You probably know the story of the tortoise and the hare and may have even counseled someone with the adage, “slow and steady wins the race.” Fast forward a few centuries and chances are you know the story of how Steve Jobs didn’t like school and didn’t finish college, but created Apple Computers in his family’s garage with his friend Steve Wozniak. You may have heard a surprising story about how your yoga instructor used to work for the World Bank, or recall the stories about how things used to be from your grandmother.
All these stories, whether fact or fiction, are well-known, memorable, and provide teachable moments. You can choose what lessons you wish to take from them.
The ancient art of storytelling is enjoying a resurgence in the business world. Why? Because it works. As an individual, you can tell your story to establish yourself when you’re networking, to cultivate a professional relationship, or to advance your career. On an organizational level, telling the story of the company you want to create or the transformation you want to achieve can be instrumental in attracting supporters and collaborators.
A recent New York Times article even explains that hearing a great story has a physiological effect on us, releasing oxytocin in the brain that makes us feel good and may increase generosity.
Have you ever felt unsure about how to captivate a room full of colleagues and supervisors and get them on board with change? Start with a story. Keep in mind that to really draw your audience in and keep them tuned in, your story must be have a strong opening and be complete.
“It probably sounds familiar from middle-school English class,” writes Alina Tugend in the New York Times, “Act 1, scene setting; Act 2, rising action; Act 3, the turning point; Act 4, the falling action; and Act 5, the denouement or release. Variations of this include fewer or more stages, but they all follow the same pattern.”
Include specific details. Be honest. Be funny if you want, but don’t force it. Be willing to tell stories about mistakes you’ve made—your audience will relate.
Not everything you have to share will be fascinating. But when it’s necessary to communicate information to your co-workers or your consumers, whether it’s a small change or a complete overhaul of a business segment, begin by sharing a story. Chances are your audience will perk up and listen and, more importantly, remember.