Storytelling is one of our most important and primary means of communicating with others. The name conjures up images of reading bedtime stories to our children. Yet the art of storytelling is vital to sales and marketing communications. The great sales guys that can sell ice to Eskimos are also great storytellers that can engage their listeners and bring them to decision points.  And I bet they can also keep kids enthralled when reading a bedtime story as well!

As we build our personal brands via social networks we eventually find ourselves telling our own personal or corporate story many times. I find that each time I talk with a new vendor I have to tell the story of who my company is, how we got here and our current needs. Ideally I need to communicate enough of the story so that the vendor can then tell me how they can help.  Storytelling also plays a huge role in when we are selling ourselves and personal brand when interviewing, seeking partners and just about every business relationship at some point.

But how do you become a great storyteller in the business world? No doubt part of it relies on talent and if you are lacking you need to work on some critical areas to succeed.

Practice, practice, practice! As many times as we hear this and as many times as we review and read our story you can never have enough practice. But the key takeaway is finding the parts of the story where you may be having problems. Getting your story down is the first part. Also time your story. You need to give a background and overview in less than a minute or two.

Sequencing is also a key to storytelling. Nothing is worse than saying, “wait, I forgot about..” Backpeddling during a story makes the listener have to break their concentration and can train-wreck the message. If there is a significant event in your history find a good way to mention it without going too deep.  You can even say, “that’s another story,” so that your listener can ask to hear it later if it’s pertinent.

Which leads me to another important point, trim the fat. If certain parts of the story are not relevant take them
out. Nobody wants to listen to a rambling tale that may have a good ending but takes too long to get there.  Of course this sounds easy but when we’re having to tell our corporate or personal story we can stray off kilter. If you’re like me sometimes your brain gets ahead of you and can lose focus. You can get nervous trying to keep listeners attention or their lack of attention can be distracting. Staying focused can keep you on top of your story.

And most important is to be relevant.  Is you listener interested in your story about you or your company.  Ask questions ahead of time if possible or seek input from others.

In my next post I will write about how a great storyteller can use social networks and content to reach their audience.

What are your storytelling tips?  Who is the best storyteller you’ve seen in the business world?

Brian McDonald

Brian McDonald started Square Jaw Media to document strategies and techniques he had used over his experience working in marketing and communications since 1990. During this time Brian wrote about many of the exciting Raleigh social media events where great knowledge was being shared and tries to share some of the tips and tricks. . Read Brian's full bio.