4 Storytelling Tips to Sell Your Business Story
The human brain is wired for story. It is, in fact, one of the oldest human skills, utilised to convey information across human history. Neuroscientific research shows that storytelling is also the most effective way to convey information, bar none. When we listen to a dry recitation of facts, such as a PowerPoint presentation filled with dot points, the language-processing parts of our brain are activated. We decode the words into meaning, and – that’s all.
When we hear the same information conveyed in a narrative form, our whole brain lights up. Our sensory cortex responds to descriptions of how something tastes, feels or sounds; our motor cortex gets excited when we hear or read a story including movement. Even more astounding, when we tell stories about our own lives and experiences, our listeners’ brains become synchronised with ours until they share in our experience.
As business leaders, you want your clients to be as enraptured by your company as you are. Use storytelling techniques and you’ll be able to share that passion with them in a way that they absorb fully. Telling a good story turns leads into clients and clients into loyal followers. Here are our best tips to harness storytelling power to your own ends.
1. Have a narrative arc
A narrative arc is the structure of your story. You have a starting situation, rising action, climactic event, and resolution. In classic business stories, that often looks like a situation where the founder spots a gap in the market – perhaps they’re stranded in the airport during a taxi strike, or frustrated by the inability to exchange money with friends digitally – then develops a product, and finds success. Along the way there are obstacles to overcome, and hopefully a happy ending. A struggle makes a story interesting, and overcoming adversity is a story we never get tired of hearing.
2. Know your message
If your business has a mission statement, then your business story should illustrate why that mission statement exists. Perhaps your story isn’t about how your business came to be, but is designed to move your team forward on a difficult product, or inspire investors to take a chance on you. Know what action you’re looking for from your audience and what emotions you need to elicit to get that to happen. Your story’s message should resonate with them so they’ll come along with your vision.
3. Know who your protagonist is
Lisa Cron, in her book Story Genius, calls character development the “third rail” that moves every story along. That is, no amount of action and colourful description will engage your audience unless there is a character to identify with and a struggle to overcome. The protagonist can be you: perhaps you’re telling a story of how you overcame hardship to make your business thrive or how your own experiences led you to see a need for your product in the marketplace. Remember, though, that your audience wants to feel an affinity with the protagonist, so if your story is about your chauffeured car and penthouse suite, you might want to stay away. Ideally, your protagonist is someone like your client; everyone wants to be the hero, so if your story makes your audience feel that way, you’re ahead of the game.
4. Keep it authentic
A story that uses your own experiences to illustrate a larger point is far more effective than a far-fetched analogy. Your audience is wired to make that human connection, and is looking for shared commonalities between their experience and the story you’re telling. Keep it authentic and personal, and you’ll be able to bring your audience along with you on the journey.
What do you think?
What is it about a good story that hooks you in? Can you use those principles to keep an audience interested in your story? Share – you guessed it, your story – in the comments!
This article was written by Tanya Ashworth-Keppel on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB. The following sources were used to compile this article: Wordstream, Buffer, Forbes and Harvard Business Review.
Image credit: Restopia