Business storytellers must tell stories

Posted by  Shawn Callahan —December 7, 2012
Filed in Business storytelling

A quick search on Amazon shows that in 2012 alone there are more than 16 books published on business storytelling. It seems everyone is putting their hand up as an expert in this field.

For me there’s one important test a business storytelling expert must past: when they talk about business storytelling they must actually tell stories. Or better yet, they must tell business stories.

This year I’ve sat through two, hour-long presentations by self proclaimed business storytelling experts who didn’t tell a single story in their talk.

If you’re working in business you should hear business stories all the time. I heard this one this week.

A large law firm had just spent considerable time and money training their partners to be better sales people. They were taught not to waste time on the small fish, to qualify early and move to the next opportunity quickly. No regrets.

On this particularly day some of the partners were running a big pitch and they decided at the last minute that it was essential to have the managing partner at the meeting. They called him and the managing partner said he would love to but he had already committed to meeting with a customer for lunch. The client was a new connection, a fairly small opportunity based in Malaysia. The partners did their best to persuade the managing partner to postpone his meeting but he said, “no, I’ve committed to this meeting and I will be having lunch with my Malaysian client.”

Weeks later as one thing led to another the Malaysian client became the biggest new customer the firm that year.

If you want to brush up on how to spot a story I recommend you do our story test. Or just jump to how we define a story. By the way it’s got nothing to do with protagonists overcoming challenges and hero’s journeys.

PS: Thanks to my friend Darren Woolley for prompting this post with his one on 3 ways to make sure that social media expert is really an expert

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:


  1. Limor says:


  2. Mark Schenk says:

    There are also innumerable articles and blog posts on the subject of storytelling that face the same challenge. Here is a good example
    The article has some great points, and I absolutely support the author’s position…but like most pieces of advice it is awfully long on the ‘what’ and silent on the ‘how’.

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