Storytelling for business

This post is also available in: Spanish


Most business presentations fail to engage the audience. Why? One of the reasons is that they fail to tell a story. No, it is not necessary to be an entertainer or a comedian. You have maintain a professional approach. But, it doesn’t matter if you are a manager, a team leader or the CEO, you don´t ever have an excuse to be boring. Never.

The human brain learns with stories and people make decisions based on emotions (and use data to justify them). Why shouldn´t we use such a powerful tool for our business presentations? In their book Leadership Presence, Halpern y Lubar talk about the power of stories. During a presentation or a meeting, the audience easily forgets the facts and the figures, but they will remember the anecdotes and stories.

Which tips do they give?

  • Use personal stories about challenges, failure or success. Start creating a collection of those stories now so you can easily use them in the future.
  • Use a story as an illustration. For example how to overcome a difficult situation.
  • Tell stories as if it were happening now. “It is 1984. All managers of the office are together in a meeting. We have to make a decision about…”

If you start using stories, you can use the Story Spine of StoryNet to make sure your story has a clear structure.

  • Once upon a time … (the platform)
  • Every day …
  • But then one day … (the catalyst)
  • That’s why / Because of that …. (the consequences)
  • Until finally … (the climax)
  • Ever since then …
  • (the resolution)

  • (And the moral of the story is …)

Soon I will write about how to use the structure of a story for your entire presentation.

Want to know more? Read books like Resonate by Nancy Duarte or read the series of posts of Storytelling in the boardroom on the blog of Speaking PowerPoint

Some managers and directors tell me that this approach is interesting, but that it doesn’t apply to them as they have to present data. I believe storytelling and statistics are not mutually exclusive. Watch Hans Rosling in this clip below using data to tell us a clear story.

image: Felixco, Inc.

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