Jesse demonstrates how to tell a story about a corporate restructuring.
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Matt: … But instead, let’s do an example of a story about a restructuring. How could you tell a story about that?
Jesse: First of all, a lot of times, people are reluctant to include negative information in a presentation. In other words, if your organization had a restructuring at the beginning of the year and then by the end of the year, that restructuring was successful and now you’re making profits again, people feel reluctant to talk about the past and what happened and to just focus on the positive things. Profits are way up. Everyone should be happy. When you do that, it’s like there’s an elephant in the room. Everyone in the organization knows that this restructuring happened.
All change has an emotional component to it and if you avoid the emotional component, if you avoid the negative parts of the story, then you leave people with the sense that you’ve left something out. It actually ends up hurting your credibility because everyone knows that these challenging things happened in the workplace. If you try to gloss over it and pretend that it didn’t happen, then you don’t seem honest to people that you’re speaking with.
What we’re talking about in terms of storytelling would be a presentation that acknowledges the tough times that happened earlier in the year. Yes, we lost a client. We were forced to restructure. We had to let 20 percent of our staff go. That restructuring was ultimately successful. We came out of that leaner and more capable of servicing the clients that we have. And because of that, our profits are way up.
You can still include your data or your statistics about how the business is doing, but you also include the story about what you’ve gone through together as an organization. It’s an opportunity not only to acknowledge the feelings of the audience and to show yourself as a human being, but it’s also an opportunity to let the audience understand what you’ve learned and how you learned it. What did you learn from this restructuring? There should be some lessons in there. It should have served a purpose. If your profits are up at the end of the year, that means that you definitely did learn something and did something right in that restructuring. Give people context. That context goes a long way.
Jesse Scinto is a public speaking expert and lecturer in the Strategic Communications Department at Columbia University in New York.