How To Use Storytelling In Presentations, In Business…[And In Marketing, Too]
In today’s article you’ll learn everything you need to know about how to use storytelling.
Everyone loves and listens to a good story! In this article we will explore the power of using stories and storytelling in presentations in addition to in our business. When we use these powerful tools, employees, clients and potential clients listen.
In the words of Annette Simmons, “We are about to reinvent the oldest means of influence in human history – telling a good story. Storytelling is not limited to fairy tales or traditional folklore. Telling a good story is like giving a mini-documentary about what you have seen so others can see it too.”
How to use storytelling:
Why should we use stories?
1. People listen to stories, internalize them, remember them, and think about them.
Stories pull rather than push.
2. They cause listeners to remember and share their own stories.
3. They aid rapport – when we know someone’s story, we can’t help but like them and empathize with them.
4. Stories, when engaging, help our listeners remember the story, and, in turn, the points and/or points we make when telling the story.
5. Stories offer a great way to explain policies and rules, provide examples of outstanding accomplishments, and share information.
6. Storytelling is the most valuable skill you can develop to help you influence others – and, isn’t that what we all want to do when we give presentations?
When should we use stories?
1. I suggest working on and crafting a strong “Signature Story” to use when opening and/or closing your presentation. It’s yours and unique to you (like your personal signature). It may be a personal story about something you experienced, or it may be a story that makes an important point related to your topic.
Note: If it’s a story from your life and experiences, my warning is your listeners would rather hear stories about you as a “bug” than a windshield. No one wants to hear “how lovely” you are.
2. An effective way to hold an audience’s attention is, when introduced, stand calmly in front of them, and, once everyone is quiet and attentive, begin with your compelling story.
3. Of course, as a storyteller, I prefer to have several stories ready for all my presentations. Then, if and when I notice that my audience is starting to lose energy or focus, I’ll say, “Let me tell you a story.” Everyone immediately benefited. This is especially useful when you’re presenting after a long morning of presentations and/or a hearty lunch.
4. I also prefer to use strong – and often emotional – stories for people close to me. Remember, that you want your listeners to leave with strong feelings for you and your topic. If you can move them at this stage, they will.
5. I know that until recently I wrote mainly about using stories when speaking in front of groups. Let me give you a few other ways to use the power of storytelling:
All of the same reasons for using stories in presentations apply to your marketing efforts. Once you have studied, prepared, and practiced storytelling, you will find that all of your marketing materials will benefit from sharing stories. People are just as compelled to read a good story as they are to hear one.
Having been the newspaper’s editor for nine years, I have received and been turned off by the supposedly “tried and true” press releases sent to the paper. However, if I’m sent an amazing story a few person or company, I’m happy to use it. To be written in an article brings more interest and credibility than an expensive full page ad.
When we meet people on Networking shows, we are generally asked, “What are you doing?” If we answer with a label (“I’m a consultant, lawyer, website designer, etc.) the reaction is blah. However, if we put our answer into story form, “I help a struggling small business owner establish a professional presence on the Internet,” our asker would be interested to hear your story about how you did it.
Even if you don’t feel like you are a writer, you can write articles for business publications that revolve around true stories. Having your name and byline in a print article – or today, on the Internet – will not only give you great exposure, but will help establish yourself as an expert in the field.
Using stories when selling your products and/or services is a very powerful skill and technique. Your potential clients/customers want to hear all about the problems you are solving and the solutions they will come up with. What better way than to tell them the story of how you or your company solved other people’s problems.
This is actually, or should be, a story. You can use it in every situation we’ve discussed. Told or written as powerful stories, they will easily sell and/or captivate and influence your readers and audience.
Every great copywriter I’ve studied, listened to, and studied uses the power of story in their copy. They use stories in advertising, in direct mail marketing, in newsletters, on websites, in Internet sales letters, for direct response copy, in the books and e-books they write – the opportunities are endless!
What types of stories can or should I tell?
1. In her groundbreaking book, The Story Factor, inspiration, influence, and persuasion through the art of storytelling, Annette Simmons (1) suggest using the following six types of stories that will serve you well:
The “Who Am I” story. – If your story is good enough, people – of their own free will – come to the conclusion that they can trust you and the message you bring.
The story “Why Am I Here”. – Before you tell someone what’s in it for them, tell them what’s in it for you. If people feel that you are hiding this, their trust will suffer.
The story of “Vision”. – Once listeners are comfortable with who you are and why you are here, they have to “see” and “feel” what it means to them. Vision takes courage. We need stories of vision to give meaning to our work and life.
The story “Teaching”. – Helps understand new skills in a meaningful way. Never teach a skill that doesn’t have a “why”. Tell a story so that the skill you are teaching will also teach people to think about why and how they might use the new skill.
