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Having Trouble Engaging People? Use Storytelling

IStock_000003405900_webbHave you ever thought about how to really engage and motivate people with your business communication?  I sure have.  The problem is that everyone has heard all of the cliches and motivation-speak before: "we have a great opportunity if we work hard", or "we need to be more creative", or "we need to pull together and work nights and weekends to get this product out the door."  They sound great but have diminishing returns when trying to motivate and engage others.

Here's a suggestion: start telling stories!  Did you know that Kimberly-Clark, 3M, and Proctor & Gamble teach their executives how to effectively use storytelling?  They do, according to an article by Dan Schawbel at Forbes.  Think back for a minute on a great speaker that you have heard recently.  I'll bet they peppered their presentation with stories.  Stories engage and draw people in, unlike motivation-speak and Powerpoint bullets.

If you are like me, that sounds like a great idea but I need some concrete ideas to actually do it.  Here are some ideas on how to tell stories, and develop your storytelling skills (as derived from theatre and business experience):

  • Describe two opposing forces (such as people, relationships, ideas, or possibilities).
  • Add an event in the story that disrupts the current balance of things.
  • Add obstacles to restoring the balance.
  • Tell how balance is restored.
  • Include a surprise.
  • Bring it to a resolution.
  • Be concise - this is a business setting not a 3 hour play.

You can use a story that has happened to you, a story that has happened to someone you know, a story from a book, or a story based on where you want to take the team.  If you have a situation where you need to get buy-in on an important topic, or want to take your team someplace, try storytelling, and see if there is a different level of engagement and discussion from your "audience."





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