Let me unload one stat on you.

“Stories are remembered up to twenty-two times more than facts alone.” (Source: Stanford University – Marketing Professor Jennifer Aaker)

That fact is so powerful I cannot help but write it again:

“Stories are remembered up to twenty-two times more than facts alone.”

Let this stat swim around in your mind for a second.

No matter what kind of presentation you are giving, whether it be a pitch to a client, potential customer, investors, your colleagues or even your cat, your underlying goal is persuasion. For a presentation is ALWAYS about altering worldviews and securing buy-in for ideas.

Learning and perfecting techniques which will make this job easier should be a major goal of yours. I don’t need to remind you that winning presentations lead to winning careers and businesses.  

With that in mind, I am going to dish out some heaping spoonfuls of hot and spicy know-how as far as business storytelling for beginners goes.

Let’s dig into this.

Business Storytelling for Beginners Basics→  Why use Stories?

If you were not convinced from my earlier “stat of the day”, try gnawing on this one uncovered from a different Stanford University study: 

“Statistics combined with stories have a retention rate of 65–70%.”

That kind of retention is ridiculously high. It’s almost unfair to presenters who compile data and display it using fancy graphs and visuals only to have audiences forget most of it after a few fleeting moments. Straight up, the reasons for using stories in business are clear and abundant:

Stories generate emotional responses in people which in turn…

→ deepen engagement between speakers and audiences.

→This equates to retention and recall rates skyrocketing.

→ Now, when people are able to recall the info, the chances of them thinking deeply about it and even being moved towards some kind of action also increases.

And again, that is what a good presentation should be all about; shifting and /or reinforcing ideas and ultimately promoting some kind of action to take place.

Another BIG reason to use storytelling in business:

To further strengthen this argument, marketing gurus have known for years that logic and stats do not dictate consumer decisions. Rather, such ideas are driven by strong emotions. The most effective way to churn feelings within another person is through the use of a powerful story.

Great, we have devoured some chunky reasons why every presenter should look to start incorporating storytelling techniques. Let’s move this learning party towards uncovering the how relating to business storytelling for beginners.


Business Storytelling for Beginners: The Basics→  How to use Stories?

The first major tip is knowing that every good story uses the same foundational elements.

Successful films, books, folk-tales or any other yarns which have been told over multiple times have certainly leveraged the power of effective story structure to perfection.

Structure Structure Structure: The BEGINNING

adventure begins mug

You see, every successful story focuses intensely on hooking audiences from the get-go. Hollywood might do this using an over the top car chase, or perhaps a moving event that tugs at heartstrings.

Your business presentation ought to do the same. It needs to create an instant impact early on! You want people to take interest right away. You cannot waste any time, otherwise, you risk them losing interest and tuning out before you ever begin.

Your hook could be a stat, statement, image, prop or otherwise. The key once again, is that it ought to generate some sort of emotional response.

Pro-tip: Your opening is absolutely critical to the overall success of your story. Therefore, test it out on a few trusted colleagues to ensure it generates the impact you desire.


Structure Structure Structure: The MIDDLE

2 hikers climbing snowy mountain

This is the section where the struggle, concern, opportunity, challenge or otherwise is revealed. This is the meaty / veggie filled (my metaphors are inclusive to all) part of your story which basically outlines the barrier your protagonist is up against in the quest for achieving success.

The protagonist I might add could be your company, you, a product or anything else that you want to leverage as far as showing “what is” versus “what could be”.

Without this section being strikingly effective, you risk losing any momentum you generated in the opening. Think stats, projections or even highlights of shared sentiment between you and the audience that are less than rosy.

Crossroads marker

You want to be illustrating that some sort of change (in thinking/action) is required. Letting people get a clear understanding of what could be achieved if XYZ action is taken or not taken, is paramount to building a belief that change is necessary. I might add that this change has to be realistic. People need to believe that it can be achieved.

Oh, the drama!

This section is all about the drama. It must be real and should be dripping with relevance.  However, be careful. If your audience is struggling to relate to what you are outlining here or cannot do so, you can take that as a sure sign that your story is off the mark in some way. It has to be relatable to your audience and not only you.

Finally, if your story were a Hollywood flick, this section would be where you are building towards some sort of climax.

Storm on mountain


Structure Structure Structure: The END

If the story you are using is referencing the past to illustrate a point, this is the section in which the protagonist overcomes in some way.

If your story is more future orientated, meaning it is being used to show a new possibility (new market, new product, new service possibility)  this is where you would be driving the story towards the notion of “what could be.”

In both cases, the story needs to bring everything together in such a way that the audience feels as though that the risks, challenges, difficulties were or could be circumvented by the path your protagonist traveled or could take.

In essence, your story must clearly align with your big picture vision or idea relating to your presentation objective.

Top of the World

Pro-tip: Be crystal clear in transmitting what learning point you want audiences to take away from your story. Be sure that this idea is easy to digest and understand. For that piece of info is the reason for your story in the first place!

BONUS Tips:

*A story need not be long or drawn out.

In fact, simple yet effective stories can be communicated in as little as a minute or two. Most presentations do not allow for a tonne of time. Your story should be rich in details and strong in effect but also lean and concise as far as including only the most pertinent points required to create impact and drive your message.   


*Consider other stimuli you could incorporate to create impact.

Why do you ask? Well, research tells us that the brain processes images 60x faster than words. (Socialmouths.com “how to help your content rise above the noise)

*You could also try incorporating video, audio clips or anything else that could add value to the story or message you are trying to communicate. Plus those elements may help you condense certain parts, thus saving you precious time as far staying within your overall presentation time limit.  

*The key, however, is that you always want to be considering whether your data, stories, videos etc. support your overall message. Nothing you include should distract audiences. This means that you must always carefully evaluate whether your additions are value-laden or simply done to generate cheap thrills.

Why should you consider additional sensory points?

Research on our brain tells us that stories activate different parts of the brain even when they are not in use.

For example, if you are relaying some part of your story that highlights movement or action, your audience’s region of their brain responsible for this functioning (motor cortex) will become activated.

If you are relaying information in your story that relates to the sense of touch, you may be able to activate your listeners’ sensory cortex or cerebellum which is responsible for this functioning.  

Other areas of the brain that stories have been shown to activate while listening to good stories include:

Brocas Area: language processing

Olfactory cortex: scents

Wernicke’s Area: language comprehension

Auditory Cortex: sounds

Visual Cortex: colors and shapes  

If you are able to create good stories that are rich with details that activate a few of these areas, you as a presenter stand to benefit.

Why?

The reason is that the deeper the connection between you, your words/ideas and a listener, the better the chance they will stick.

Having your words stick equals an opportunity to affect change and have your ideas win the day.

Pro-tip: Be sure to play with your story to ensure that it is impactful and effectively plays on a few of the aforementioned sensory areas of our brains. Consider what words you choose to use to transmit your ideas. Is there a picture or short vid that could better convey what you want to communicate? Ask yourself such questions when evaluating your story.


The BIG takeaway for Business Storytelling for Beginners

*Use stories! They work and are a perfect vehicle for delivering support for your big idea.

*Do not forget to consider the structure of your story. It must have one to be impactful!

*Consider how you might add value to your story. What other sensory elements could you incorporate to deepen the impact your message has on audiences.  

*Go and grab my STEP by STEP Business Storytelling for Beginners Guide. Snag it here! It will lead you down a path that will smooth out your storytelling creation process!

As always, I would love to hear how you make out! You can reach out by finding and following us on these platforms:

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