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A blog about the power of the storytelling skill at work

CUsersnhaynesOneDrive - Office Shared ServiceDesktopTell me a story

As humans we live in a storm of stories, we live in stories all day long, and we dream in stories all night long.


We communicate through stories, we learn from them, and our brains are wired to remember stories. In fact, in studies, people remember 50% more from a story than a straight passage, and the science confirms that people do not act by reason alone, appealing on an intellectual basis is only half the story, an emotional connection is essential.


Telling good stories is a science and an art, but an essential skill for every communicator, and we need to be able to tell great stories for internal buy-in and external impact and influence.


Whether internally or externally, getting good at communicating what you need to say as a ‘story’ – means that you will learn and use other important soft skills such as influencing and persuasion, emotional intelligence plus a good dose of resilience and personal grit, the latter now named the main reason why people succeed in life (Ref Angela Duckworth – Grit: The power of passion and perseverance).


So, if it’s that easy why isn’t everyone doing it? Because it’s like George Bernard Shaw said – “ If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter” It's far easier to do things ‘Longhand’ without a story at all. We naturally go ‘Longhand’ because we feel it shows the breadth of the effort, and somehow, we expect this to be impressive. Actually, it’s not, and in today’s 3min snapshot world, it’s really important to take the time to practice summarising into a succinct story that can engage properly.


Of course, there are lots of successful ways to do this, including drawing from the 7 basic plots (Ref Christopher Booker) from which every story you have seen conforms, to making use of the power of visual design to tell stories using more than one sense. It's all about finding the right tool for the job.


First – we need to understand the audience. Where are they on the engagement spectrum – From Sabotage to Champion. More often than not, we are using a story to overcome a barrier, and this is where good old consumer insight works a treat. We need to think about what their current attitudes are - that are leading to current behaviours, and what we want them to think, feel and believe before they demonstrate the behaviours we are after.


Second – We need to plot the story in a simple understandable sequence that works through the situation, the complication, the key question and the answer in as gripping away as we can.


Third – we need to end on a memorable and crisp end line or image – perhaps a metaphor or simile that has relevant context for the audience, or maybe simply a call to action that demonstrates what the risk is of not taking this action.


Practice makes perfect because we are all (Underneath it) storytelling animals, and stories make us human.


Author: Allisyn James, Founder of Ambidextrous


Join Allisyn on Friday, 10 January 2020 at Westco Academy and learn the best practice for business storytelling. Reserve your place here.

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