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There’s an old saying that those who tell the stories rule the world. Storytelling should be at the core of everything you do as a team, whether you’re making a pitch to an investor, leading a meeting, or presenting a new initiative. As a matter of fact, even a phone call with a prospective client involves storytelling.
Harnessing the power of stories enables you to connect with customers, engage with peers, and even start a movement.
As the founder of The Body Shop, a cosmetics company based on ethical consumerism, Roddick was one of the first CEOs to prohibit testing on animals and promote fair trade. Roddick understands the power of storytelling when it comes to starting a movement. In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, she shared, “One of the most intriguing things in management and in business is the role of storytelling – people need the anecdotes to do the work they do.” Roddick’s storytelling has often been described as a Trojan Horse, the ability to share ideas so subtle that they slip under the radar and have a powerful impact from the inside out.
He was not your typical CEO. At Apple, Jobs was responsible for more than just operations or product development. He was Apple’s chief evangelist and storyteller. Jobs is known for his electrifying speeches during Apple’s product launches and shareholder meetings. In his 2007 keynote, Steve announced that Apple was about to launch a wide-screen iPod, a phone, and an internet communication device. Then he surprised everyone that this was an all-in-one device, the iPhone. “Today, Apple is going to reinvent the phone,” Jobs said with a wide smile during the unveiling of the first generation iPhone.
A master storyteller, Disney was the creator of dreams and magical worlds. He not only wrote stories and drew cartoons, but he built entire worlds of imagination for people to live in, from Mickey Mouse as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice to Jiminy Cricket in Pinnochio. When Disneyland debuted, he said that it “will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.” By his death in 1966, more than 240 million people had seen his movies. Today, Disney still has a lasting impact on artists, creators, and innovators across the world.
People often say that it hurts less to learn a lesson from observation than experience. When we tell and embrace stories of our setbacks, we help others get through their own difficulties.
One thing that story can do that plain prose can’t is its ability to imbue an idea with meaning and emotions. People draw to stories because they can grasp onto something that’s tangible. Stories evoke emotions and inspire people to take action.
There’s a reason why there are so many founding stories about the early days of startups. Stories like Google’s founders starting the search engine giant inside a garage or Netflix’s founders starting the streaming platform to avoid late rental fees.
There’s a difference between a leader who share stories to inspire and a boss who tells stories to intimidate and coerce. Stories can be used to get buy-in, but a good leader would never use it to indoctrinate.
Dictators have used stories in the past to sell ideologies of fear and deceit. Stories can influence and inspire, but we shouldn’t use them to manipulate.
Stories have great power, but that doesn’t mean that those stories should be used to confine people into thinking that there’s one correct way to do everything.
The most effective presentations not only have a conflict and a climax but end with a positive resolution. On the path to triumph, most characters in these stories experience an ”aha moment” which is a key piece of wisdom or realization that helped them overcome their obstacles and change for the better.
Past stories of struggles, failures and overcoming barriers the storyteller has experienced are excellent sources that help the teller connect with the audience as everyone has experienced these in life. This will compel the teller to appear more human, more like one of them.
Complicated stories aren’t necessarily better. “Less is more” is a basic rule of good storytelling. Avoid the complex, details as well as the use of adjectives and complicated nouns. Using plain language is the best way to ensure people hear your message. Remember that you are not trying to impress, but to share an experience.
The audience must be able to relate to the story. Talking about a yacht would not be a good way for the CEO of an organization to connect with their employees. This would likely have the opposite effect and distance his audience from him or her. Telling a heartfelt story about going fishing with your family would be much more effective.
A hook is the part of your speech that compels an audience to sit up and pay attention. It should come at the beginning of your talk, where it can have the biggest impact. Audiences have a lot on their minds. Let them know right away that you’re going to be interesting.
How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice. Storytelling is a “real art form” that requires repeated effort to get right. Practice with friends, loved ones, and trusted colleagues to hone your message into an effective story.