Creative writer Robert McKee once said, “If you can harness imagination and the principles of a well-told story, then you get people rising to their feet amid thunderous applause instead of yawning and ignoring you.”
Storytelling has more to it than mothers reading fairy tales to their children, in hopes of widening their imagination. It’s also a great way for businesses to make a connection with their customers on a deeper level. But before we get into that, first, let’s understand what’s a story and how can business executives learn to tell great ones.
What’s a Story?
McKee explains a story as a way of expressing how and why life changes. At first, there’s the state of balance: everything is how it’s supposed to be. You go to work, have club sandwich for lunch, then get back home: and the cycle goes on and on. At that point in the story, you expect for everything to stay the same, except maybe eat beef and rice from time to time.
But in all great stories there come the opposing forces, with which the character in the story needs to fight. So, an event occurs: in screenwriting they call it the “inciting incident.” And that event causes imbalance. Maybe you lose your job, have your heartbroken, etc. And then the story goes on to show what the character does in order to restore the lost balance.
Learn to Tell Stories
Did you know, that humans naturally want to work through stories? Cognitive psychologists explain how the human mind gathers little pieces of experiences into a story, in an attempt to understand and remember. Americans consume over 100,000 digital words every day and 92% of them say they want brands to tell stories. If you really think about it, it’s easy to forget lists and bullet points. But when you create a story from all of those, it sticks to your mind like the chorus of your favorite song.
With that in mind, Vasiliy Makritskiy, CEO of Docs.Zone said, “Stop boring everyone with just numbers. Everyone has stats they want to share. Just get a little creative in how you share them.” As a businessman, you have to understand your company’s past and at the same time, project its future. And what’s the easiest way of imagining the future? You’ve guessed it: with a story. So if you communicate with your customers through stories, your products and services will appeal to them, because, as John Bates, CEO of Executive Speaking Success & Business Coaching, says, “Our brains value stories over anything else.”
But you can not stop every single passer-by and start telling the most exciting story you've just came up, right? So your company website can be the perfect place to share your message. You can tell stories through different forms of content: blog posts, ebooks, your “about us” page and more. With the right story your readers will turn to leads, then into customers and at the end, into loyal customers. And isn’t that your end point? So now, if you want to tell great stories to your audience, there are a couple of things you’ll need to keep in mind.
Talk About Failure
I’m sure everyone has been in one of those weddings, where groom’s uncle spills his success story in the most detailed form on everyone’s head. And the toast becomes so unbearable that you'd rather not taste the cake, just to get rid of that voice in your head. That’s a really good example of a bad storytelling: he lost his audience in the first 3 seconds.
First and foremost, when telling stories, keep in mind to stop bragging: no one is really interested in your success. What people are interested in is the story of your failure: that’s when they can relate themselves to you. As humans we are more inclined to believe in others’ failures because, to be honest, we are all flawed. And as Bates said, “People don’t connect with your successes, they connect with your messes. Your message is in your mess.”
Play with Emotions
It’s no secret that certain emotions enhance consumer loyalty. And every relationship between two people contains some form of emotion: weather it’s hatred between you and that tall girl from high school, or love between you and the grandpa working at the kiosk on the corner of your street. If you can spark the emotional side of your audience’s brain, you can connect with them on a deeper level. And after that, it doesn’t matter what you’ll talk about: they’ll be hooked. Moreover, Bates states, “none of the facts and figures matter until you have some sort of emotional connection.”
Senses Do More than You Think
Every day after work I call my mom and ask her about what she cooked today. And she, knowing me better than anyone, how picky I am with my food, explains to me how the broccoli, melted with the cheese, are wrapped around the chicken breast I love so much. Then she tells me about the creamy smell they’ve created, that is dancing in the kitchen air. And I’m sold: it does not matter that I don’t like broccoli. And she’s a good storyteller. You know why? Not only she knows her audience well enough, but she appeals to my senses through her story. And I, her audience, engage immediately.
Start from the Middle
“Life happens in chronological order – that’s boring!” says Bates. “Start in the middle, where things are exciting. It’s much more interesting.” And it’s true. People start their stories from the very beginning and lose the attention of their audience as fast as a lighting. So next time you’re telling a story, put yourself in other’s shoes and think if they would want to hear the whole story. Storytelling is a powerful tool to use in the business world. Whether you are the CEO of a big company and want to motivate your employees or a marketer who’s advertising a handbag, great stories will do your job.
And when you think storytelling is not for you, remember author Robin Moore’s words: “Inside each of us is a natural-born storyteller, waiting to be released.” So what’s your story?