What stories do you remember? Perhaps ones told to you long ago. The reason that stories such as Aesop’s Fables remain popular is that they confirm that stories and the messages they contain have a power that cannot be ignored. They help an audience by packaging the message in a highly memorable form.
In business, being remembered can make a big difference. But being remembered so that others also tell your story for you that is what every business owner should be aiming for. So how can you tell a story that will be remembered and repeated so knowledge of you, your message and your business spreads? Rebecca Pepper from Toastmasters International explains how storytelling can make your business memorable.
Let’s start with the story itself:
I first learned about storytelling from my granddad and have applied the lessons in business. I noticed that he changed aspects of the story every time he told: “You’re assuming I change it for my needs. Never. The changes I make are always for those listening. Each time I tell it, the audience is different and so I adapt.” In essence, he was making the story relevant by the way he told it.
World champion speaker, and successful business-owner, Darren LaCroix, also says: take YOU out of it. In telling a story, it’s about the audience, not you. Whether your audience is your six-year-old grandchild or a room full of CEOs, your information, your message, your story has to be for them. What will your listeners get from you?
Action point: Whatever story you are telling, ensure it is tailored to the audience. If the story works for them your message will be taken on board.
A great story transports the listener to the scene. Through the detail of what was seen, heard and felt, the listener experiences the story as if they were there. This is relevant even in a short business anecdote. However, it’s important to get the balance right. Give too much detail and you take their involvement in creating the scene away. Give vague or generic detail and they’ll get bored.
Action point: Add just enough evocative imagery to pull in the audience and little enough so that they can fill in the gaps in a way that is meaningful for them.
And now the telling of the story:
You have your story and now where to place in your presentation to reinforce your key message. Now it’s all about delivery.
Employing the pause
The pause is a power for a storyteller. It is an invitation to your listeners to fully engage in your story and message. To be involved. To reflect. To answer the question you have posed in their minds.
In a presentation, it is easy to rush from point to point. However, if you tell a story or short anecdote you can also pause giving people time to not only answer a question in their heads but also to connect emotionally with what is being said. After all, we know that emotion plays a large part in buying and other business decision making.
Action point: Give your audience the time and the space to engage with your story, to get the message and to influence their decision-making.
Adding impact with your voice
Fast. Slow. Loud. Quiet. A whisper. Deep. High. All have their place in a memorable story when used purposefully. This may seem dramatic, but a good business speaker knows that their voice is a valuable asset. Speak in monotone and there’s a good chance that you will lose your audience and their attention will be on their smartphones. Use vocal variety to add to a story and your point will be made more strongly and memorably.
Action point: Add colour to your voice – avoid a monotone. It is a good idea to practice with a trusted colleague if this is a challenge for you.
Perhaps a prop?
Not always essential, but it often adds light-hearted relief and can enhance a message. Nobody who was in the room will forget the way Bill Gates used a bowl of mosquitos to make his point about malaria. A well-chosen prop may live beyond your story and become part of your personal brand. A colleague recently told me she had seen Justin Urquhart Stewart, known as “the man with red braces” speaking once on economic trends, but has never forgotten him.
Action point: Appropriate props can illustrate your story and help the audience remember you and your key message.
When it comes to the crunch, for a business presentation you need to know your audience and also be ready to adapt as you speak to them – the way they respond to you is vitally important information.
You know your message is important. But without your audience’s buy-in, it’s going nowhere. When you choose to include a story, focus on how to create a story that resonates with this particular audience. That way they will remember it and also be likely to retell it to colleagues and business acquaintances. By achieving this the hard work you put into preparing your presentation will live on. As the exceptional speaker and business-woman, Patricia Fripp says “We speak to be remembered and repeated.” That is word of mouth marketing at its best.
By using storytelling in your business and following the advice above, even a seemingly dry, business tale can become vibrant and memorable. Make sure to take the points on board, whether you are telling a story in your next marketing campaign or delivering a presentation. A good story will always be repeated so use these action points to get you and your business known spread through your stories.