056 – Why storytelling matters

Ending the PowerPoint monopoly with Gabrielle Dolan

It’s time for some good old-fashioned storytelling.  There are few things worse than being bored into catatonia by an interminable PowerPoint presentation.  Incredibly, this staple of corporate boardrooms has been with us for nearly thirty years.  No one really likes PowerPoint but everyone uses it.  Why?  It’s a crutch, pure and simple.

Gabrielle Dolan is here to rescue us from this plague of stultifying presentations.  Gabrielle is the author of a series of books on the power of storytelling for the business world.  Her most recent is titled Stories for Work: The essential guide to business storytelling.

Lessons Learned

Here’s what I took from the episode:

A kind of inertia has set in amongst professionals who believe that if they don’t use PP they will appear unprepared.  The software makes it far too easy to create slide after endless slide – crammed with way too much information.  We need to return to simple, effective storytelling to engage and inform our audience.

Storytelling is effective

Bullet points enrage, storytelling engages.  When we hear someone telling a story we engage on a different level.  It’s the way we’re built.  We’re hardwired to listen to stories.  When you tell a good story those listening will share that experience.  Like any skill some people are naturally better at storytelling than others.  Those who are prepared to show vulnerability and are able to connect that with their business message are the most successful.

It takes a while to get good at it

When you’re crafting your story make sure you have a clear message you want to convey.  Is it passion? Respect? Integrity?  There is nothing worse than someone who begins a story without knowing what the ending is.  Until you get really good at this don’t try and wing it.  Another mistake is that some people try to cram too much into a story.  There needs to be a single clear message.  Case studies appeal to logic. Stories appeal to emotion.

A great story should be simple

It only takes a beginning, a middle and an end but that’s deceptively simple.  There are tons of mistakes to be avoided along the way.  Don’t start a story with “I’d like to tell you a story” unless you want to immediately anesthetize your audience.  Start with a time and a place.  “I was six years old when I visited my grandma’s farm.”  Also, make sure to name your characters.  Your wife shouldn’t be referred to as “my wife”.  She has a name, right?

Connect to people’s emotions

A great storyteller connects with people on an emotional level.  Your audience needs to share your experience.  Using strong, emotional phrases that convey your feelings will resonate with your audience.  Phrases like “I was so scared that…”  will transport and engage the listener.

Wrap it up!

Have the discipline to end your story after one or two minutes.  Anything longer and your audience will start to tune out.  Chuck out any extraneous details and focus on the key information.  Be sure to end your story with your central message.  “The reason I’m sharing this with you is….”

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