Telling stories is an integral part of human life, we all do it whether we’re aware of it or not. But how about telling a good story with a clearly defined point for business purposes? That is an entirely different thing. Rob Grundel’s workshop on Storytelling for Entrepreneurs at Impact Hub Westminster gave members a taster of the power of story to engage and communicate ideas and values.
A story is the ultimate pull strategy. Not a push in sight – if you want your audience to follow, you better make it worth it. When investors make decisions on who to back, it turns out that 70-90% of that decision is based on the person, not the product. How well is that person presenting themselves, do they have an engaging story, do their values fit the situation?
Let’s start with some basics. What is a concise definition of a story? A partner of Rob’s, a company called Anecdote came up with this: ”Stories are facts wrapped in context delivered with emotion”.
The origin of story is most likely one of tribe building. A way of learning from and working with each other to get more efficient in order to survive. In some ways this hasn’t changed, except perhaps that the stories we tell now are more intricate and complex. This is illustrated by an unattributed quote from multiple sources that says “the shortest distance between two people is a story”.
When telling a story for business, keep the priorities of your audience at centre focus. Why should they care, how is it relevant to them. Why should they even listen? Leading with a story, followed by data is a good strategy for getting people’s attention. Then you can follow up with data. Don’t however start with “Let me tell you a story”. It is more likely to alienate than engage.
Context is crucial. Location, people and time are the frame of the story picture you’re painting. Just don’t make the picture too big – people don’t want to hear your life story as a prelude to the point, nor do they want a long winded yarn about what happened then. They want only the relevant, good bits.
To ensure your audience is with you in your story journey, taking a breath to gauge their reaction is another good technique. If they seem disengaged, maybe change it up a little. Get them on board, then continue. And practice, practice, practice. Trying your story out on a couple of friends or colleagues, asking them what worked, what didn’t. Were they bored, confused at any points? Honing a story is an ongoing process.
To be a good story teller, it helps to be good at collecting them. Rob collects at least a story a day, be it from a newspaper, a friend, TV or just daily life. Think of them as threads for your story weaving.
Before becoming a storytelling consultant, Rob made a successful yet somewhat unfulfilling career in software engineering. After the birth of his son, Finn, he decided that it was time for a change and hired a business coach to help him work out what next. Before a session, he had been categorising his books into sections. It was suddenly obvious that the writing and storytelling sections were considerably larger than others. Coupled with his long standing interest and experience in improv theatre therein lay his answer – as his coach pointed out. Rob now helps businesses, TED talk presenters and many others navigate their way to a good story.