3 Keys to Successful Business StoryTelling

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In our last article, we talked about why stories? Specifically how stories convey emotion. Stories are therefore very useful to persuade and move people to action. Facts alone will not work. Click here to read this

Lets’ now turn our attention to what kind of stories should we be telling in business? Or what makes a business story effective?

Here are 3 keys to successful storytelling that will change behavior + inspire your audience to action:

1. Length + Complexity– Keep your business stories short + simple

When we think of stories it is tempting to think about movies.  The good news is that business people don’t need to be screenwriters. There is no need for elaborately crafted stories with scene design, plot twists, character development etc. Focus on telling stories that are short and simple.  

Business story expert Shawn Callahan, supports this view in his book titled “Putting Stories to Work .” In it, he talks about the storytelling spectrum. Little “s” and big “s” storytelling. Little S stories include anecdotes, examples + recounts. Big S stories are best left for the experts at Hollywood;

2. Business Purpose/Point- A business story needs to have a point

Stories are not an opinion. There should be a reason why you are telling a story. There needs to be a business point. After telling your story, the listener should be clear and able to answer this question: What is the point of this story?

Let’s now look at an example. This took place at Mars (the confectionary/candy company).

The background to this story is that internally the company was having some issues with staff stepping up to the plate and taking action.
The background to this story is that internally the company was having some issues with staff stepping up to the plate and taking action.
Mid-way through a meeting with all the company top executives present, it became clear that people were getting get distracted and frustrated because the light in the room kept flickering on and off.
This annoyance carried on for several minutes until John Franklyn Mars (the CEO at the time) stood up mid conversation and abruptly left the room. Where has he gone? How can he leave such an important meeting?.. many people in the room thought.
As senior executives in the room began to put their jackets on to leave,Mr Mars suddenly reappeared.  He entered the room carrying a ladder and a replacement light bulb. He then climbed the ladder and changed the light bulb and continued speaking as if nothing had ever happened.
What’s the business purpose? Answer: The importance of taking action. We can all take action.

3. Emotion –A great story needs to touch one of the 7 “universal” emotions

We remember what we feel. Here is a good quote to remember:

                "A good story helps you see. A great story will help you FEEL"

Here are some of the emotions that a story can draw upon; love, joy, anger, surprise, sadness, fear, hope, and finally contempt.

Which of the above emotions does the John Mars story tap into?   

Answer should be surprise. No-one in that executive meeting or the listener to the story would expect the CEO of a major company to go and get a ladder and change a faulty light bulb.

In summary, a good business story should be short, have a point/business purpose and build an emotional connection with your audience.

Congratulations to Johnny, Joe, Elmer, JianWei & Gregg who won free access to our online business storytelling mini-program. 

In our next article, we will look at how to structure a business story. Plus there will be 5 more opportunities to get FREE access to our business storytelling mini online program. See below for more information. Don’t miss it!