Storytelling (Part 2): Techniques & Tips

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Storytelling (Part 2): Techniques & Tips is the second half of a 2-part series highlighting the concept of utilizing Storytelling to your advantage. You can read the first half here.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels

Techniques For Storytelling

Personalize the story 

If you introduce first and last names, you’ll have a better chance of empathizing with the audience as It’s much easier for a human being to pay closer attention to another human being rather than an inanimate object.

Adding a human element to your company’s communication is key to attracting a new customer. In all the stories, as complicated as they may be, you can always consider including the people who help bring your content to life.

Steve Jobs’ Commencement Address

One of the best ways to start a speech and make it personable is with, “I’m going to tell you a story.” As a matter of fact, Steve Jobs gave a well-known commencement address at Stanford University in 2005 where instead of starting his speech by saying he would talk about Apple or its success, he started out by saying, “Today I want to tell you three stories from my life.”

It was through these three stories that he shared the endeavors he had faced, what he had learned, how he got through them, and was able to subtlety give a brief history of how he built Apple up to it’s initial success with the Macintosh computer. 

The Oracle of Omaha

Warren Buffett is considered one of the greatest investors in the world and each year he writes a letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders in a style that’s quite different from any other CEO. He prefers to write about his vision of how the year has been from a very personal and colloquial point of view.

He’ll even recount the times he has been wrong, which was unheard of, at the time, for a Fortune 500 corporate officer to include in any official company statement. He was not afraid of being honest and always gave his shareholders a very optimistic vision of the future. His demeanor, business morals, and commitment to transparency in those letters have led them to become the most reproduced shareholder letter in history.

Study your client

To attract new customers with storytelling, we must first get to know our customers and get to know them very well. Identifying behaviors, aspirations, motivations, and understanding what drives them to get through each day will be the fundamental building blocks of creating an effective story that they can identify with and develop an emotional bond with.

If we can get a potential customer to fall in love with the history of our brand or product, they will no longer remember us as just a company with a product or as just another brand, but will instead forever remember what we stand for and what we represent for them.

“People won’t always remember what you say, but they will always remember how you made them feel.”

Best Presentation

How about PowerPoint presentations? They have a title to introduce the concept, an index that illustrates all the sections of the content and is then followed by an array of slides with a lot of text explaining everything in more detail.

Are you currently following this model? After all, It is the most general way of giving any sort of presentation but unfortunately, it is also one of the least effective in captivating an audience.

Most of the time it ends up boring the audience and doesn’t offer them any incentive to want to engage with what you have to say. Instead, it’s best to use a somewhat inductive approach, to go from the particular to the general. And, to start with a personal story that maybe explains why you’re presenting them with this information or one that grabs the attention of your viewers and ties in with what you’re hoping to communicate.

Skip the index

Rather than index all the section of your content, Include questions and images or videos that attract a listener’s attention. A good example of this can be witnessed when viewing any of the various TED or TEDx talks. They’ve grown to become very popular on YouTube over the years because of how the speakers, usually masters in their field, will explain something very complex but they will use a form of a storytelling that makes those complex ideas much more relatable and much more easily or better understood.

The mirror of cinema

Jaime Bartolome is a Spanish screenwriter and assistant director, but with the emergence of storytelling in the business world, he is also an advisor for various companies where he plays a crucial role in helping them re-work their corporate communications, making them more effective in driving results.

That’s because French realism of the 19th century is a thing of the past and movie goers these days tend to be much more absorbed when there’s action happening right from the very beginning. TV & film have changed the way people are accustomed to receiving information. Every great work starts with an exciting sequence that captivates the viewer, drawing them in right away and doesn’t try to wait until halfway through the movie to do something impressive.

The same has to happen with business communication. Whereas effective storytelling should mimic the sensation experienced from watching a movie and use it to hook the viewer at the beginning.  Cinematic traits , such as creating suspense, could be applied by way of posing a question of intrigue. Which is then followed by some form of dramatic or inspiring undertaking to reveal the answer to that question.

Pure Data is Boring

Take the following statement for example:

Our Company has generated approximately $10 million dollars in total revenue for the past fiscal year and have managed to reduce company debt by 10%.

Now imagine listening to a financial report or conference call where someone drones on and on, reading off statements like that for a whole hour. Unless you’re an analyst or data scientist who’s passionate about economic & financial data, or you’re an investor wanting to know if you can expect a return this year, you’ll most likely find yourself bored out of your mind or suddenly waking up after an hour to the sound of a recorded message telling you to hang up and dial again. (If that last part didn’t make sense, you’ve probably never had a landline.)

Therefore, although figures and statements of fact are necessary to add seriousness and veracity to your content, the way of exposing the data should be more visual. Use comparisons that allow you to convert pure “boring” data into quantities that can be visualized and are more easily assimilated from a cognitive point of view.

Example:

Volkswagen has the world’s largest car manufacturing plant at 70 million square feet.

This statement of information provides us with just the data and essentially just tells us the world’s largest car factory is 70 million square feet which sounds more like a recited fun fact you’d hear from a blind date going horribly wrong. But if we added…

That’s more than enough space to fit over 1,300 Egyptian pyramids inside!
(1,323 Great Pyramids, Egypt’s largest, to be exact)

…or if we added…

That’s the same size as more than 1,200 football fields!
(1,215 football fields, to be exact)

…then maybe a readers’ eyes might just widen up a bit because now they can visualize just how big that really translates into (and it might even sound a bit more interesting coming from a blind date).