5 tips for telling a better business story

by | Mar 10, 2017

5 tips for telling a better business story

by | Mar 10, 2017

Storytelling is having a massive revival in business. And for good reason. With our attention spans increasingly swamped with information, it’s critical for businesses to communicate in ways that “stick”.

The science indicates that our brains are actually hardwired to constantly seek out stories. What’s more, we are far more likely to remember a story rather than lists of bare facts – especially when we can relate to it or it triggers some kind of emotion.

Despite this, all too often in business we tend to rattle off a bunch of facts, stats or other dry information when asked to explain what it is that we do – whether at a pitch, networking event, on the phone and in our About Us pages or blurbs online.

These are all golden opportunities to sell yourself in story form. And here are five tips on how to do it better.

1. Start in the middle, not the beginning

Chronology is boring, and rarely necessary. The most exciting part of a story is usually in the middle, so start there. You do need to give context – but the mistake that many businesses (and marketers) make all too often is giving far too much detail upfront. (“We started the company in 1986 with just three offices and then we…”) By the time you get to the punchline, your listener is zoning-out, or has clicked away from your About Us page …likely never to return.

Think of the inverted pyramid story structure that news stories take – the main, dramatic event comes at the first sentence; the little details come later. For instance, when you have exciting news, you’d say: “Our team won the football final on Saturday!”, then go into the detail. You wouldn’t start: “We got there at 3pm, then we warmed up, then we…”. So why tell your business’s exciting story this way on your About Us page?

2. Anchor it in your audience’s reality – not yours

Sounds harsh, but it’s true. People (that is, your potential customers) essentially care about themselves – not you. So tell your story in terms of their worries, their problems, whatever keeps them up at night. Always, always. If they relate to your story, they will begin to relate to the business telling it to them (and ideally, why you’re the one that provides a solution). Think: what prompted them to go seeking out your product or service?

3. Include conflict or jeopardy

Any story worth hearing has some kind of element of conflict or jeopardy – odds stacked against a protagonist, overcoming a problem, external forces, internal struggles. These are the ‘villains’ and you (your business / solution / product) is the ‘hero’.

Conflict and jeopardy is what keeps us glued to a story to hear its outcome. It’s what connects with our emotions. Film-makers and authors know it, newspaper editors know it, Netflix producers know it… and it’s time that business owners tapped in.

4. Don’t be afraid to get personal (…but not too personal)

Don’t be afraid to talk about your struggles, as much as your successes. We relate to vulnerabilities or adversities because they are authentic. And guess what happens when we relate? We will be more likely to remember your story.

Many business owners go into a different “mode” when talking shop, rattling off their credentials, turnover, sales figures, client base. There’s a person / team of people behind your stats. Show your listener the person. That said, this is not the time to go all teary and Dr Phil on your listener either – keep your revelations appropriate.

5. Practise!

This is the fun part. Pay attention to the next time a story or spiel either a) bores you or b) interests you. What’s making you switch off / tune in? Is that something you do when you speak?

Talk to your friends about your business and ask them to be brutally honest about what they find interesting or dull. Observe what holds their attention, and let that be your guide.

Finally, make it your ‘homework’ to find three great stories a week – whether in the news, the world of entertainment or among your friends. Your storytelling skill is like a muscle, so start working it.

Want to find out more about how stories can really help you kick goals with your marketing activities? Contact Alice on alice@axisiq.com.au.

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