How many times have you attended a presentation and realized days later that you don’t remember very much of what was said? I bet the answer is pretty often.
There’s a Native American proverb that says “Those who tell the stories, rule the world” and in the corporate world, that’s truer than ever. With technology competing for everyone’s attention, the speaker’s job has become more and more difficult. Engaging stories can make an audience put down their phones and understand business objectives or cultural aspirations in a way that facts and figures don’t.
After all, from a very young age, we learn that stories are a good thing—we look forward to hearing them and then as we get older, telling them. Stories can inspire, engage and inform, in a memorable way. But where do you find great stories?
Stories stories everywhere.
Start with what you know. For instance, in my 9th grade English class we studied Greek and Roman gods and goddesses, and were challenged with linking mythology to modern day, a subject I greatly enjoyed. Years later, when I worked on a presentation for a senior leader that was focused on the strength of our organization, you can bet that I included a story around the Greek god Jupiter.
Another deep well of stories lies in your personal experiences and it’s a good bet that your audience hasn’t heard them before. I began a presentation on Leadership with a story about my Grandmother, who led her family from Ireland to Philadelphia in a quest to escape poverty. I could tell by the reaction of the audience that they were listening and engaged.
Powerful messages. Even without princesses.
In the business world, a story can be fascinating even without make-believe and far-away lands. A well-crafted narrative can become a business case for seeking funding or securing resources. It can shape an organization’s culture or serve to orient new employees. You can even tell a compelling story that will persuade reluctant team mates to get on board with a new process.
Start with the challenge at hand: Is the organization in a growth phase? Facing internal or market-driven activity? Is there a challenge to overcome or an opportunity to seize? Knowing the situation will help you to find and select the right story for the situation.
On your mark, get set, story hunt!
Encourage your team members to become “story hunters”—people who listen for stories that bear repeating in the workplace. Here’s an example. One of our VPs was casually chatting with his seatmate on a cross-country flight. As he explained a little bit about our company, she asked him the firm’s top 10 customers were. He wasn’t sure what “top” meant—the top revenue drivers, the longest relationship, the biggest companies? –and it bothered him. Back at work, he gathered a small team and announced that they were going to answer that very important question. Within a year, everyone in the organization was able to name our Top 10 Customers and importantly a focus on top customers became a strategic initiative for the entire division. You can bet that for years to come that VP told and retold the story of his enlightened plane conversation.
If you’re ready to incorporate storytelling into your communications strategy, KDH Consulting can help you get started. You’ll have a treasure trove of stories in no time. And you’ll be able to grab your audience’s attention with 6 irresistible words: “Let me tell you a story.”
2 Replies to “6 Words Guaranteed to Get Your Audience’s Attention”
Hey Kelly, this is great. I’m putting together some leadership development training ideas for our department next year, this would make a great session. Give me a call and we can talk about it, wondering if you would be available to lead a session for us, probably in 2Q.
Chris, I will reach out to discuss how we can help! This has been an unprecedented year of challenges. And communications have never been more important.
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