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Monthly Business e-Tips Vol 4
Issue 2

How to Use Stories to Make Your Point

"Stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience. They are the currency of human contact". Robert McKee

We have all had difficulty getting across a concept, directions or a request for improvements at some time. We explain, give instructions, and talk about the expected results. Often our audience just doesn’t seem to get it. We all have different styles of communication and sometimes we miss the target and don’t get our point across.

At client meetings when I have a profound observation to make and I am getting a vacant look; or when I ask, “Does that make sense?” and the response is, “Not really”. I know my message is unclear. I have found that a short narrative is an effective way to get my point across. It can be as short as an analogy or as expansive as a story. Tales can be actual experiences, yours or others, excerpts from books or movies, or even made-up scenarios. The benefit of a story is that it paints a picture. It can be visualized. The description of a situation rather than a concept helps people relate and can be remembered long after the story has been told.

When discussing customer service or sales improvements with clients, I tell them about my great experiences at LL Bean and horrible episodes with the telephone company. Restaurants and car dealerships are also great examples because everyone has experience with them. Stories about familiar situations invite people to talk about their own relevant experiences. They always get the point.

Think about the business gurus who want to change how we manage, strategize or market our businesses. They tell amazing stories of how it has been done right and when companies have failed miserably. Unlike the gurus, we don’t have to mesmerize people with our elaborate recounting but we do need to be clear, to the point and passionate about our message.

Opportunities to use stories in business:

  • Tell prospects the benefits of working with you. Talk about real situations when people have come to you with problems and how they are better off after using your product or service. Use several real-life scenarios similar to your prospect’s situation.
  • Motivate change and improvements. Change is difficult for most people. Help them understand the value of change for the company and for themselves. Offer a situation of how a similar action brought great results to another business. Make it easy for them to visualize their role in the solution.
  • Teach a new idea. Ideas and concepts are hard for some people to latch on to. Make them real by bringing them to life with details. Show the cause and effect of a principle by illustrating your stories with real people and events that make sense to your audience.
  • Coach an employee to improve a behavior. Use a third-person example to help people understand how their interpersonal behavior may affect others. This will reduce defensiveness. Make your story conversional for better results. It will prepare them to handle the behavior issue head-on.
Always make your stories relevant, interactive and short. Following my own advice, I conclude this newsletter.

Happy story telling!

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