Why You Need to Become a Better Storyteller
Politicians tell a lot of stories in their campaign speeches, and there's a not-so-secret reason why: if you convey your message through a dynamic story or metaphor, it has a better chance of resonating with your audience than if you were to simply state the facts.
Author Maya Angelou captured this idea best when she said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Compelling stories have the power to engage every audience — your customers, your employees and your investors. A story that educates and entertains at the same time can be the best way to convey a message. Here’s why:
Your story makes you human. It helps to build a relationship between you and the person with whom you’re speaking. With one story, you can transform a client into a loyal evangelist for your business. A hard sell approach will only repel customers, but an emotional narrative pulls people in. Choose to tell how or why you started your business. Your story just might change the dynamic between you and your clients. You’ll slowly move away from the role of seller and create the foundation for a lasting professional relationship.
Related: 5 Ways to Be a Better Listener
Stories simplify complex ideas. The best advertising agencies know that complicated strategies can be difficult to explain. So when they pitch a product to a customer, they don’t talk about the details. They tell a story. They tell the story of the client, their business and their customers. They illustrate how a new approach to advertising will grow their market and increase their brand recognition. Apply this method to your client interactions, especially when explaining a complex concept.
You’ll entertain and engage. The average attention span is incredibly short. You’re lucky if you get a few minutes of focused attention before someone in the boardroom begins to check their email on their phone. Don’t waste precious time by passing around the latest reports before your meeting. Instead, entertain your audience. Start off by telling a compelling story about a great client interaction or how a new product came to fruition. Illustrate the success of your business through a narrative.
Stories give you a competitive advantage. Large companies benefit from resources entrepreneurs don’t have — marketing and advertising budgets far beyond your annual revenue. But storytelling is a low-cost communication tool. Don’t waste your money on ads that talk at your customers. Instead, talk with them and create a dynamic conversation. One way to do this is to post interesting stories and pictures on your social networking sites.
Related: How to Tell Your Company's Story
The right story will establish your authority. When someone asks you about your background, don’t list the bullet points on your resume. Instead, share your experience in the form of a story and highlight the valuable lessons you’ve learned along the way. You have knowledge that makes you uniquely qualified to run your business. If you turn your personal elevator pitch into a story, you’ll be able to share your professional successes (and failures) in a unique and memorable way.
You’ll expand your realm of influence. When you tell imaginative stories, you can make your audience think and feel in a way they hadn’t before. When told the right way, stories are “sticky.” When the opportunity presents itself, tell a tale that is captivating, funny and compelling. If your story is memorable, your audience will remember you and your ideas.
Jacqueline Whitmore is an etiquette expert and founder of the Protocol School of Palm Beach in Palm Beach, Fla. She is the author of Poised for Success: Mastering the Four Qualities That Distinguish Outstanding Professionals (St. Martin's Press, 2011) and Business Class: Etiquette Essentials for Success at Work (St. Martin's Press, 2005).