The What, Why, and How of Business Storytelling From Our Masterclass With Expert Coach Yamini Naidu
“In the early 90s, after I’d returned to Auckland from London…..”
“It was a Friday, and the sun was shining during my break….”
“On my 10th grade results day…..”
A good story never fails to captivate our attention.
Global business storytelling expert Yamini Naidu told our masterclass that storytelling is as old as time but is also a contemporary tool of our time.
And that tool can be used to influence.
Here are some of the highlights from Yamini’s masterclass.
Why do business storytelling?
First, let’s look at ways we can influence others.
Hard power (“command and control”) has long been used to influence and has its place. But hard power can lead to anger, grudging compliance, or people saying ‘yes’ but doing nothing.
Soft power (connecting, collaborating, consulting) can be used to reach and influence a wide audience but takes time, takes skill, and is subtle.
Story power has the influence that leaders need; the power to engage, and to influence results. That’s because when hard power informs, soft power invites, storytelling inspires.
“There’s an inspiration famine and storytelling turns a famine into a feast,” says Yamini.
Logos, ethos, pathos
Aristotle said to influence, inspire, and inform you need 3 pillars: Logos (logic or content), ethos (personal credibility) and pathos (emotional connection).
Most business leaders stay in the logos (logic/data/facts) pillar, and double down on facts when they don’t at first work.
Problem is, facts don’t shift behaviour, whereas storytelling can.
What is storytelling?
You’ve heard the saying, “Everyone has a story in them”. This is true, given that everyday relatable experiences work best for stories.
Yamini gives the example of 'Love Stories' author Trent Dalton who set up a typewriter on a street with the sign “Sentimental writer looking for love stories”. People just stopped, sat down, and shared their story.
Team exercise: Each think of a time in your life when you had an experience when you learned something and the learning still stays with you today.
How is business storytelling different?
Business storytelling differs from traditional storytelling in 3 ways:
· Purpose. It must have a purpose or a message (“Things happen for the best”, “We shouldn’t jump to conclusions”)
· Data. It must have good solid data. (“1 in 4 people suffer anxiety. I remember when I was 18 and had my first panic attack…..”)
· True. It must be authentic.
How do you do storytelling?
Think back to that time in your life where you had an experience and the learning informs or influences you to this day.
With this in mind, construct your story in these 3 steps.
Beginning - Start with a time and place in one to two short sentences (“I remember back to around 3 years ago in my last job….”) Can you cut out some words to make it even punchier? (“3 years ago in my last job….”)
Middle – Imagine your listener is a fly on the wall, or you are having coffee with a friend. How would you drop them into the action without giving away what the story is about? Use everyday language, be conversational. Add in sensory details (what could you see, hear, smell?).
End – Finish the story and then add the business (or personal life lesson) message (“That day I learned….” “I’m sharing this because……”) Make the story no more than two minutes long.
Practice – Before you present your story to your intended audience, practise it out loud, perhaps record into your phone and listen to it back. Practise your story with one other person.
Team exercise: Spend some time crafting some stories. Next time you want to influence customers, employees, or other stakeholders, ask yourselves "What will we do differently?"
Let's finish with three stories….and the lessons they taught.
Our masterclass did the exercise and shared bits of our stories and the lessons they taught us.
Here’s are three full stories shared by a few of our participants:
Story #1 from Leola:
"It was about 11:15am on my morning break when I dropped dead in the bathroom.
I had suffered a sudden and near-fatal brain haemorrhage.
No pulse, no warning. Clinically dead.
I woke in hospital 6 hours later, diagnosed with a ruptured brain aneurysm with only 20% chance of survival.
Of all people with an aneurysm, only 1% rupture. Here I am - The lucky 1%.
Six weeks later, two emergency brain surgeries, a punctured lung, and only one working ear - I left hospital. Seven weeks prior I was a healthy 28 year old.
I'm telling you this because that day I was taught a lesson which 12 years on still serves me well.
I've learnt that life can change in a heartbeat. How would you live today, if tomorrow was never promised?"
Story #2 from Valda
“My first three years of primary school in Canberra were terrifying and slow torture every day. I cried a lot.
I couldn’t speak English properly as the language spoken at home with my parents was Latvian. My Latvian name and surname were difficult to pronounce.
I was called a ‘wog’ and physically bashed by the girls in my class when the teachers were not looking. My mum gave me her wooden cake mixing spoon to take to school to defend myself!
This experience has played and continues to play a critical role in my life. I cannot forget this trauma.
So, I strive to balance being respectful and considerate, and combine this with standing up for principles and values that I hold dear.”
Story #3 from Anne-Marie
“It was my first trip to Darwin and over the north-west corner of NSW, at 30,000 feet, the plane began bouncing around like a Manly ferry passing the Sydney heads on a mightily choppy day.
As panic filled the cabin, I grabbed the seat in front of me thinking that may somehow help. A calm, authoritative, almost monotone voice, came over the loudspeaker:
‘This is the Captain speaking. The turbulence you are feeling right now is not unusual over north-west NSW. There’s clear air at 40,000 feet. We’ve started our climb and we should be out of the turbulence in about 10 minutes.’
And he kept talking in that same calm manner, with the authority of experience, until the plane calmed.
My lesson is this: When panic strikes, the leader’s job it to take charge, calm and focus the team, and guide them to clear air.”
Thank you Leola, Valda, and Anne-Marie, and all our delegates for their storytelling efforts and participation today.
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