When was the last time you heard one of those rambling stories that seem to go on and on and quite frankly you couldn’t see the point? Is there someone in your organisation renowned for these types of tales? Sadly these people are labelled bores and often ignored.
There is one important thing you can do to ensure you stories are not boring.
Know the point of your story
Doug Lipman says we need to know the most important thing about our story. What does the story mean to you? What do you love about it? Why is it important? Once you’re clear about what it means to you it will change how you tell the story: you can remove the extraneous (listeners in organisations value brevity); and you can emphasis the important.
As soon as you start telling a story your audience will most often than not give you the time to complete it (this is a valuable characteristic of stories) but at the same time they are also evaluating its relevance. Stories are our main conduit for sharing social information about the people and situations that effect us. So does this story tell me something new that will help me to act more effectively?
So that your audience gets where you are coming from from the outset, it can be useful to make a short statement before the story starts to give the listener a hint about the story’s content and possible relevance. For example, in a meeting I might say something like:
You know what, sometimes small things can make a big difference. Just three weeks ago …
There are other times when you want the meaning of the story to emerge slowly, you want the audience to let the story wash over them and let them discern the meaning entirely for themselves. Shock, horror! The meaning a listener takes away from a story can be different from the one you intended. This feature of stories scares the pants off folk in organisations. Of course the same is true of any communication but we think we are more control when we are telling our audience what to think–but we’re not. I suggest we all recount our stories to trusted advisors and ask them what they draw from it and see if it coincides with your own meaning.
All our stories will benefit from knowing their main point as well as the other sub-points that lie beneath the surface. Part of our practice in becoming business storytellers is to take the time to discover and understand the meaning of our 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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