One of our clients asked us how to tell stories in a business context. Jesse gives a great answer about that…
“When we’re talking about stories in a business context, we’re not talking about fables or fairy tales.”
“It’s a matter of how we organize our content.”
“We tend to file our knowledge away in the form of stories.”
“The big benefit in using stories in the workplace is that it’s a natural way for people to learn.”
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Matt: I understand the power of stories. When I tell a story to my daughter at bedtime, she loves it, but I’m a banker at work, and if I go up in front of a bunch of other bankers, and I start out my presentation with a story like once upon a time in a land far far away, there was this beautiful princess and this brave knight riding around on a big horse, they’re going to think I’m crazy. Can I use stories in a business presentation context?
Jesse: Yeah, this is a great question, because when we talk about using stories in a business context, we’re not talking about fables or fairy tales. In fact, what we’re talking about usually is true stories, and they can be stories about things that people within the organization have experienced together. For instance, a challenging client, or a restructuring of the organization, or they could be stories about true experiences that we’ve had outside of the organization, but that we think our colleagues will benefit from. I think that’s a great question. It’s not necessarily fiction. In fact, most of the time we’ll be telling nonfiction stories, but it’s a matter of how we organize our content, and story telling is a very useful way for people to learn, because we tend to file most of our knowledge away in the form of stories.
We tell stories all day long to each other. Every incident that happens to us during the day. If it’s memorable, we make a story out of it, and usually the stories are short. A minute, a minute and a half, but that’s how we relate to other people. The big benefit in using stories in the workplace is that it’s a natural way for people to learn. It’s very natural for people to listen to a problem that you encountered, and to hear your resolution. That type of structuring of content will bring up thoughts in your audience. It will help them remember what you’re saying. It will give them something useful, because they’ll see how you’ve overcome the challenge.
Jesse had some more to say about using stories in a business context:
Other things he talked about:
- The credibility of being human
- What benefit am I going to get?
- Complication and resolution
- Progressive complications
- Presentations are not about informing
- Commitment and consistency
- Commitment must be physical and public
Jesse Scinto is a public speaking expert and lecturer in the Strategic Communications Department at Columbia University in New York.