Business Storytelling – Vistage

Stories can help you pitch or present an idea, they can unlock the kind of culture change you want to see in your business. So it’s amazing how often people fail to use the power of even the simplest stories.

Business stories must have these basic ingredients:

  1. Stuff happens (who, what, where and when)
  2. People care (how do you/they feel)
  3. The moral (why does this matter)

It’s tempting to ignore or gloss over the emotional content of business stories, but don’t. Emotion directs our attention to what matters and helps people remember the point you’re trying to make. Here’s a great example of emotional storytelling with a very clear business aim:

You can use a classic story arc to give your story that roller coaster of emotion that will make it irresistible. Even a humble iguana can experience a story arc:

Here’s a reminder of how Star Wars can be read as a simple story arc.

You’ll need to tell stories about yourself (Foundation Stories) but you’ll find it easier to keep telling fresh stories about your customers  (Brand Stories). Here are two examples of one company telling both kinds of story. First, the Foundation Story, where the company is the hero:

And now the Brand Story, where the customer is the hero and the product barely gets a mention:

Get used to telling customer stories in sixty seconds or less. You never know when you’ll be able to drop them into business conversations.

Journalists and advertisers use all kinds of tricks to hook your attention when they have a story to tell. You can get “front-of-mind” attention if you can make your story Timely, Relatable, Unexpected or Evocative.

Stories unlock culture change when you:

  1. Identify the change you want to see.
  2. Find stories that illustrate that change.
  3. Keep telling these stories (and refreshing them with new stories) until the change is part of the culture.

Stories work better than mission statements or strategy documents because we’ve all grown up listening to stories as a way of understanding the world. Go out and find the stories that illustrate the change you want to make, and then tell them in a compelling way. Your challenge is to keep finding new stories to tell that hammer your message home.

Here you’ll find the worksheets from the Business Storytelling session, and here you’ll find Powerpoint and Keynote versions of the slide-deck (minus the video clips).

Good luck. And send me the stories you’re proud of!


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