June 23, 2016

Getting out of Your Comfort Zone with Storytelling

We’ve come from a line of legendary storytellers dating back to our ancestors sitting around the fire crafting stories about star constellations and telling myths about the setting sun or the meaning of life. The best stories were packaged so well that hundreds of illiterate generations could retell them. Today, stories are still the most powerful tool for transferring information, more than any other form of art.

Stories Give Meaning

We love stories that take us out of our daily routine and let us vicariously live through a dangerous voyage that tells of a hero struggling to overcome some kind of obstacle – more similar to our personal struggles than we realize. Humans are programmed to collect meaning, observe and learn from others around. When we listen to stories, our brain automatically links our existing experience with the experiences and hardships of others. When our hero succeeds it excites us and encourages us also to keep fighting, propelling us to the forefront of our personal battle with new found hope and determination.

The Challenge of a Good Story

Consciously, we may know the influence stories can spark, but actually using this powerful tool is often the challenge. Perhaps like most professionals, you feel unnatural to use stories to appeal to the audience, because after all, it’s a business presentation, right? Yet, aren’t most of our experiences and findings linked to some sort of story, occasion or instance? Why can’t our business statistics be illustrated by a story? Do you remember all the statistics and numbers of last quarter? What if you knew a story of how the manager struggled to get the team there? Stories not only give meaning, but they also stay in mind and act as emotional glue for the audience.

Sharing may be difficult because it puts us in a vulnerable situation, especially sharing with people that we don’t know. Telling a personal story can be the hardest thing to do because of conflicts or complications that could potentially reveal our not-so-perfect self. However, it is this exact story that can be the most powerful and heartfelt to influence people’s decisions and leave a lasting impression. People admire a leader who struggles and then succeeds in overcoming some kind of battle or personal conflict. It makes the leader more human and relates them more to our conflicts and reality.

Pure information is static, but stories bind hearts together. Your ideas will be a lot easier to grasp and much more likely to be shared. If you dare to get out of your comfort zone, you might just be surprised at the impact your presentation can make.

How do you tell a story in a business setting?  How do you make a connection with your report and statistics that lasts? Coming up: Stories Bridging Data and Meaning

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