Though I do not have any context for the statement it did spark my thinking about the value of good content versus good storytelling. I believe that no matter how good your content if you do not communicate it well then what does the content matter. It seems to me to be a bit like the chicken and the egg and which came first riddle. I rather suspect that in business the content is developed first and then incorporated in the story that will best communicate it to a particular office.
Truth is, we have been telling stories since the beginning of time. In fact we began to be enamored with stories and telling stories since the day we were born. Who doesn't remember the little jingle, "Tel me a story, tell be a story so I can go to sleep." I always wondered if that meant tell me a story to "put" me to sleep or a lament to the fact that without a story being told I cannot go to sleep. I suppose both have been true at one time or another . . . but I digress.
We have all sat through workshops, seminars, webinars, general sessions where we found ourselves counting the holes in the acoustical tiles on the ceiling or fighting off sleep. It is a laborious thing to try and absorb even the best information if it is not communicated well. So good story telling just that telling your story, whatever it is, well. This applies to your 30 second elevator speech, to small group presentations and large gathered audiences.
Ever heard it said of someone, "He could sell a used car to a used car salesman?" That is just another way of saying they tell their story well. Not everyone is a "Natural" when it comes to telling their story but anyone can learn to tell their story well.
So what does storytelling have to do with your business? Everything! If you can’t properly convey a story then your products are not going to appeal to your audience. Story telling is perhaps the most powerful elements in good communication. After all, even Jesus spoke to his disciples in parables (a kind of story telling). You must sell your vision or product and to do that it must be presented in a way that someone who has no idea what that vision or product is will come to embrace it.
So, the question is not whether to use storytelling as a sales tool but what kind of story are you going to use. I hope a good one. However, I have been around long enough to know that very few people know how to tell a good story . . . . An effective story.
I have been digitizing sermons the I preached in the early years of my ministry. As I listened to these long forgotten sermons I thought, “Wow, did people actually listened to these or did they just endure or sleep through them. I told my wife, “You know I believe I am a much better preacher now than I was then.” She replied, "I know you are.”
I have been using storytelling for many years to communicate with my audiences and along the way I have learned through training and "trial and error" what makes for a good and effective story. For every story told well there are a dozen upon which it stands that were not so well told.
So, what makes a good story? What are the common elements of good storytelling? Here are a few things I believe you will find in every good presentation (story).
Simplicity also aides in memorability. Your overall message needs to be easily grasped in summary not details. I suggest that in telling your story you utilize what have been called the “5 C’s.” These 5 C’s will go a long way to helping you create a fascinating story that will hold your audience’s interest. They are: Circumstance (Set the scene for the story), Curiosity (create a hunger to hear more), Characters (Put people in your story), Conversation (have your characters speaking) and Conflict (No story is very compelling without conflict).
Second, appeal to the emotions of your audience. If you did not cry when in the movie “The Notebook” Noah and Allie die holding hands, I have one question, what’s wrong with you? Every good story involves the whole brain not just the cognitive side of the brain. Good stories always include the emotive side of the brain as well as the cognitive.Good storytelling requires an emotional component. Most of the memorable ones have humor, pain or joy (sometimes all three). You can do this by using the senses. Help your listener feel, hear, and tastes the sights and sounds of your story. Use what I call the Big Four: Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic, and Olfactory. With these four elements in your story, you’re likely to draw in and lock down your audience.
Third, be authentic and real . . . . insofar as you believe in what you're saying and are honest with yourself and your audience. This doesn’t mean that every element of your story has to your own experience but it does mean that when you use a created story or someone else’s experience you introduce that fact to your audience.
Another technique I like is to start my story in the middle of the story. Far too often storytellers/marketers give way too much detail up-front by putting everything in chronological order. They leave the exciting stuff to later only to find that their audience has gone to sleep and cannot be awakened. Don’t put the “AH-HA” moment so deep into your story that your audience gets synced into their Twitter or Facebook feeds. Worse yet, some may already be in the dreamland of their REM sleep.
If you are anything like me your attention span is about as long as an inch-worm. So, snap out of it and get your audience into your story by starting in the middle, where things are exciting and the story is much more interesting.”
The best stories are first-hand experiences that the storyteller actually witnessed. Even if it's a story that's passed on generationally, an effective one still has an element of how that story relates directly to the teller, told in the teller's own words. But be careful not to go into braggadocio mode. It is alright to mention your many accomplishment and successes but honestly not many people in your audience will relate. So minimize the bragging and instead talk about what you tried that didn’t work. As John Bates says, “People don’t connect with your successes, they connect with your messes,. . . . .Your message is in your mess.” Remember, as humans we relate to failures because we are all flawed.