We tell stories all the time to persuade, inspire, educate, entertain and to connect to one another.
Everyone loves a good juicy story!
We all get bogged down with facts and figures in business, which are important in their own right but it’s hard to connect to your customers with just data driven content.
People do business with people they like. Your clients want to feel that connection to your business and the best way for them to feel that is through an emotionally engaging story.
To help us understand a bit more about the importance of storytelling for business we got a chance to interview Paul O’Connor, The Commercial Director of The Lir National Academy of Dramatic Art at Trinity College Dublin. Through their “Lir at Work” initiative they provide corporate communications training – using techniques used by professional actors, to help people in work become better communicators.
Why should companies include storytelling as part of their business communication strategy?
Storytelling is a powerful tool that allows a company to build emotional connections with their audience – and building that emotional connection is the Holy Grail for any communications strategy. Whether it’s a Key Note speaker at a convention or a television ad for a high street brand, a compelling story, delivered with passion and conviction is an extremely powerful tool of persuasion The old adage of “People do Business with People they like” still rings true because essentially is means that a connection has been made – and when it comes to the art of storytelling for business, a competitive advantage is given to any company who can learn to do it well.
What are the key benefits of storytelling for business?
Clients will often ask us this when looking at organising storytelling training for their team – and it’s not uncommon for them to confuse features with benefits. Sometimes it’s easy to focus on the tangible assets that introducing storytelling can bring – delivering a professional pitch or presentation at board level, selling the company’s brand values to an important client or communicating detailed (sometimes boring!) data in a more engaging way to a large audience.
But they’re simply all the ‘WHAT’S’………and the real benefit is the ‘WHY’. Again, it will always come down to one thing – Making an Emotional Connection with an audience. Yes, storytelling can transform the way a company communicates – but the end benefit is using their powerful communication tools to make an emotional connection.
Why is storytelling important for businesses in a post covid world
The biggest communication challenge in this post-COVID world is overcoming the various obstacles that everyone faces when communicating via Zoom, Teams, Google Meet etc – and being able to make meaningful human connections. Although the online platforms have revolutionised the way in which we communicate – they’re all absolutely exhausting and ‘Zoom Fatique’ is ubiquitous.
We’ve had to change the way we communicate because there’s so many barriers now in place which hinder making meaningful connections with people. Body language – usually a huge part of how we communicate is all but null and void – and technical hitches and weak WIFI signals all serve to stifle the natural flow of human interaction. Storytelling has always served as a tool to connect and unify people – and in a world that poses new challenges to overcome, storytelling is a powerful tool that can help us stay connected.
What steps can a company take to bring storytelling to their business
The first step is to decide what is the story that you’d like to tell – or sell. And every person, and every company has a story. Once you know your story, you need to know your audience – and what they’re looking for. The final piece of the puzzle is the performance – bringing your story to life for an audience who will connect with and benefit from it.
In your experience can you give some examples of how storytelling has worked with clients or case studies you’ve worked with in the past?
When talking to clients about the benefits of our Presenting Made Brilliant workshop, I always tell them about Desmond, a lovely guy who I met in one of our workshops last year. He was a Head of Department of a leading UK university who had felt that he had lost his teaching ‘mojo’ and was no longer delivering any benefit to his students. He was really troubled as he felt he was letting them down – and quite honestly, he looked like a broken man.
At the start of the workshop he got up and did his first presentation, which was awful. Fidgeting, nervous, lacking focus and most importantly – lacking belief. I could see why he was losing his students’ attention. As the workshop progressed though, he started to apply the techniques and approaches that we use – and when he got up to do his final presentation of the day he had absolutely transformed! He was brimming with confidence, his entire physicality had changed – he was open, smiling & passionate and the presentation he gave was Ted Talk worthy. He left at the end of the day on Cloud 9 – and I was absolutely delighted for him.
I used to tell that story to try and sell the virtues of our Presenting Made Brilliant course – but in fact what I was doing was showing the benefits of our Storytelling for Business workshop, because the people I told it too bought into Desmond’s personal story. They were all able to relate to his personal struggle – “The Hero’s Journey” – and they all were rooting for him to prevail – which of course he did. I could have told them about the technical merits of what the course provided – but Desmond’s story was far more compelling and that’s what people feel connected to. I’ll continue to tell Desmond’s story to help win new business for one simple reason – IT WORKS!
What courses would suit a company who wants to learn more about storytelling for their business?
Through our “Lir at Work” initiative, we offer a number of different communications performance workshops for individuals and businesses looking to improve the way they communicate within the workplace. Our Storytelling for Business workshop continues to be one of our most popular – focusing on delivering a thorough understanding of how to construct and deliver impactful stories that can help you make an emotional connection with your audience. If anyone wants to bring their storytelling skills to the next level we would love to hear from you.
Paul O’Connor is the Commercial Director of The Lir National Academy of Dramatic Art at Trinity College Dublin. Through their “Lir at Work” initiative they provide corporate communications training – using techniques used by professional actors, to help people in work become better communicators. For more information visit www.theliratwork.ie or email [email protected]
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