Storytelling is a great way to engage people and can help change behaviour in ways that dry, rational messages just can’t.
Whilst imaginative storytelling with our children is the most natural thing in the world, this notion often gets lost in the corporate environment.
In celebration of World Book Day, here’s my top ten tips on being a great storyteller and capturing the imagination of those around you.
- Watch and learn – look out for and watch other great storytellers. What do they do, how do they engage people, what impact do they have and critically, what difference do they make to how people behave?
- Get real – contrary to the name, the best storytelling nearly always comes from real life – personal experience and the experiences of others. Focus on simple stories – your own snippets, soundbites, metaphors and recollections – rather than a big, elaborate fictional masterpiece.
- Take every opportunity to share – share your stories with those you think would like to hear them, for example, at networking or social events. Having one or two good stories that illustrate something interesting about you is a good way to ensure people remember both you and your stories!
- Be a two year old child – we’ve all heard ‘but whhhhhhhhy mummy?’ Storytelling is about creating context and examining ‘why’. Practise saying ‘the reason why this is so important is….’ in at least one meeting or conversation every day.
- Mix it up – stories aren’t just about words and speeches. Use different mediums such as music, drama and film. One CEO I know sang a farewell song instead of making an exit speech! It was totally unexpected and left people with an incredibly positive memory and ready to take action.
- Tell it like you mean it – take the time to make a story ‘yours’ before you tell it by thinking about what it means to you and why. People will believe it much more as a result.
- Never say ‘I’m fine’ – a client asked me one day how I was…I said ‘fine’. ‘Fine’ she said is the weather, not how you are! Every time someone asks how you are, answer with a story ‘do you know, I’m feeling great because we’ve just achieved…’ or ‘I’ve just had a client tell me…’, and you’ll be amazed how much you get remembered.
- Build your storytelling muscle – think about one thing you are trying to achieve today that requires you to move someone or align a group of colleagues. What personal story or metaphor could you use to bring it to life, help the message land and move people to action? Ask yourself the same question each day.
- Think about the audience – before you select or tell stories, think about your audience and what matters to them. If you put them at the heart of your story and what they would want to hear, you can’t go wrong. Relevance and meaning is key.
- Get inspired – storytelling is all around us. Actively seek as much inspiration as you can from those around you including family, friends, business leaders and even the TV. Make a note of stories and anecdotes that you’ve enjoyed hearing, seeing or reading and keep them in your very own StoryBank (journal or digital device) for quick access when you need inspiration. Don’t be afraid to take a great story you’ve heard and make it your own by adding your own details and variations.
Jane Sparrow is a culture expert and one of the founding partners of The Culture Builders