The story “Value in Action”. – Without a doubt, the best way to teach a value is “by example”. The second best way is to tell a story that provides an example. Value is nothing without stories to bring it to life and engage us on a personal level.
“I Know What You’re Thinking” Stories. – When you tell a story that makes people wonder if you read their minds, they love it.
2. Personal story:
Personal stories can be true stories about you or someone in your family. Humor and/or drama goes a long way, so it’s okay to embellish – but, in moderation. I’m part of the story (2) where we recently had an active discussion about storytellers composing first-person stories or telling other people’s stories as if they were their own.
The sad part is if listeners find out that it’s not true for you at all, they will lose faith in you. So my advice is if you’re going to write an autobiography, make sure it actually happened to you.
3. Traditional Fairy Tales:
There are so many great stories – now available to the public – that you can turn to. Customize them to fit your presentation or use them as is. One of my favorite examples is a story I created and told based on the Pied Piper of Hamlin and about a city overrun with cockroaches. It is always well received.
I also tell a Sufi story about a young woman who faces three major crises – each learning a new profession. Perfect fit for me with my “Career Portfolio” (lots of different careers at the same time). Use your imagination! I think you’ll find lots of great stories to read and use when you start investigating.
4. Stories to avoid:
If you’ve ever attended anyone else’s presentations, seminars, and or conventions, then you’ve heard many old, tired stories told over and over again. Don’t fall into this trap, as it will surely rob you of your credibility.
We’ve all heard the story of Thomas Edison and Coronal Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken ad nauseum. And, then there’s the story of the lighthouse and the difference between heaven and hell (people eat at large banquets with very long forks).
How do I get ideas for my personal story?
To provoke memories of stories and incidents, ask questions such as:
What was your earliest happy experience, your earliest sad or shocking experience, your first day at school; or the first day you remember at school? Who influences you: teachers, parents, relatives, colleagues, friends, etc.?
What vivid memories do you have of your first boss, your “scapegoat” relative, a companion through difficult trials? What places hold vivid memories: where did you live as a child, as an adult, where did you learn lessons you never forgot, where did important events or changes in your life take place?
What happens at different stages of life: first loves, young adults, children and parents? How has your community grown, changed, or stayed the same?
How do you create and tell an effective story?
1. What’s the point? What’s the theme? What do I care?
2. Where and when does the story take place? Get into it and get your audience into it. Use all senses.
3. Who is the main character (an interesting person or animal)?
4. What does the main character really want? What’s the point?
5. What hinders the main character (must have a level of danger or risk)?
6. What is the crisis?
Donald Davis, master of professional storytelling, describes a crisis as “any event or events that take the part of the world we became comfy with and turn it upside down.”
7. Note: the look – the description and sequence of images, a scene – and what you feel is not a story.
Explore: What is it about? What does it mean? What does it add? Where is the wisdom? Where is the contradiction? We find meaning not in what happened, but in the stories we tell ourselves about what happened. The hardest job is to think clearly.
8. What decision does the main character make?
9. What is the result or result?
10. Does the story support this point?
11. How long does it take to tell the story?
Features of an effective storytelling:
In short, Authenticity, Thoughtful Pauses, Imagery, Suspense, Characterization and Lots of Practice, Practice, Practice (on tape, for friends, family and anyone who will listen!).
Other techniques of good fiction and good storytelling to use:
- Identification – the audience needs to identify with you, a trusted and observing narrator.
- Character – Clearly drawn so the audience can care about them.
- Conflict – Gotta get in trouble or we will not be involved.
- Imagination / Humor – you need to give us a break from R&Ms (relevant and significant)
- Structure – plot, repetition of metaphor/implied meaning through parallel events.
- Tension – let’s wonder, let’s squirm.
- Contradiction – where is it yes and no. embrace the paradox.
- Language – entrance. Stay straight.
1. Is my story visual?
2. Are my feelings in the story?
3. Is the story told from a consistently believable perspective – perhaps a child’s? Do I use first person and present tense?
4. Do the details make the story clearer and more interesting?
5. Does the dialogue help tell the story and make the characters more interesting? Does the dialogue convey a sense of connection between the characters?
6. Have I saved one well-focused incident at a time (or several well-focused incidents if I’m about an interesting character)?
7. Are the qualities of character apparent?
8. Have I set the stage well and provided the backdrop if necessary?
9. Have I explored my deepest feelings for the reality of the story?
10. Have I improvised facts where my memory needs help? Especially in adding dialogue?
11. Do I have a story to tell? Have I started the story in the right place? Is the climax extended enough?
12. Are my own emotions the subject of any part of the story?
Thanks for reading this article on how to use storytelling and I actually hope you take action on my suggestions.
I wish you good luck and that I hope that its content has been a good help to you.