Messages delivered through stories are way more engaging than facts alone, and elicit more of an emotional response, making them more memorable.
Think of a presentation you have been to where the presenter delivered facts, like review forecasts or financial results where the screen in front of you has columns and columns of numbers. How memorable was the presentation? How inspiring was it to keep selling, keep working towards those numbers? Chances are, without an engaging story tying those numbers together and giving them meaning and relevance, many people walked away from that presentation bored, disengaged and relieved it was over.
Now imagine if the presenter had put his/ her presentation together with the aim of creating a story around the figures being presented, creating less slides with fewer, key numbers. Each number could be presented with a story around how it was achieved and who was responsible for achieving it. The presentation suddenly becomes relevant and meaningful. You have a much greater possibility of people leaving the presentation feeling engaged and motivated.
The art of storytelling
Research has shown that messages delivered through a story can be more than twenty times more memorable than facts alone. That’s because wrapping facts and figures in a story makes the listener hear your message in a more meaningful way. Here are three effective strategies to use to create powerful stories in your business;
- A good story connects it’s audience to a higher purpose.
We all need to be reminded of the higher meaning and the bigger picture, why we actually come in to work every day and why our business does what it does. ‘Working towards something bigger than one’s self’ is how meaning is described by psychologist Martin Seligman. It’s important for the leaders of an organisation to ask the question “how can we get staff to connect with the meaning of the organisation, of our higher purpose?”. A charity organisation should regularly communicate the personal stories of the people they are helping. An insurance company can make and show films of the people affected by floods or bushfires and how the company allowed them to rebuild their family homes and get back on their feet. A bank can also show a personal story of how their loan allowed a family to buy the house of their dreams. Perhaps a company that supports a charity can allow staff to go and personally be involved in helping the charity and meet the people they are helping.
- Attribute facts and figures to specific people
In the above-mentioned example, attributing company statistics to specific teams or individuals creates more meaning. Not only will those people receive recognition for their personal contribution, they are able to work to their strengths and of course be the best version of themselves in the workplace. Stories humanise facts and figures and make your message more engaging, relatable and memorable to your audience.
- Keep it short and sweet
Too much detail can detract from the key messages you want to get across. Consider ditching the bulk of your presentation and instead opt for presenting the key messages and thereby eliminating the noise of too much information. A good way to do this is to look at your presentation or your email, whatever your communication medium is, and see if you can cut it down, and then cut it down again so you ensure you are ‘cutting out the crap’ and sticking to the key points to keep your audience engaged and focused on the important stuff.
Consider tweaking your narrative to suit your audience. Christopher Booker, the author of “The 7 Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories,” suggests any story will fall into one of seven plot lines;
- Overcoming the Monster
- Rags to Riches
- The Quest
- Voyage and Return
Furthermore, each member of your audience is currently wrapped up in at least one of these storylines or plots in their professional or personal lives. So not only is storytelling important; so is having more than one story you can tell, so you can adapt the story narrative to fit each of the plot lines. Here are some examples;
Overcoming the Monster – The protagonist sets out to defeat an antagonistic force (often evil) that threatens the protagonist and/or protagonist’s homeland. In real life, the “monster” can be a competitor (in a professional setting) or an illness/ addiction in a personal setting.
Rags to Riches – The poor protagonist acquires power, wealth, and/or a mate, loses it all and gains it back, growing as a person as a result. In real life, the story could be about the company founder who started from nothing to rise against the odds and become a successful leader in his/ her field.
The Quest – The protagonist and companions set out to acquire an important object or to get to a location. They face temptations and other obstacles along the way. In real life, the story could be a variation of the rags to riches plot where the business founder, through sheer determination and hard work, finally achieves success against the odds inspiring others to believe in the company cause and align their own values.
Voyage and Return – The protagonist goes to a strange land and, after overcoming the threats it poses or learning important lessons unique to that location, they return with experience. In real life, this plotline could be used to demonstrate how leaders can entice employees to help get something under control or return to normal after an upheaval.
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