Connect and Captivate: 4 Keys to Effective Storytelling in the Business World

January 13, 2015

Recently, we wrote a blog post called Robots & Resonating Messages: 3 Ways to Survive the Robot Revolution by Using Effective Communication Strategy.

Shortly after we shared the ways you can stay importantly human in a robot-run society, we stumbled upon this article from the NY Times written by Alina Tugend.

To put it simply… this article reaffirmed our convictions in the communication arena and then some. In it, Tugend speaks about the huge investments (of both money and time) that everyone from Fortune 500’s to startups and non-profits are funneling into one thing that can make or break their organization.

HINT: it has nothing to do with data or numbers or the financial nitty-gritty you’d expect.

It’s storytelling.

At SquarePlanet, storytelling runs through our veins. From branding to event planning—everything we do starts with a story. Here’s a few tips about storytelling in the business world that you can use to tell your company’s tale.

1. Know Your Audience

Any good storyteller must be able to put his or herself in the shoes of their audience. Who exactly are you talking to? What are their thoughts and concerns? What goals do they have and what would resonate well with them? Why ask so many rhetorical questions before getting to the point?

It’s easy to be selfish. It’s easy to say what you’re most comfortable saying because it’s what you know. Too often people forget that it’s not a mirror on the other end of these messages, though. It’s an actual person. And usually a different one depending on the circumstances.

Craft your story with your audience’s perspective in mind and you’ll avoid telling the same one you’ve always told.

2. Know Your Why

It’s usually easy to explain what it is you do, or even how you do it. But do you ever stop to consider why it is you do what you do? What your purpose as an organization is? The “why” is often what holds the key to impactful storytelling in the business world.

Don’t just tell us you sell top hats, tell us you believe no outfit should go without one. Be bold. If you can go out on a limb and identify what it is that you believe, you’ll be able to craft engaging stories based around provocative ideas that people actually want to hear about.

[bctt tweet=”People don’t respond to data points like they do to stories. #EffectiveStorytelling”]

People don’t want to hear about year you were founded. They simply don’t care. People don’t respond to data points like they do to stories.

3. Relate to Your Audience on a Human Level

No matter what your product or service is, no matter what it is you’re trying to get across, every audience has one thing on common: They’re human. Treat them as such. When your message strategy does nothing but bombard them with graphs and figures, you’re throwing away a golden opportunity to connect in a fundamental human way.

Cut clutter and boil your message down to what matters most. Then, explore that idea and apply it to real-world concepts that everyone can understand.

Say, for example, you work for a financial advisory firm looking to highlight the experience and leadership of your advisory team. Rather than leading with, “Our team of advisors has helped many clients through tough times and will ensure that your fiduciary needs are being met through our variety of financial services.”

Bored yet? I am. Instead, paint a picture that your audience can immediately relate to.

Try saying, “Imagine you’re on an airplane when the captain comes over the loud speaker and announces ‘We’re heading into some turbulence. I’ve never done this before and I’m quite terrified so wish me luck!’… Not exactly the words of encouragement you’d be looking for. Well at Orange Walls Financial Services, don’t fret because we’ve been here before and we’ll guide you safely home.”

By illustrating these concepts through metaphors and anecdotes, you can tell compelling stories that leave absolutely no doubt in your audience’s mind about what your message is.

4. Be Authentic

People tend to have finely tuned phony-detectors these days. Whether it’s in music, fashion, or in a story from a friend, there’s something very off putting about someone being dishonest about how they represent themselves.

Storytelling in the business world works the same way. It’s only an effective way to communicate if you actually mean what you’re saying. Don’t pretend to be anything besides 100% you. Even if you ruffle some feathers, if your stories come from a place of honesty and transparency you can win over your audience.

Learn more about Authentic Presentations.

The Bottom Line

The important thing to remember is that while telling great stories might not come naturally to everyone, having the ability to connect with them does. An attraction to provocative and engaging stories is in our DNA. We’re hard wired to love stories and hard pressed to ignore a good one.

So – what are you doing to capitalize on it? When it comes to the revolutionizing the way your organization communicates, storytelling is not a bonus feature you tack on to your new car. It’s not the crappy opening act you have to sit through before the headliner takes the stage.

Storytelling in the business world is not an option, not a side dish. It’s who you are. It’s the car’s engine. It is the headliner. The stories you tell should be so engrained in your company’s brand that you simply cannot separate the two. Start telling yours today.

Well don’t hog all this article’s awesomeness yourself – share it with your friends. Or your family. Or – why stop there – the world! Muah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah!! And if you you’re the type of person who can’t tell a knock-knock joke without giving away the punchline and could use some help telling your story – drop us a line today.

[x_author title=”Who Wrote This Masterpiece?”]


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