People can be put off building their story skills because storytelling seems too big. They think they must have a beautifully crafted tale that’s both entertaining and has a profound message.
In fact, to get started it’s better to focus on sharing examples and small stories. Find something that happened yesterday and share that today.
I tell my students, “Don’t bother crafting stories. Forget about three-act structures or the hero’s journey. Life is far more interesting.”
Go places where things are happening and find stories. Savour what you discover. Bill Murray has a great take on this.
“I don’t think you’re born with (the ability to tell a story). You have to hear stories and you have to live stories. You have to have a bunch of experiences and be able to say ‘Here’s something that happened to me yesterday…’ And if you can make people laugh by telling them what happened to you, then you are telling the story well.”
Of course, laughter is not the only measure of success. A simple nod of appreciation will suffice for a business setting.
Never underestimate the utility of a small story.
Let’s say you see a sausage dog with a colourfully knitted jacket at a cafe. It’s adorable. And then, just as you bend down to pat it, the hound snaps at your fingers.
The next day at work, you’re negotiating the purchase of a sizeable asset. Everyone is smitten by its functionality and size. They want to sign the contract now. But you remind everyone, “Things can unexpectedly bite you if you don’t do the due diligence. Just yesterday I saw this sausage dog…”
They won’t forget your message. It will stick. Yet, it was such a small story.
Connecting small stories with business points becomes your superpower.
Did you see how I prefaced my small story with the business point? That helps your listener understand the relevance of your story to the situation and it makes it much easier for them to hear the story.
Here’s a story told by Jeff Bezos. Work out the business point and pop it into the comments. It’s not as easy as it seems.
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: