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A simple practice for building your story repertoire

Posted by  Shawn Callahan —September 19, 2010
Filed in Anecdotes, Business storytelling

How do you remember so many stories? I get this question a lot and for some time I didn’t really know the answer. I certainly believe stories are important, that they are memorable, help you connect with your audience and all the other many benefits we talk about on this blog. But how does one remember the right story when you need it? In the last few of months I worked out a critical element; a great way to build your story repertoire.

We’ve been working with the Victorian Bushfire Recontruction and Recovery Authority (VBRRA) for a number of months now and back in July I facilitated an event of 200+ Community Recovery Committee (CSC) leaders to help them better connect across their 33 CSCs. We helped them share their stories to make new connections.

In preparation for the event I met with Christine Nixon (then VBRRA Chairman) and Ben Hubbard (CEO) and described our story-based approach and ask whether they would like to share a story or two with me. Christine told me this.

In the first few weeks of the fires I was in Narbethong at the Black Spur Inn. I met a team from OPSM who were helping people with lost glasses and other sight problems. They told me about one elderly couple that had come to see them. The man was technically blind from diabetes. The lady had smoke damaged eyes. The OPSM team examined them both and decided the man should see an opthalmic specialist for a fresh opinion on his eye problems. Technology had changed considerably since he lost his vision and new procedures were available. They arrange the visit and ultimately this resulted in surgery that dramatically improved his vision, so much that care was no longer needed.

After hearing this story I was out in the corridor talking to Deb, who worked with Christine, and asked what the story meant for her. Deb said that it was an example of how good things can come out of terrible situations. She also said it showed that corporate involvement can make a difference. For me I thought it was an example of how small things can make a big difference. And then it struck me, this is an important practice for remembering stories: you need to ask yourself what an experience or story means, what’s the point of this story?

But knowing the point of a story doesn’t guarantee you’ll remember it. It does, however, provide a trigger for the story to be retold and the retelling reinforces those synaptic pathways that help you remember the story.

This experience made me realise that I often ring Mark (my business partner) and tell him a story I’ve just heard and we talk about the point of the story and when we might retell it. Inadvertently we had created a story remembering practice.

Yes, we also record our stories, albeit briefly. And The Story Finder helps. But there is nothing better to be able to illustrate a point with an example on the fly and having these stories in your head makes all the difference

About  Shawn Callahan

Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:

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