After a business meeting, which are you more likely to remember – a relevant story or anecdote, or a good PowerPoint slide?
The answer should be self-evident, as a recent Wall Street Journal article suggests: “Even with digital and social-media tools, employees often struggle to convey ideas to each other, to managers and to customers. That’s why companies such as FedEx, Kimberly-Clark and Microsoft are teaching executives to tell relatable stories as a way to improve workplace communication. It’s a tool that’s more useful than PowerPoint presentations, say career experts…”
Storytelling as an art may be as old as Mankind, but it continues to evolve as a skill even as technology advances beyond PowerPoint to electronic interactivity. As Jonathan Gottschall, author of“The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make us Human” notes in Fast Company, “There’s an ancient grammar to ‘story’ that opens our mental locks, and gives us the joy of story. A tablet computer is a bit like the clay tablet from 3000 BC or the printing press from 1450 — a technology that is radically changing how we consume stories, without changing the fundamental elements of the stories themselves.”
To be effective in a business setting, those “fundamental elements” require work and practice:
- Storytelling should be focused on the specific target audience. Many stories can be adapted and targeted to reach multiple audiences.
- Message Development, aka Story-Mining, requires a disciplined process that starts with a strong data or factual base and is supported by business-relevant anecdotes, examples and “visual” proofs that stick.
- Once you develop the story, learn how to tell it in an authentic, personal manner for both in person presentation and digital and social media engagement.