Recently, a friend of mine told me about a conference she attended.
She admitted to being a little out of her depth among this particular group of professionals and industry leaders, as she was new to the industry.
Then she sat down to hear the first speaker on her list – and what happened next blew her away.
The presenter didn’t come onto the stage. Instead, a big screen appeared and an animated movie began to play. It had been especially created for that presentation. It was a story about a professional, like my friend, saving the world with her leadership skills.
Now, the person responsible for this presentation could have arranged their insights and tips into a list. They might have added some case studies or impressive data as evidence. But instead, they chose to tell a story. And the reaction they got to their presentation was more than every other presenter’s combined.
That is the power of business storytelling, which is the persuasive technique we’re going to discuss today.
And no, I’m not saying you need to make a movie every time you lead a meeting. There are many ways business storytelling can be employed to give your communications more impact – keep reading to learn more.
5 professional contexts for you to use persuasive techniques like business storytelling
1. Business presentations/conferences
A visual story, like Mike King’s movie, is just one way of using business storytelling at a conference. Consider the style of the majority of engaging TEDTalks you’ve ever seen; they generally begin with the presenter telling a story.
How about Brian Chesky’s speech launching Trips at Airbnb Open 2016? At about 3 minutes into the below video, he gets the audience’s immediate attention with a story about the first trip he ever took. Accompanied with a childhood photo on the big screen, the speaker not only makes himself relatable but his message memorable.
Team meetings are the ideal opportunity to engage and inspire your colleagues. Instead of jumping straight into instructions or following the usual agenda, which regular attendees will know back-to-front already, try introducing the theme of the meeting, a point of discussion, or future plan with one of the following types of story:
- A personal memory – something from your personal or professional life that illustrates a point
- An idea story – how the idea came about; you might call this the “a-ha moment”
3. One-on-one conversations
Never miss a chance to use a story to convey a message. This can be especially powerful in one-on-one meetings. Perhaps you’re mentoring a junior colleague, trying to persuade a potential customer or supplier, or attempting to get buy-in for your idea at a more senior level. Sharing a personal story within this context encourages the listener to place their trust in you because you have implicitly placed your trust in them. Alternatively, a “paint the picture” story, which allows the listener to visualise or imagine the outcome of what you’re suggesting, can be extremely useful.
4. Job interviews
In job interview scenarios, the benefits of storytelling should be pretty obvious. There is no better way to demonstrate to a potential employer your skills or experience than by sharing a story as evidence. If you’re preparing for a job interview at the moment, make a note of the key requirements for the role, then think of a time when you’ve been in a similar situation or exhibited the attribute in question.
Your stories don’t need to be long – in fact, it’s preferably that they’re not – but they should be structured in the format of a miniature case study:
- What was the challenge?
- What was the solution/what did you do?
- What was the result?
5. Formal review
Business professionals have to be interviewed from time to time as part of a formal review. You might think that the formality of the situation might mean persuasive techniques like storytelling are inappropriate. However, look at how Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos recently opened his testimony to Congress on antitrust Wednesday.
For managers and leaders wanting to make an impact in their professional life, don’t discount storytelling as a powerful influencing technique that can be applied in a multitude of situations.
I hope I’ve helped to bridge the gap between you and your understanding of where stories can be used to great effect in professional contexts, so you’ll feel more able to give business storytelling a try.
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