Business Storytelling Training
When I started my speaking and training business in 2004, many CEOs thought that business storytelling was “woo woo”: A soft skill that no one really had time for and that had no real ROI. Then the world changed and most of them changed their minds.
THE IGEL BUSINESS STORYTELLING TRAINING STORY
I have spoken at hundreds of sales conferences over the years but I think this is my favourite success story. An old client of mine, Jed Ayres, got a new job as CMO of a German-based technology company. Their communication was all very technical and factual when he arrived, typical of the technology industry.
Jed understands the power of stories to cut through clutter and stick. So for the last 4 years he has invited me to tell stories, interview customers and partners, and motivate his team at all of their conferences. We have also worked together to train their leadership team with our Storytelling for Leaders program, and to craft their brand story so it can be told consistently and passionately by their worldwide sales force.
Today Jed is CEO. They have increased sales at over 30% per year every year since he started. Jed will tell you it is in no small part because of what we have done motivating their people at their conferences and by using the power of stories.
WHY BUSINESS STORYTELLING TRAINING?
Here is a small test to answer the question “Why do my people need Business Storytelling training”? Close your eyes.
Think back to the hundreds of conferences and meetings you have attended in just the last few years.
Other than outside hired professional speakers, can you remember a single presentation one of your people made?
Can you remember how any of them made you feel?
Can you think of anything you did differently as a result?
Sadly, most business people answer “no”.
Let’s try another. What percentage of your sales force are the real performers? 10%? 20%?
Or this: How engaged are your employees? How well did your latest strategy stick with them and cause behaviour change
For most businesses, the answers are sadly very low. And that’s where business storytelling comes in.
Why do you and your people need Business Storytelling Training? Here are 3 great reasons:
1. WE ARE ALL ATTENTION DEFICIT
We can thank Social Media for that. It is a result of 500 million Tweets, 23 billion text messages and 300 billion emails flying around in the ether every day. That’s a lot of noise. It is hard for any business message to cut through and harder to make it stick.
When most people are asked what makes their product or company different, the answer is vague, unprovable and forgettable. When they are asked what the CEO said at the last all hands meeting, the answers are similarly vague. When asked to articulate the company strategy, blank stares.
It is not because they are stupid. It is largely because those messages are fighting an incredible amount of clutter. And, more important, because they are told in a way that doesn’t stick! It is not clear and it is not sticky.
But isn’t it funny that in all that noise we can all make the time to binge watch a great series on Netflix. Not a two hour movie – 8 seasons x 10 episodes a season. And we’re dying to hear how the series ends. Because if we hear a great story, we are completely engaged!
And there is a simple but fundamental human reason for that.
2. HUMANS ARE HARD-WIRED TO STORIES
Since we first figured out how to communicate, stories have been the model we use to organize and process the information coming at us. We drew stories on cave walls. We tell stories orally, in song, in writing, film, dance. Whatever form of expression we can dream up, we use it to tell stories.
“Story” is what we do and how we do it. It is the construct we humans have created to make sense of everything. In fact, our ability to imagine a story or tell it may be the most powerful distinction between us and every other mammal on the planet.
And there is lots of science behind this. Chemicals are released in the human brain when we hear a great story that tell us to stick around to the end. And when we do, if it is a good story well told, we remember it.
Stories help us process and understand at both an intellectual and emotional level. A great story touches us, sticks, and never leaves. We can’t remember a single PowerPoint slide we have ever seen. We can’t remember most of the last All Hands meeting. But we remember The Three Little Pigs and that the wolf “huffed and he puffed and he blew the house down” till we die.
But wait – we’re are a business, get serious!
Yup. We know.
3. STORIES WON’T REPLACE FACTS
We’re not saying to throw out your facts. We’re saying opinions and facts are not enough any more. There are too many opinions – too many facts. They are largely debatable, indistinguishable and fleeting. They have minimal impact.
Business stories will support your opinions and facts and make them stick. They’ll support and enhance them. They help connect on an emotional level, not just an intellectual level.
We’re not talking fairy tales or Hero’s Journey or Luke vs Darth. They have their place in theatres and books. We’re talking about Business stories and why your need Business Storytelling training. We’re talking about Success Stories. Context Stories. Your Origin story. Values Stories. Perspective Stories. Clarity Stories. Failure stories. And yes, relevant Personal Stories.
BUT I’M NOR IRISH – I’M NOT A STORYTELLER
Business Storytelling is a skill that can be both taught and learned. It takes work, a lot of it. Like learning to play a musical instrument, you don’t attend a seminar or watch a TV show and “presto” you’re a master storyteller. It takes training. And it pays off.
Business storytelling should be a fundamental element of your people’s communication skill because stories help them connect in a way that is deeper and stickier than opinions and information alone. Since every company we have ever asked has said that improving communication would have a huge impact on their culture and performance, this is an obvious fix.
Does your company need Business Storytelling Training? Only if improving communication with your prospects and customers and people would have a positive impact on your performance. Only if having your leaders better engaged with your people would have a positive impact. Only if have a stronger culture that attracted and retained better people would make a difference.
Like we said, some CEOs used to think Business Storytelling Training was a “nice to have”. The ones that have engaged in our Business Storytelling Training will tell you now that it is a “need to have”. And this includes some of the world’s best companies and leaders.