Storytelling at Work (Part 2)


storytellling part 2

As humans, it is the use of story that defines us…

It’s not simply our ability to communicate. Many mammals can communicate with one another (dolphins, elephants, etc.). It’s our ability to communicate in story form that drives our species forward, learning from experiences, passions, challenges, and so on.

Last week I shared a few formulas for telling great stories. This week, a quick look at how to bring storytelling into the board room. Here are the three most important details from my perspective.

  1. The primary relationship is with your audience, not your character. Keep in mind who is reading or listening to your story. Put yourself in their shoes for a moment. What’s important to them? What do they care about? This is who your are writing your story for. Yes, the character is important, but if the character(s) in the story don’t connect emotionally with the listener, all is lost.
  2. Stick to the important details, and be concise. This is the hardest for me. Too often we try to include too many details. Too much data. Too many stories within stories. Some are important, and some are not. This is the hard work. Write and re-write. Remember rule #1 above. Cut as much as possible, perhaps even some parts that you believe are most important. Practice, rehearse, and cut some more. Now your ready.
  3. Be visual: We believe what we see. It’s true. We believe what we see, whether it’s an illuminating picture of the consumer or a bar chart illuminating a single consumer’s story to the masses. Don’t rely on slides to do the talking by writing the story in bullet form. Find the right pictures, or better yet, take great pictures during your research. Spend time enhancing your charts and graphs. And, if you really want to go for it, find a way to be visual outside of PPT. Dress the part. Go on a field trip. Bring in artifacts about the consumer, the project, etc.


Here are a few other very important lessons from several great business leaders:

Walt Disney transcends age groups with his knack for creating experiences that completely immerse people in his stories. He focused on the details and understanding how they contribute to the full picture that the audience would take in.
Lesson: Use details to create an immersive experience; but be cautious that these details don’t distract from the complete story.

Richard Branson never shies away from a conversation and is willing to share the little remarkable moments of his life, even the moments that are not the most polished. There is a since of openness and honesty that reinforces the realness of these stories.
Lesson: Flaws make stories relatable. Don’t hide these details. Embrace them.

charity: water has excelled their mission through storytelling. Particularly in telling detailed and immersive stories of individuals. Video is an important medium for them, and they are careful about hitting an emotional chord while keeping the stories uplifting.
Lesson: Sometimes one person’s story can give voice to many.