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We’ve been telling stories since the beginning of time. In fact, the history of mankind has been shared and passed down through storytelling.
Business storytelling builds on that understanding and awareness, and is accepted as one of the best ways to get your message across.
Business storytelling is not fluff or fairy tales. It’s finding real situations in life and the workplace from which significant points can be made using comparison. It’s a tried and tested model of telling a true story and making a point; telling a story, making a point.
And this is where the skill of the presentations skills coach shifts into gear. A professional speaking coach knows how the design of the story should is so important in building congruency with your message.
Another way to frame strategic storytelling for business is… Telling the right story, with the right message at the right time, in the right way, for the right reasons.
A great story delivered poorly will not be successful.
The irony is the reverse is sometimes the case. In fact, a really poor story that’s delivered well can actually engage an audience. But if its message is incongruent with the point you wish to make, then overall, it has not achieved its purpose.
There are plenty of examples where CEO’s have used storytelling as a marketing tool, such as Richard Branson, Steve Jobs at Apple and many others. There’s a skill to finding the story and knowing how to develop it.
The gas plant was situated in the middle of the desert several hours flight from any city. At one point I was attempting to illustrate the power of the metaphor and wanted to show them how a metaphor can get to the crux of the matter instantly.
We were working in a donger a few hundred meters away from the actual plant. The plant could best be described as a huge conglomeration of pipes. It was about 100 metres long and 30 metres high.
I asked the engineers to give me the simplest possible description of what the plant does and they struggled to tell me. They came up with all sorts of things and then eventually one guy says… “Well, if you want a metaphor…. it’s a washing machine.”
Everyone else laughed and said…”We can’t say that, it’s ridiculously simple”.
I asked the group if he was wrong. And after some pondering and discussion the group agreed that technically he wasn’t wrong, it was just a very simple non-techie answer.
I then asked them to explain it further, in layman’s terms
“Well, the gas comes in from the desert at one end and basically what the whole plant does is it cleans and separates the gas, and the gas that we sell comes out the other end.”
The whole team confirmed that yes, that is what the gas plant did.
At another section of the plant, there was a very obvious tower that clearly rose above the rest of the plant. I asked the group what it did.
With newfound realisations on how to describe something using a metaphor, a member of the group pipes up with….. “Well smartypants, that’s the spin dryer.” (group laughs)
He then went on to explain that the tower works exactly the same as your spin dryer does in your washing machine at home. It’s centrifugal and it spins, and the gas is separated at different levels, and it comes out the other side.
The client – I was engaged to work with an environmental group part of whose business was disposing of tyres.
The brief – How to distil loads of overwhelming data so the average person understands the seriousness of the issues, which in turn moves them to action.
There was a major problem with the huge number of old tyres being removed from cars and trucks that were ending up in landfills.
The environmental group were coming to grips with how to get the public to understand the impact this had on the environment. I suggested they use a visual metaphor, comparing the number of disposed of tyres to a tall building.
There was a mathematician in the group and he did a calculation. He used the average width of a tyre and then estimated that if all the disposed tyres in one week were lying flat on top of each other, making a ‘tower of tyres’, the audience could better grasp the severity of the situation.
The mathematician calculated that the ‘tower of tyres’ would reach 249m, or as tall as 51 stories high. This is as tall as one of the well known buildings in the city. Instantly the audience had a visual picture of a ‘tower of tyres’ stacked on the footpath next to a skyscraper, and the enormity of the problem had more clarity.
Denise’s side note – A tall story that’s not a tall story
These two examples make the point that even though the technicalities were completely lost in these two examples of a washing machine and spin dryer, the technicalities don’t matter to a lay audience.
What does matter is the bigger picture – the so what – and the result.
Why you must have a SO WHAT in your presentation
There are two words that are crucial when presenting to a board, but they are often missing. Those two words are SO WHAT? This is the WHY or the point you’re trying to get across, and it’s a very important question.
Whatever the information you present to a board, it should answer the so what question.
The story describes how many tyres need to be disposed of every week in a particular city. This gives the story context as you can see immediately it’s a very big problem. This is the SO WHAT.
Business Storytelling Workshops – What works and what doesn’t work
Storytelling coaching is usually done best in groups because groups contribute to the story and give feedback along the way. The story grows organically with the combined energy of others in the room.
What doesn’t work in storytelling is if someone else writes it for you to deliver. Storytelling for businesses needs to be given by the person who experienced the story, but they may have experienced it vicariously.
For example, it could be a story of the history of a company when the speaker wasn’t around. But they know the story so well they embrace it to the point where they own the story, even though it’s not their own experience.
To summarise, a good speaking coach and presentations skills coach, will not only guide you on how to find relevant business stories to give depth to your storytelling presentation, they’ll also teach you how to design and deliver it.
Business storytelling is a very powerful tool, especially for senior executives who need to get an important message across. It also works brilliantly for people who need to present to boards.
Presentations Skills Coach, David Julian Price –
BUSINESS STORYTELLING TOP TAKE-A-WAY TIPS…
Book David Julian Price to run an in-house Business Storytelling course
“David worked with me to develop a pitch for a philanthropic event. He worked with me to distil some complex concepts into short, punchy ones and honed in on the power of story-telling as a communication tool.
He anticipated the style of communication suitable to the audience I was presenting to and encouraged me to bring my enthusiasm for our pitch project to the audience. I was thrilled when our organisation’s pitch was successful and grateful for the part David played in helping us get there!”
Suzanne D, Lawyer
“Attending David’s workshop was a delight. As a Pitch and Storytelling Coach, he helps to make sure you tell a story and engage your audience (the correct way) in your next networking event or presentation. He will make sure that you learn to engage your audience from the first word, evoke their emotions, and leave a strong impression that stays after you leave the room.”
Lalaine Ladores – Finance Manager at Finwise Finance
Who We Are
When you need good solid content with no fluff, David Price is the coach you need. His style is direct, interactive and engaging, ensuring the audience stays awake and leaves with takeaway techniques to implement that day. He is an expert presentation skills coach, meeting procedure sage, author, conference speaker and communications skills educator, able to explain complex ideas in simple terms.
I’m the ‘talent behind the talent’ at David Julian Price Consulting. When David’s in his zone of genius as a speaking and meetings coach, his eyes light up. I’m not kidding. When you love doing things that most people avoid, you know you’ve found your calling, and it’s a privilege and a delight to support my husband in this way – Denise Price