The CEO of a large company brought all of his employees together for their annual meeting. His overhead presentation was magnificent: the graphics were beautiful; the vision statement was in big, bold letters; sales charts, projections, and lists of projects were in plentiful supply. After listening to the presentation, one of his employees arrived home and mentioned the meeting to his wife:
“Who spoke?” she asked.
“The CEO,” he replied.
“What was his presentation about?”
“Well, he didn’t say,” said the husband.
Ouch! Yet we’ve all had that experience. Today in business, whoever tells the best story wins. If you tell a great, compelling story, your message will be heard and acted on. If not, just like that CEO in the story above, you’ll have said a lot of words, but nothing memorable or remarkable.
More than ever before, you want to enroll people in your vision, make a difference, be unforgettable and irresistible. You accomplish that through the power of business storytelling.
There is a defined process for mastering storytelling. I call it my Transformational Storytelling Process, or TSP.
TSP consists of three milestones:
1. Storytelling 1.0, where we find and craft your stories
2. Storytelling 2.0, where we work on storytelling practices and behaviors that build relationships and expand business opportunities
3. Storytelling 3.0, where transformation through storytelling becomes possible in the personal, group and social worlds
We’ll tackle Storytelling 2.0 and 3.0 later. Let’s embark now on the first leg of your story journey, Storytelling 1.0. Here we focus on finding your core stories and mastering all the essential elements of great story crafting.
Your core stories include your:
1. Origin Story (how your business got started). This is what distinguishes you from competitors.
2. People and Results stories (how staff/customers overcame obstacles to do amazing things). These are stories that make listeners cheer and want to be your customers.
3. Your “Why I . . .” stories (what keeps you motivated and passionate). People do business with companies they admire, trust and can depend on.
4. Your Future Story (how the future will be different because of what you do). Customers will flock to you if they know the difference you are making in your world.
Once we find your stories, crafting a story in a way that both engages and inspires comes next. Essential elements include:
• An opening, middle and end
• A problem – some struggle, trouble, or conflict
• An obstacle to overcome
• The motivation to take action
• Action steps
• A turning point
• Resolution of the problem
• Contrast to build drama
• Imagery, or the Language Of The Senses (LOTS)
• A key message
• A statement about what the story means to you
As we go along, the right structure emerges. Maybe you start from the beginning and go to the end. You might start from the middle, go to the past and then the present. Maybe you start from the end and work backward to the beginning. Or you might choose another from a variety of options.
But here’s the most important takeaway about story crafting: there’s no one right way to tell a story. Story crafting brings out your authentic voice in a way that gets you excited about telling and retelling it; and that engages and inspires your listeners.
In the end, you will generate an elegance to your story that continually gives you and your audience an “aaahhhhh” experience, creating instant connection, inspiration, and relationship. Now who wouldn’t want that?
About Your Columnist
Karen Dietz is a featured columnist for Women Taking Charge, the official blog of Connected Women of Influence, where she covers how to build impact and influence through the power of business storytelling. Karen is the author of the bestselling book Business Storytelling For Dummies. Clients include Fortune 500 companies, nonprofits and entrepreneurs. Karen is also a textile artist who brings her artwork and design principles into her leadership and story-coaching workshops to create ‘sticky learning’ experiences. Karen’s storytelling expertise can be found at Just Story It.