The Art of Storytelling: A Critical Tool for Leadership Development

StorytellingStorytelling is a valuable skill for leadership and persuasion.  Storytelling is the art of delivering a message, sales pitch or important idea in a way that is not only pleasant to hear, but is memorable. Effective storytelling allows the listener to connect with what’s being said, mentally become invested in the story and apply it to their own situation or life.

Studies have shown that our brains become more active when we tell stories, and even when we listen to them. Whether it’s a good story, a moving experience or even a hilarious recount of an adventure, we physically and mentally sit up and take noticed when storytelling comes into play. Some of the best storytellers in our modern day are writers, teachers, trainers, speakers, business professionals, thought leaders and sales gurus.

The art of storytelling is an amazing tool of sales as well. Anyone can recite the facts and stats of a products or service. But what bring it all home in the eyes and ears of a potential buyer is the retelling of an instance when that product or service made in impact in someone’s life. Stories are a powerful way to share the same information but in vivid, multisensory way.

Storytelling has even seeped into the fabric of how businesses present information and new ideas to the masses. Gone are the days of dry marketing presentations with PowerPoint as the mode of information delivery. Those experiences have been replaced by robust and interactive presentations similar to TED Talks. Today’s audience now expects and demands infotainment, using stories and powerful imagery to convey an informative, entertaining message.

Creating a Storytelling Toolbox:
For some the thought of weaving stories into their sales pitches, introductions, speeches and presentations may seem a bit daunting. You can utilizing these guidelines and ideas as the first step to turning your information into shareable and engaging messages.

1. Feel The Passion: Share a story that showcases your passion for a project or company and prove to the listener that what you do means more to you than money. These stories can be example of a personal and inspirational experience or a “why I do what I do story.” The idea is to pull from personal experiences to order put the listeners in your shoes, pique their interest and make your information more memorable.

2. “I Knew a Guy:” This storytelling tactic involves case studies of specific individuals who have traveled the path before and enjoy successful and positive changes as a result. This recounting of a similar experience can be that of someone close to you or a similar circumstance that was witnessed by you. The goal here is to use someone else’ story to support verbal storytelling and to powerfully connect with listeners in a more realistic and persuasive way.

3. A Cautionary Tale: The definition of “cautionary tale” is a story or series of events in which something bad happens that you can use as a warning for the future. Cautionary tales are more retelling of situations that did not end well, but could have been avoided by using/buying (your product or service). Cautionary tales are also similar to public service announcements that are shared in a visual and memorable way.

The key to great storytelling starts with the act of “painting a picture with words.” Since so much of our brains are engaged when someone is telling a story, you can make a statement like, “he was a coach who was tough,” or you can paint a verbal picture that helps the listener experience the events of the story with you. A great storyteller may reframe the same statement in this manner; “As a coach he was tough as nails, ruled with an iron fist and had the swagger and presence of James Arness in Gunsmoke…” The goal is to bring your story to life using colorful adjectives that evoke emotion and vivid imagery, while setting the stage for the information that is yet to come.

For those who are still perplexed as to the concept and value of using storytelling as a tool of business, consider this, as human our brains are wired to break things down to their lowest common denominator. It’s how the brain optimally functions.  Thinking is hard work and the more complex, dry and boring, the less likely we are to retain the information. On the other hand, if we deliver information in a way that is exciting, colorful, thought provoking, the brain can sit back and enjoy the show while learning something valuable.

A story is a way to activate the parts of the listener’s brain that helps them become part of the idea and experience. If your business is involved in the offering of a new process, a new thought process or even a new service to an existing audience, some push-back can be expected. Storytelling allows the presenter the ability to deflect and defer the majority of the resistance that may come up because it is far deeper than a sales pitch, it’s an opportunity to share why you care, and why the listener should too.

Becoming a great storyteller is a skill and one that takes time and practice to hone.  You can become proficent and master this valuable skill working with a public speaking coach, improving your effectiveness and influence.

© 2017 Coach Kiomi