Storytelling for business: An introduction

15 | April | 2015

Authors: Aina Borras and Álex Gargallo

We have recently attended a fascinating workshop on storytelling at General Assembly called: “Storytelling for entrepreneurs: Presentation to elevator pitches”. The instructor, Andrew Linderman, is a writer, storyteller and story coach. The workshop’s goal was to teach how to use storytelling techniques in business settings.

The session began with the question: What is a story?

We couldn’t help thinking of Augusto Monterroso’s “The dinosaur”, consideredthe shortest story in the world… Have you heard it? It goes like this:

“When he woke up, the dinosaur was still there.”

photo credit: Thomas Hawk via photopin cc

photo credit: Thomas Hawk via photopin cc

Analyzing Monterroso’s story we can pinpoint the basic elements needed to create a story:

1. A BEGINNING: When he woke up.

2. A MIDDLE PART: We imagine what happened in his dreams; in this case the middle part is the comma.

3. AN END: The dinosaur was still there!

Is there a magic formula to create a story as short, clever and with such media impact as Monterroso’s? Equally important: Why do we need to learn how to create stories and how can we apply storytelling to our business?

According to Linderman, storytelling can help us to communicate our needs in a more effective way. As an example, he used one of the most dreadful situations for many people: Asking for a raise. When we ask for a raise, we tend to list our strengths and the amount and quality of the work performed. However, Linderman suggests telling a story about you and the company.

There are three types of business stories*:

1. “Who-I-Am” Stories: These stories explain who you are as a person. They tell others about your dreams, goals, accomplishments, values, failures, motivations or history.
2. “Why-I-Am-Here” Stories: “Why-I-am-here” stories communicate why you are here. Their goal is to replace suspicion with trust. “Why-I-am-here” stories can ideally be used in fundraising, sales and other situations when you need to build trust quickly. They can also come in handy when you want to reassure someone on a level playing field.
3. Vision Stories: Vision stories inspire people and encourage them to feel hope or happiness. Here you can show your audience how their hard work and sacrifice is worth the effort. It is important to link their actions to specific, valuable and worthy outcomes.

According to Linderman, using any of these kind of stories can help us to better communicate our ideas. The key aspect is not to entertain, but to be authentic and connect with the person we are talking to, whether it is an employee, a customer, a supplier, a partner or anyone else involved with your organization.

We have found a really clever article in CoolBrandsBlog which lists the basic elements that a good story must have:

You have to catch your audience’s attention. The content, context and the way you tell the story have to make people go “Wow”.

Tell the story in such a way that people can easily remember it. Don’t use too many complicated words and don’t give too much information. Make your audience curious to learn more. Make sure your story sticks.

Don’t ever tell a story about “our company” or “the brand” but make it personal. The story’s content also has to be personal. You can’t talk about the founder of the company and all the things he did without playing a part in this story yourself. Somehow the story has to be about you in relation to the company.

The story has to be true. You can’t make it up. Of course you can add elements to the story to make it more interesting for people to listen to and easier to remember but it has to be true.

Adjust your story according to the audience. If you are talking to students about a brand that is targeted, let’s say, to their mothers, don’t expect them to feel the same way a mother would. So appeal to other emotions.

We hope that all this suggestions will inspire you to start using storytelling in your business environment! If you want to share an example (or tell us your story, hehe), feel free to leave a comment!

*In her book, “Whoever tells the best story wins”, author Annette Simmonsidentifies up to six structures that you can use to tell business stories.

More info:
General Assembly
Mind Tools







Read 13045 times
Rate this item
(0 votes)