Don’t lose them at hello: using storytelling to inspire your audience

November 27, 2017

Surely every company wants stories and conversations that connect people?

 

And yet many fail to engage their employees purely by having the wrong conversations and telling the wrong stories in the workplace.

Every company has a tone of voice. But not every company manages to keep this tone consistent or effectively use it as a guide for better internal communication.

In fact, for many companies, the existing tone of voice has little of the “wow!” they aspire to as an organisation. For some reason, when organisations write to internal audiences, they seem to adopt a different personality, becoming more formal, somewhat bland and impersonal. They lose human warmth and emotion.

The key here is to harness the vision, purpose and behaviours of the company in shaping tone of voice.

These aspects are at the heart of everything you do, so it makes sense that it should be at the heart of your internal storytelling.

 

Once upon a time

Stories are how we remember. We tend to forget lists and bullet points, especially when they are lengthy and tangential to the core point.

Stories also help bring things to life by providing examples and reasons to believe. They make facts more personal.

Leaders have far more impact when they share their personal stories and use their experiences to back up points than when they hide behind graphs, figures and wordy slides.

 

Find your story

We once worked with a telecommunications client who wanted to communicate why he was changing business strategy. He had prepared about 60 slides of content based around facts and figures to share at a conference with the leaders. 5 slides in and I was incredibly bored…

While it was all good factual information there was no story, no personality, no life to it!

I asked him a simple question ‘How would you explain this to your 16-year-old daughter, if she were sat in the audience?”

Without thinking, he launched into a story about how when he was younger he had always answered the home phone using the number of the phone to answer….

 

“01904 738490, how can I help?”

 

He went on to share how this had been to check that the person calling had dialled the right number but now we have mobile phones, instant messaging, snapchat and truth be told no-one remembers numbers anymore because they are stored on our devices that we carry with us.

He then pivoted to make his point. The current strategy had been devised for a different day, one where the world was more certain, the changes in society and the telecoms industry slow and steady – fixed almost – a lot like answering your home phone with the number of the phone. Predictable, constant and static.

But the world we live in now requires a dynamic, real-time, flexible and agile strategy, one that reflects the type of experience most humans have with their own personal phone. It wasn’t rocket science, but it was a simple, effective and compelling story that drew in the listeners and made more powerful points about why the strategy had to change than any number of facts and figure slides.

At this point, a slide of facts to back up the story made sense but it needed the story first to land the point, engage the leaders listening and move the conversation on.

 

Inspire your audience

Approaching the presentation in this way resonated far more with those listening and the leaders left inspired, hopeful and excited. Why? They believed the senior leader and even mentioned the simplicity of how he had explained why they had to change. By using a relatable story, the leader had been able to ‘shift’ his leadership team to embrace a new strategy.

 

 About the author

Matt Stephens is the author of Revolution in a Heartbeat and founder of Quest, a consultancy that aims to help businesses achieve their goals through inspiring leadership, developing culture and building engagement.

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