Powerful Reasons Why You Need to Master Storytelling

Posted on 01-09-2018

If you’ve ever hung on someone’s every word, chances are they were telling a compelling story. That’s the exact type of engaged attention you want when you’re making a pitch for a promotion, salary increase, or even interviewing for your dream job. Leaders are increasingly recognizing that they need to master storytelling, as evidenced in part by the 26 million Google results for “storytelling courses”.

In the Harvard Business Review article, “Why Your Brain Loves Good Storytelling” researchers explain why more organizations and business leaders are using storytelling to enhance their message. Harvard’s neurobiology studies show that the brain produces a neurochemical called oxytocin when we empathize with someone and are moved enough to act, such as being convinced to give to a charity. When a person’s story can maintain the attention of their audience, listeners begin to mirror the speaker’s emotions and place themselves in their story.

Here’s an example:

Imagine this:  Your son walks in and says… “Mom and Dad, we need to talk…I plan to drop out of medical school and start a company with some of my buddies.”   He goes on to explain that he and his friends have a great plan to disrupt a $14 billion industry.  You are horrified and have visions of unpaid student loans that you co-signed coming due. Even worse, you won’t be able to say… “My son -the doctor”.

He goes on to tell you that he plans to start selling a product online. While this product is in virtually every home in this country, he wants consumers to spend a lot of money to buy a product they have never touched or experienced – a product currently sold in stores and one people try before they buy.  By now all you can picture is your son sitting in your basement, eating Cheetos, and playing video games with his loser friends. You see absolutely no prospect of him ever moving out…”

This story is how Judy Kirby recently started a recent CHIME presentation with Jon Manis, Senior VP/CIO of Sutter Health. Judy went on to share the rest of the story how this unlikely entrepreneur disrupted a huge industry.  The key message of the story was that if a start-up could disrupt at low-tech $14 billion industry, as a $3.2 trillion industry, healthcare organizations need to expect and prepare for massive disruption.  She and Jon shared the ways healthcare CIOs need to be prepared.

Stories like these become powerful tools to use during a presentation, a team meeting, a job interview for both employer and candidate, and at a conference or other networking event. Expand your definition of a story from a traditional sequence with a beginning, middle and end, to one that includes anecdotes, or slices of history (either yours or someone else’s).

In presentations, strategic storytelling or telling the right story at the right time can drive home your main point to your audience better than any visual slide ever could. An icebreaker story to put people at ease at the start is also a great way to build rapport.

Storytelling included in team meetings help strengthen your company’s culture by increasing employee engagement, morale, motivation, productivity and improve communication between colleagues.

Stories that motivate others to action are especially valuable when used during a networking opportunity. Most job seekers have no problem stating who they are and what their skills are, but fail to communicate how someone could help them in their career search. An impactful and compelling story of why you are seeking a new job transition with a clear direction of what you are looking for is beneficial in these instances.

There’s also no doubt that effective stories used in a job interview, can augment even the best career experience and resume. When you tell a concise, persuasive story demonstrating why you’re right for the job instead of just stating that you are, you dramatically increase your chances of getting hired. Conversely, an interviewer can use a company brand story to entice a top candidate to want to work for them.

The next time you have a message to communicate, consider ways to make your message more compelling with a story.


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