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Storytelling in Business: The Power to Persuade PDF Print E-mail
Blog - Personal Branding
Written by Karl Smith   
Monday, 11 June 2012 00:00

Nothing succeeds like success! And in business nothing succeeds quite like success stories.

Are you sharing yours?   Why not?   If you want to win the hearts and minds of your audience, you must be a master storyteller. Human beings have been communicating with each other through storytelling since we lived in caves and sat around campfires exchanging tales.

What is new today about the art of telling stories is the purposeful use of narrative to achieve a practical outcome with an individual, a community or an organisation. Unfortunately, storytelling has become a lost art in many businesses.

Why storytelling? 

Storytelling works. The simple reason why storytelling is becoming a major factor in networking, sales, management and leadership is that it works. Purposeful storytelling can get results that traditional abstract modes of communications can’t. Stories work for several reasons. For starters they're more memorable than numbers, names and dates.

Stories also work well because we enjoy the drama: a problem followed by a solution, a mystery solved with a twist, or a creative workaround to a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. Also, the listener can find him or herself in the story as well. As communication tools, stories provide a means for understanding, remembering and acting on information.

Most importantly, stories also put a “face” to the “numbers”. That is, stories have the ability to bring to life accomplishments that go well beyond hard numbers, data and statistics. Success stories can be told in many ways – there is no “right” or “wrong” way to tell a story, because every story is unique to the community and circumstances from which it derives.

Because stories are so memorable, they're easy for listeners to recount in the future. So, if you arm your audience with a good story, they'll be able to communicate the details of your business more clearly. This is especially important in today’s world. Potential investors and customers will need to recount the information you shared with them to their partners and colleagues, so it's crucial that the information you share is retold accurately.

Help people remember your message longer. People process stories in three ways — factually, visually and emotionally. If you want to win the hearts and minds of your audience members, you must be a master storyteller. Stories can help you:
  • Get and keep attention. It’s no secret that our audiences suffer from information overload. In this environment, communicators must cut through the clutter to grab our audience’s attention. The best way to do that is through storytelling.
  • Bring your mission, vision and values to life. These are arguably some of an organization’s most important messages. Yet in most companies, they’re relegated to laminated cards in employees’ wallets or to the back of the annual report — in six-point type. But storytelling can bring these defining statements to life. In fact, there is no other way to adequately communicate these big-picture elements.
  • Enhance credibility. People who are cynical about statistics — and who isn’t these days? — find stories credible. It’s the Peer Principle of Persuasion: Our audience members believe that if it worked for someone else, it will work for them.

Success stories offer a setting, a situation and a solution. Remember, you're the hero of your stories. Your decisions, actions and insights made a difference and it's OK to say so. Effective stories are always vivid, and they always create visual images in the mind of your audience.

Here are a few guidelines that can help you tell a powerful story:

  • Know your story – the big picture accomplishment
  • Know the specific information you want to share (e.g., who, what, when, where, why it is important, and how)
  • Know your audience
  • Know how to tailor your story to the audience so that it matters to them

Purposeful storytelling can get results in the modern business organisations that traditional abstract modes of communications can’t. Another commentator, Robert McKee concurs with this view in highlighting that: "A big part of a CEO's job is to motivate people to reach certain goals. To do that, he or she must engage their emotions, and the key to their hearts is story".

Though we all tell stories all the time, we are often unaware of it. Watch how others tell their stories. When did they tell their story? Who was around? How well did people react to the story? Once we realize what we are doing, we can all learn not only to become better storytellers but also to use storytelling to achieve business results.

PSST: Share this article with your business friends!

 As a high stakes conference and key speaker, trainer, coach and consultant, Karl Smith has worked with thousands of senior executives, business developers and entrepreneurs in South Africa, challenging their traditional notions about business relationships and excellence.

This article may be copied or republished with the following credit: "By Karl Smith: author, speaker and founder of Business Networking South Africa” Cape Town,


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