Thank you to the talented Karen Rowe for providing this blog. Karen is a ghostwriter, speaker and nonfiction expert; she develops professionally written and designed books for writers and business owners who are looking to position themselves as a Leading Authority in their specific niche. Karen has published two books herself: For the Love of Chocolate and For the Love of Coffee. If you’d like to connect with Karen on LinkedIn, please visit: www.linkedin.com/in/frontroweseat/
Why Stories Are Good For Business
I grew up on the Canadian Prairie, which means that it gets dark in the winter by 5 p.m. I got a paper route when I was nine years old and spent a lot of time walking my neighborhood delivering papers, and telling stories to keep myself entertained. I was sure I was going to have my first novel published by the time I was 12.
This is a little story I use on my LinkedIn profile to create an instant connection with people interested in finding out more about me. You are more likely to remember me now than if I had simply told you, “I knew from nine years old that I wanted to be a writer”, or worse, if I had presented it to you in bullet points:
- Paper route at nine years-old
- Lived in Canada
- It was cold
- Talked to herself in the dark
I told you a story. By the time you get to the end of this article, you may very well forgot all 5 tips for successful storytelling, but you’ll remember my cute little story of how I got my start in writing. There’s a reason for that. We are ingrained to remember stories, and telling a story is the most powerful way to activate our brains.
Why Stories Work
A story, if broken down into the simplest form, is a connection of cause and effect. And that is exactly how we think. We think in narratives all day long, no matter if it is about having a shower, whether we think about work or what we are going to have for dinner. We make up (short) stories in our heads for every action and conversation.
Whenever we hear a story, we want to relate it to one of our existing experiences. That’s why metaphors work so well with us. Our brains get busy searching for a similar experience, and this helps us relate to that same experience of pain, joy, or disgust.
Why This Is Good For Business
If people can relate to you, and like you, they are more likely to want to do business with you. And you can use stories everywhere: in presentations, meetings, blog posts, social media, your website. Try telling a story to replace charts, graphs and facts. My general rule of thumb is that if there is a place in my presentation where people’s eyes tend to glaze over, or I myself am bored, that’s where I need to tell a story. As long as you are able to make the connection between the story and your main point, your message will be more inherently interesting, memorable and impactful.
Here are 5 tips to help you tell your story more effectively:
- Be Brief
To start, write the story out in its entirety and then go over it and take out any points that are not essential. Tighten it up. Take out extraneous words and only use adjectives sparingly. Adjectives should be carefully chosen and used only if they add to the story. Opening with a strong punch will draw your readers in and they’ll be more likely to stay invested.
- Keep it simple
The simpler a story, the more likely it will stick. Using simple language and low complexity is the best way to activate the brain regions that make us truly relate to a story. Try for example to reduce the number of complicated nouns and exchange them with simple, heartfelt language.
- Be Specific
When you tell a story, choose only the best detail about each person and item in the story. After picking the detail, if it’s appropriate, play with saying it in a different way. Instead of saying, “I didn’t like being a teacher”, try “I spent seven years trying hard to love teaching,” or “my seven years as a teacher showed me what a good entrepreneur I am.”
- Be specific in your details and comparisons.
Saying that “everything that made me a really bad teacher makes me a really great entrepreneur” is more memorable than saying: “I was never meant to be a teacher.”
- Use All Five Senses
Many storytellers forget smell, but think about the effect of a well-described smell when it hits and triggers the brain: “The girl’s bedroom had all the sadness of a beef slaughterhouse, and smelled about the same.”
If You Don’t Have Your Own Story, Start With Someone Else’s
When we start out writing, it’s natural to worry about making it believable by using personal stories if you don’t feel you have any relevant stories to tell. The best way to get around this is by starting with someone else’s: try asking for quotes from experts in your field or find relevant quotes online. It’s a great way to add credibility.
Learn how to tell a good story and I guarantee you, you’ll be more memorable than if you just report the facts or information. The information doesn’t matter; it’s the story that will win their hearts.
At least that’s what my nine year-old self told me.
If you’d like to connect with me on LinkedIn, please go here: www.linkedin.com/in/frontroweseat/