In my post-BBC incarnation as a public speaker/conference moderator/speaking coach I’m constantly drawing on a journalist’s tool of the trade – story telling. So much so that I found myself running a communications workshop for a major European finance company in which story telling turned out to be the main attraction.
After helping the CEO polish up a speech, peppered with anecdotes, I was approached by two different teams wanting to flex their story telling skills too. Why? Well they’d seen how their CEO was using stories – rather than grandiose policy pronouncements – to get across complex business themes. And they wanted to have a go too. The results were surprising and immediate.
Even the skeptics (and there were a couple of obvious skeptics) quickly got the hang of it – and found powerful, unexpected examples from their own lives – which worked equally well in a business context. The anecdotes featured confused Americans holidaying in France, an Indian in London whose bank account was hacked, the sensitive decision to set up a joint bank account after marriage… and many other intriguing tales. What they had in common was how a personal story set up and segued into a more complicated (sometimes off-putting) business message, in such a way that the main message became less ‘corporate’ and more memorable.
For the workshops’ participants the surprise was how easy it was – how animated and relaxed they felt when telling stories instead of hammering out jargon-laden pronouncements. And the feedback from the group reinforced that – everyone could see how their colleagues came alive when bringing something of themselves into their corporate communications. The power of stories, we’ve been telling them since the start of time.