Business story-listening and storytelling in London

Posted by  Shawn Callahan —December 10, 2008
Filed in Business storytelling

We are running two workshops in London this June:

  • Narrative techniques for business (story-listening)–24th June 09

    RSA House
    8 John Adam Street

  • Storytelling for business leaders (storytelling)–25th June 09

    School of Oriental and African Studies
    University of London
    Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square

The cost for each workshop is £350

Email us for a registration form.

These two methods are inextricably linked, which we’ve attempted to illustrate in this diagram.


If you want to learn about these methods and you live near London, here’s your chance. Just email me and I will send out a registration form.

Below is a full description of each workshop.

Narrative Techniques for Business

  • What’s really going on in your organisation?
  • What are the touch points where small changes can transform behaviour and morale?
  • How can you develop a common understanding of what needs to be done and generate the resolve to do it?

Surveys and metrics can uncover trouble in an organisation, but they usually don’t help you identify the reasons for dysfunctions, let alone generate the resolve to springboard people into action. Instead, learn to use stories as listening posts and tap into the emotion to spark action. From time immemorial, stories have contained collective lessons in condensed form. When gathered and examined, stories that are told in your organisation reveal important themes and patterns that in turn indicate effective solutions.

This one-day workshop, led by Australia’s leading experts in story listening, teaches you to gather and make sense of stories so as to see revealing patterns and use them to gain traction on solving messy organisational problems or reaching complex goals.

After a full day of instruction, practice and feedback, you will have the confidence and knowledge to apply these powerful techniques within your organisation.

Who should attend?

Anyone struggling with thorny human problems or complex goals such as the following will gain value from this workshop:

  • creating culture change
  • building trust
  • making mergers and acquisitions successful
  • capturing the knowledge of retiring employees
  • extracting lessons from projects
  • improving occupational health and safety
  • managing risk

The instruction is grounded in insights from organisational development and the science of complexity as well as in years of hands-on work with a wide range of organisations.

Practical, hands-on training

Story listening is not something you can learn from a manual. This workshop teaches how to find and collect stories, how to make sense of the stories and then how to design interventions that improve how things work. Participants practice each step in the process with one another and receive feedback that improves their understanding and ability to work with organisational stories.

Workshop topics covered include:

  • when narrative approaches make sense and when to use other techniques
  • how many participants to involve in story gathering and the characteristics you should look for in selecting them
  • two techniques that effectively elicit stories from just about anyone
  • which media to use for preserving and analyzing stories
  • ways to extract meaning from a large volume of stories
  • how to formulate ways of tackling truly complex problems based on lessons from the stories

By the end of the day, you will be prepared to run a story listening project using the narrative techniques you have learned and practised. This might aim at collecting lessons learned from a large project, improving employee satisfaction, smoothing the way for massive organisational change or enhancing occupational health and safety.

Here’s what previous participants have said

“Anecdote is a great concept, and delivered with very high quality. Honest, thoughtful, valuable. The staff are very generous with their expertise and resources. They are open and approachable, acknowledging both their achievements and how they learned from their mistakes. These people are the real thing. You get a strong sense of how these processes can be applied in business settings. A really great workshop.” Ian Colley, MakeStuffHappen

“We were looking for a fresh approach to get the business involved in cultural development. So instead of telling employees the results of our cultural survey and getting them to fix it, we wanted it to be owned by the business and have them discover for themselves the underlying reason why things are the way they are, in a new, explorative and interesting way. So we used Anecdote. It’s the narrative discovery approach that provided such rich information about our culture. We would have never been able to get these insights without it. Plus the subsequent cultural initiatives would have missed the mark completely.” Andrew Petersen, Challenger Financial Services

Storytelling for Business Leaders

We all need better ways to persuade, share what we know and help those around us make sense of the complex world we live in. Developing our innate storytelling skills helps build confidence, convey ideas clearly and effectively, and probably most importantly, present to our colleagues our humanity.

We all want to convey our ideas with impact, yet eyes instantly glaze the moment you beam your PowerPoint presentation laden with slide after slide of dot points. We know informally that stories are engaging; we tell them at dinner parties and people listen and they ‘get it’. Yet few leaders systematically harness storytelling to communicate ideas, convey the organisation`s values or inspire and motivate people.

What the one day workshop is all about

Telling business stories is not about concocting events and delivering your tale to an enraptured audience. Rather, it relies on people retelling their own experiences in an authentic and empathetic way. Anecdote has developed a three-step process to guide you.


Everyone has stories to tell, but in many cases we are unaware of them. Prospecting involves creating a conducive environment for people to remember their stories. This might involve one-on-one interview techniques or group processes.


We can improve the way we tell our stories by understanding the story structures and patterns appropriate for the task. During the workshop, we will explore a few key patterns and help participants re-craft their stories based on these story patterns.


Effective storytelling comes from a belief that the story is authentic. People judge authenticity on how the storyteller delivers their story. Participants will learn ways to develop a comfortable delivery style and feel at ease at telling stories regardless of the setting. This workshop is for anyone wanting to improve their ability to find and tell their own stories within a business context.

Who should attend

This workshop is for anyone wanting to improve their ability to find and tell their own stories within a business context. It is also for people wishing to improve their leaders’ ability to communicate ideas and engage staff in developing new behaviours.

You should attend this course if you are interested in:

  • communicating your organisation`s mission, vision and values
  • helping leaders motivate and inspire
  • conveying desirable behaviours
  • sharing knowledge
  • becoming a more effective leader
  • sparking action
  • having people really listening to your ideas.

What you will learn and leave with

  • a better understanding of what makes an effective story in a business context
  • a newly discovered story- re-crafted story from your own experience
  • understanding of how to best craft questions to discover stories
  • ways to interview people for stories and facilitate anecdote circles
  • when to use what story pattern – build confidence in telling your story.

What attendees have said

‘Shawn has a most honest, open and engaging approach which is what is shown to work best with this technique and creates an enjoyable workshop.’

‘The workshop covered a lot of territory in a way that combined analytical rigour with a clear and informal delivery. I recommend it without reservation.’

‘There’s loads of value in the Storytelling for Business Leaders workshop, and it’s been a useful part of my leadership development activities.

In my role as Chief Sustainability Officer I’m often using stories about how our clients thinking has shifted around sustainability… they’re often very powerful. The workshop has given me ideas and tools on how to actively include stories into presentations to give a better sense to people of who I am and what I stand for, as well as to illustrate key messages. I know they’re having effect because of the feedback I receive – that they reflect an authenticity that is engaging – and because I hear people sharing these same stories.’

About  Shawn Callahan

Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one of 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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