Can you tell a story?
Can you tell one about yourself? About what’s important to you? About your values or your challenges?
Storytelling is an important business skill (and if you don’t believe me, check out a few of the 44 million Google results from “storytelling business communication.”)
What do I mean by “storytelling”? The word itself can be offputting to some people. It can conjure images of long, drawn-out tales or something that is fanciful and not rooted in facts or data. But what I mean when I talk about storytelling is the ability to share a concrete example that brings a concept to life.
This skill is critical to helping other people understand, viscerally, the ideas, theories, data, principles, and values that we are talking about. Great leaders know how to draw listeners in using metaphors, examples, stories, and analogies to make their ideas real.
I was coaching a client in the healthcare space recently. We were working on a presentation she was going to give about a new initiative she really cares about, one that could transform how many people in her community get timely medical care. Her presentation was heavy on theory and data, and it simply wasn’t very engaging.
I asked if she could tell me about someone she knew who was going to benefit from the new program, and her eyes lit up. She told me about a woman with a family history of breast cancer who would be able to access mammograms and biopsies, if needed. The woman’s story was detailed, and moving. This new initiative could make a life or death difference for her, and for many others like her.
“Tell her story,” I suggested. “Drop us into the reality of what it’s like to need care that we don’t know how to get, and probably can’t afford. Help us feel the relief of learning that there’s a program just for me, that someone thought about how to help.”
Folding in this story made it clear why the program mattered. It helped the audience understand the urgency and gave context to the data. Her story wasn’t long or complex, but it served a clear purpose. The ability to share the personal impact of a program, a chart, or a data set can be the difference between landing your message with impact and missing the mark.
Want to learn more? Check out our Fundamentals of Storytelling workshop!