ALL of us tell stories — it is as natural as laughing, crying and loving. It is likely that the earliest human communication involved parents telling stories to their children.
All of us are natural storytellers, but some are more natural than others. Although some people seem to be born with the talent to excel at golf, connect easily with people or cook a great meal, the rest of us can be just as good — it just takes more time and perseverance.
Years ago, storytelling was only used in business at after-work drinks. Now, storytelling is a recognised business skill – with increasing importance the higher you move up the corporate ladder.
Storytelling works to connect, engage, inspire and persuade better than any other form of communication. But while most understand why stories are valuable, they struggle with the how.
How in today’s busy, information-overloaded world — where people are saying, “just give me the facts” — can we find the confidence to tell stories? Here are five tips that will help you become a better storyteller:
just find one
Start with one short, interesting, relevant story about your organisation, industry or profession. If it happened to you, that is great. If you really don’t have a personal story, start one about a colleague, acquaintance or well-known person.
Know it so you can tell it efficiently and confidently and you will be surprised how often opportunities to tell it will crop up. Also, once you have one good story, others will become more obvious to you.
Just like when you get a new car, you suddenly notice how many other cars of the same model are on the road, you will become more aware of the stories happening around you every day.
have the right intent
If your intent in telling the story is to inform, inspire, provide insight, show a different perspective or interest your listener, then you deserve your audience’s attention.
If your intention, however, is to impress people and make yourself look good, then you will find them increasingly reluctant to listen to you.
don't re-tell it, relive it
When you go into recall mode, your voice can become more monotonous and your body language a little disconnected as you trawl your memory banks.
Even the most interesting story in the world will struggle to hold a listener’s attention when told like this. Instead, run the story through your mind as if it were a movie. Then, share this movie with your listener(s) as it runs in your mind and you relive it.
This way, your voice will naturally become more animated as you feel the emotion, and your body language will spontaneously bring the action to life — without any conscious effort from you.
keep it short
People are time-poor, so it is sensible and respectful to only take as long as the story needs. Cut out the unnecessary detail and get to the point as quickly as you can.
Having said that, don’t rush the important bits. In a business conversation, don’t announce the story with, “Let me tell you the story about…” It will turn some people off. Just get straight into it and even those reluctant ones will become engaged by the narrative. They want to find out what happens.
don't take yourself seriously
Some of your best stories will be about your mistakes, your errors-of-judgement, your incorrect assumptions — and what you learned from the experience.
These stories are a gift to your listener because they help them learn from your experience. They also happen to make very engaging stories.
The trouble is, because we are worried about looking stupid, embarrassing ourselves or losing face, we don’t tell our best stories. Recently, I was working with a retiring managing director who attended my course with his successor. The soon-to-be retired gentleman told some great stories with important, memorable messages.
His best story was told in the course for the first time — about a mistake he had made in his early days as managing director. He admitted that he had only found the courage to tell the story because he was retiring and wished he had told it so much earlier.
So, if you are not a natural storyteller, make a little effort, attend a course and you will find your business communication — and your success — soar.
You can start straight away with these five tips to become a more charismatic, interesting, memorable communicator.
Article by Kevin Ryan, an international speaker, workshop leader and author with Training Edge International. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.trainingedgeasia.com