We are all in the emotional transportation business. That is a great line I saw in this Forbes piece on the importance of storytelling for entrepreneurs. Don’t let the title fool you as storytelling is for everyone. Most people could care less about the technical aspects of your business or what you are trying to do. What they do care about are things that touch, move and inspire them. Perhaps that is the first lesson from the piece. It is about them, the audience, not you the storyteller. You need to connect not just ramble on in your own world. It has to become a joint experience.
Too many people get a little turned off when you mention the importance of storytelling, as they think it is too childish. It is too emotional with not enough meat. Take a second and really think about things that have stuck with you since your early days. The stories you heard from your parents and other relatives formed the entire basis of who you are and where you came from. The stories told in your faith tradition built on your family stories to help build meaning for your life. Great teachers didn’t teach by spouting out facts but rather built stories around what they were trying to teach. Just think of your favorite history, geography or even science teachers and then think of the ratio of stories vs. facts in their lectures. There is a reason they were your best teaches. People remember stories they don’t remember facts delivered without context. The same is true in business.
There is definitely an art to storytelling or delivering your message in this way. Take a look at some of the key points in the article and I think you will agree that they make sense. It is important to choose the right time and the right place to deliver the story. The listeners need to be ready to hear the story. They need to be engaged. They should become part of the story. It should in some ways be interactive. There should be meaning in the story for them and more than likely it is because there is a shared experience of some kind. When you tell the story of forgetting to do your homework and how you needed to figure out a solution chances are your listeners were all in the same boat and immediately shifted into how they felt experiencing the same thing.
Perhaps the hardest part, and one of the most important, is the need to open up and put a part of yourself in the story. Remember this is about the emotional transportation business and the easiest way for the audience to connect is for you to open up. Think about this the next time you are going to give a presentation. Think about the key facts that need to be delivered and then think of a pertinent story or life experience that would be relevant. Think of word pictures you could use to make your point.
Once when trying to describe the changes in the pharmaceutical industry during an initial talk to my new business unit I wanted to show why change was needed. I talked about the “old” industry being similar to my childhood trips from Michigan to Florida where you would get in the car, roll up the windows, turn on the radio and jump on the expressway and the next thing you knew you were there. You really never got to experience the areas you passed on the trip and in fact were just tuned out most of the way. But the trip was easy and you couldn’t get lost. Now the industry is more like riding a dirt bike through the woods or even a jungle. The ride is tough. You feel every bump and get bugs in your teeth. You feel the heat and know when the wind is at your back or dead in your face. It is not as easy but the challenge makes it a lot more fun. Nobody remembers a single fact about the new business structure but years later people keep telling me they are still riding the dirt bike.
Stories are important whether you are teaching your kids something, building a presentation for senior leadership, talking to the sales team or even when developing a presentation for your reps to give their doctors. It is very difficult to communicate anything meaningful without a story. It is all about the emotional transportation business. What are your stories?