How to Relate to People Through Story-Telling

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How to Relate to People Through Story-Telling

According to Wikipedia, storytelling describes the social and cultural activity of sharing stories, sometimes with improvisation, theatrics, or embellishment. Every culture has its own stories or narratives, which are shared for the purpose of entertainment, education, cultural preservation or instilling moral values.  For example, here at Avanceon, in order to share our fundamental of “Appreciate, Celebrate, Enjoy”, we like to tell stories about the time our President dressed up like Snow White- I think he even wore a bra that day!

Why it’s important
How often do you remember a story or the plot of a movie, but not the title of the book or movie?
Did you know that after a presentation, 63% of attendees remember stories and only 5% remember statistics?  Think of all the time you put into statistics when creating your winning presentation.  It is likely that your audience will not remember your metrics or your three amazing plot points, but the story you told will stick with them.  Your story can help a client envision how you are going to create positive change for them.
One well know example is Africa Food Relief.  Back in the 80’s there was an orphan and food shortage problem in Africa.  The problem was staggering and there was no end in sight.  One of the proposed solutions was to engage the American people by asking them sponsor a child for only $1 a day.  If you remember this, you probably also remember the advertisements of small, gaunt, children, looking desperately into the camera with a rendition of Amazing Grace playing in the background.  These commercials were set up to pull at our heartstrings. And these stories generated millions of dollars in aid.
Picking a story is equally as important as telling it. 

1. Is it relevant?
Not every story is a good story. In any engagement, before you know what the perfect story will be, you first need to ask questions to learn about your audience.  What is most important to your listener?  Is it time, quality, cost, timeline, a trusted resource?


2. Can you speak intelligently about the story?
Maybe you have a situation where you personally struggle to capture and articulate the story, but you know it will help your client.  Then find the person who can tell the story.  The client will appreciate the extra effort, and feel confident that you understand them.


3. Does it inspire action?
Just telling stories doesn’t inspire action.  Think about how you close out the story.  Ask questions to confirm the story was relevant.  Then to inspire action you simply need to ask, “Based on what you heard, do you think we could help you as well?”

How to tell a good story
As a successful Systems Integrator in business for over 30 years we have a plethora of stories.  But how do you tell a good story and why should you?  We are passionate about what we do because we know we can help companies be successful.  To help our clients we need to relay our experience and passion.
A few pointers to keep in mind;

1. Introduce it clearly so that they are ready to listen. “What you just said reminds me of when we….” or “This feels a lot like another customer we worked with a few years back, he/she…….


2. Have a clear beginning, middle and end to your story. Rambling on about an experience is not the same as telling a story and will quickly lose the attention of your audience.  You should focus on; who are we talking about, why are we talking about them, what was their experience like, and lastly how does this connect to our customer?


3. Try to create an emotional experience. Excitement, joy, possibilities are great emotions to inspire and move people.  Humans connect and remember feelings much longer than facts.

Integrating stories into your company’s culture
There are techniques for telling stories that you can add to your team’s repertoire. One thing you will need to do is make it a part of your routine conversations. For example, at the end of a successful project with a customer, during the debrief phase, start asking questions.  Most teams will talk about what went well, and what could have gone better. Having strategic overview conversations like this will help to naturally form stories. A few other exercises are to have people write them down, in a blog similar to this, or have people share stories at the beginning of company/team meetings. There is not a right way to begin integrating stories into your culture; the important thing is to just start.
Ask questions, listen to the answers, and tell the right story. Storytelling can be an easy way to give credibility, inspire action, and create a visual for your audience. In short, stories create interest and interest creates memories, and we want to be memorable.
Image Source: pch.vector

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