Everyone Loves A Good Story

In corporate communications, storytelling has long been recognized as a successful tool to communicate important messaging. It’s easier to reach employees with engaging content that pertains to them. People want to read about people – the faces behind the words. Image

Of course, the power of storytelling extends beyond the workplace. We might enjoy a good story at a party, over a gossipy lunch with the gals, or while reading weekly issues of our favorite magazines.

Okay. So we’ve established that people love a good story but do we ever think about why we’re so attracted to the technique?

The love of stories dates back to our childhood. How many times did our parents read us a story when they tucked us in at night? Their soothing words would lull us into a deep sleep. We felt comforted by the strong bonds that formed. And a good night story was our opportunity to wind down after a long day of school and homework.

Fast forward to adulthood and not much has changed. Effective storytelling provides escapism. Whether it takes place at a water cooler in the office or on the phone with a friend, storytelling is our chance to relate, engage, and entertain. Without storytelling, there would be no rapports. It’s an opportunity to share and keep things personal – whether you’re in an office or enjoying a Friday happy hour with friends.

Without storytelling, we wouldn’t be human. It’s what connects us. If we didn’t have it, we’d all be machines, just carrying out our day-to-day tasks with a bit of small talk here and there, at best.

Having covered a plethora of conferences over the years, I’m pleased to see more executives relating their own personal experiences to connect with audiences. And it’s working: surveys are revealing that employees want to hear from bosses, and that they want to feel connected to companies’ visions, missions, and values. It’s those stories that will help keep staff feeling connected. Effective internal communications tools will help to ensure that employees will also receive a voice and have the chance to share their own stories and experiences inside the company.

Thanks to social media, we all have platforms where we can share stories, whether they’re on Facebook or on a blog post like this one.

Storytelling helps us to feel, to empathize, to understand, to appreciate, to take action, to vent, to connect. It keeps things real.

How to take control of your platform when presenting

My apologies for the lack of posts in December but I spent most of the month completing my civic duty. I’m not allowed to disclose too much information about it but I can say that it kept me busy and it was an interesting experience. It also made me appreciate the art of presenting and what it takes to take command in a room full of listeners: poise, polish and posture.

A confident speaker controls his/her environment and maintains steady eye contact, rather than reading from a document. It is also essential to engage your audience and an effective presenter will do just that. By seeking information about an audience’s own views or experiences, you immediately can win them over and receive their full attention. If you’re simply a “business-as-usual” or “get the job done” kind of speaker, expect a lot of yawns and daydreaming.

Honesty and empathy will also go a long way. If you know you’ll be presenting a plethora of facts and information, a quick heads up or a lively quip about it will let your audience know what they’re in for. Being energetic and organized will help your listeners get through even the driest content.

So what if you’re the listener?

During these last three weeks, I was one of many “listeners” or “participants”. And I must admit, it wasn’t always easy sitting there till 8:30pm on some nights knowing I had a Christmas party to go to. What to do? Make the best of it.

This can apply to anyone required to sit in a drafty room for several hours at a time: a common situation that many conference attendees often find themselves in. Or employees forced to attend staff meeting after staff meeting.

A few helpful tips to make the meeting process easier:

1. Bring a snack. If you’re bored, odds are you’re going to get hungry. So bring some chips or Twizzlers. And if you have a few extras for your seatmates, even better. Sharing is caring. A sugar buzz is a plus since you’ll need the added energy. 

2. Bring props. In my case, it was Christmastime, so I thought up an amusing icebreaker which got some laughs: I wore reindeer antlers on two different occasions. It created a lighthearted atmosphere which helped get us through the day. I even brought in noisemakers on New Year’s Eve day.

3. Engage your speakers. If you strike up a conversation with your presenter, he or she will like you enough to want to get you out of there as quickly as possible. The speaker will also make more of an effort to be engaging to keep you interested.

A little give and take will take you far whether you’re presenting or listening. Just a little food for thought as we begin 2014…