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How To Use Storytelling In Business

· by Jeff Tan

Think of Sylvester Stallone. Think about him for a moment.

What popped into your head? Images of Rambo, Rocky, or some other tough guy, hero, or saviour of the oppressed that he often portrays?

In real life, Sly is nothing like his onscreen persona and speaks four languages and loves painting!

But our preconceived notion of him, having never met the man, is so utterly different.

This got me thinking. Just like our distorted views of Sly in real life are not true, our preconceived notions about storytelling, mostly unhelpful, are not 100% true either! It’s definitely more true that our warped views of storytelling hinder our ability to influence decision-makers. 

By the way, everything’s you’ve read about Sly Stallone above is an example of a story in a business setting! And the rest of this article will debunk the main storytelling myths and help you become an influential storyteller.

Here are the central storytelling myths and the TRUTH that will set you free!!

Myth: Your story should be amazing, well written, and blow your audience away.

Truth: This only applies if you’re a TED speaker, or the CEO of a big company launching a new product. The truth is, unless you have a captive audience that’s just dying to hear every last word you share, that’s not going to happen. Instead, you tell a short story every time you want to emphasize a key point. Here are some situations where you can use a story.

Myth: One long story will instantly wow your customer and immediately influence them.

Truth: It’s quite impossible to influence anyone with just one long story in a business setting. It’s much better to tell multiple 30 to 90 second stories anytime you want to emphasize a key point. Stories also help to engage your audience.

Myth: Your story must follow a traditional storytelling structure.

Truth: The typical structures and arcs, eg. protagonist-challenge-solution, are much too complicated for your short story. Instead, use short 30 – 90 second stories.

Myth: Your story should teach a lesson to the audience or have a moral to the story.

Truth: The purpose of your multiple and short 30 - 90 second stories is to emphasize one point you want to make. 

Myth: Your story should cause a massive and huge emotional shift in your audience.

Truth: Your stories to influence in a business setting are meant to emphasize only one key point, so tell several to build up the trust between you and the audience. 

What does this mean? All you need to do is notice others using stories in their presentations, conversations, and chitchats with you. Two things to notice:

  1. How long were these stories? Too long? Pretty short? Just nice?
  2. How did their stories make you feel? More interested and engaged? Less interested and engaged? Or did the stories make you love the speaker so much put them in your last will and testament? 

Just by observing others, we learn what works and what doesn’t. And do remember, the stories you hear can’t possibly influence you to so something instantly. Instead, it will just make you feel something that gets you more interested. That’s it!

Start observing …

Stay tuned for our next post where we share more storytelling to influence tips!

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