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Posts Tagged ‘storytelling’

Image via Flickr user foodistablog

Image via Flickr user foodistablog

Okay, let me set the scene for you: you’re sitting around a campfire, s’mores in hand (using super gigante malvaviscos, of course), and…what do you do? Someone tells a story. You’re all relating that story to your own life experiences and pretty soon someone else tells a related story that just popped into his head. And someone else. Before you know it, the fire is down to smoldering coals, the temperature has dropped, and you have no idea where the time went.

That’s the power of storytelling. Would you have hung around to swap stories if someone was using a PowerPoint and reviewing statistical *yawn* statements? Probably not. You hang around when someone gives you colorful context, a plot, good characters, some action and a climax, followed by an ending.

As leaders, sometimes it’s overwhelming to sort through what feels like a fire hose of information; it’s difficult to know what to pass on to your employees and what they don’t care enough about. There are a lot of tools for communicating, but this is one of the most ancient and fundamental tools of communicating with others – whether around the campfire or around the boardroom table. I think it’s also one of the most forgotten tools. We get caught up in all the high-tech tools (cool and appropriate in their own right) and forget about the low-tech ones that still work.

Storytelling hasn’t died, even though book sales are down. We may be buying fewer books but we’re reading more online papers and blogs and toying with the idea of reading with an electronic device like Kindle. It doesn’t matter how technology changes, we’re still hungry for the story.

Leaders who don’t tell stories are missing a huge opportunity for engagement. The best way to help others understand a message is to help them relate to it and co-create it in their minds. Help your employees become characters in your story or use your stories as jumping-off points for their own.

Why don’t we see more storytelling in business? I think it’s because we’re afraid it’s child’s play. Like we’re Tom Hanks in “Big” and our cover is about to be blown. Storytelling is not just for children. It’s for all of us. It’s how we’ve passed knowledge to each other for centuries. It’s how we’ll continue to pass knowledge on, even with new technology popping up.

By the way, this doesn’t just apply to how you give information to your employees.  This applies to you, too.  We hear about the “elevator pitch” being our tiny chance to make a lasting impression.  If your elevator pitch is a story, you’ve got a much better chance it will actually stand out from the rest and be remembered. 

Just try it out.  Tell a story and see how much faster it spreads.  We can’t help but pass on a story from one person to the next!

So the next time you need to pass on information that people need to remember, think about your delivery. Rather than just stating the bare bones news, stop and do a quick storyboard in your head. Pretend you’re a movie director and set the scene, develop your characters and see where the twists and turns of the plot take you.

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