The power of stories

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Rebecca Pepper, member of Toastmasters International looks at the relevance of storytelling in making marketing messages memorable for business growth

 You probably remember stories you were told as a child. In my family we were regaled with tales of adventure told by my granddad. One that was particularly memorable culminated in him wrestling with a crocodile in the jungle. Nanna had the evidence – a pair crocodile shoes!

Why has this story lasted so long in my memory and those of others who heard it? Let’s examine the longevity of story and its relevance to the business world.

As business owner you want both yourself and your business to be memorable.  Ideally you want to be remembered so that others repeat your story for you.

Let’s look at the elements that will make a story work for you:

The story itself – It’s about the audience

Granddad retold stories many times. Each time the story would change a little. He would pause in a different place, add or miss out a detail. Intrigued, I asked him why he changed it so often. He replied, “You’re assuming I change it for my needs. Never. The changes are always for those listening. Each time I tell it, the audience is different. Even with the same people, they may be a little or a lot older, and so I adapt to keep them interested. It’s all about them.”

Business owner and World Champion of Public Speaking, Darren LaCroix, says: In telling a story, it’s about the audience, not you. Whether your audience is your six-year old grandchild or a room full of CEOs, your information, your message, your story has to be for them.

To summarise: always tailor your story to your audience and think about what they’ll gain from it.

Bringing it to life

Great stories transport the listener to the scene. Through details of what was seen, heard and felt, listeners experience the story as if they were there. It’s important to get the balance right. Too much detail will take away their involvement in creating the scene, in being part of the story. Give vague or generic detail and they’ll be bored.

I once heard granddad tell the story without describing the jungle foliage or the sweat in the jungle’s heat. The story simply didn’t come alive. Add enough detail through evocative language and listeners can paint the full scene in their minds eye.

Evocative imagery will pull in your business audience in the same way.

How you deliver the story – The pause

Once you have your story written or clear in your mind, the moment has come to tell it.

In the case of my granddad’s stories these were the true moments of power. The pause. The silence. The stillness. You waited, and the anticipation of what would happen next overwhelmed you. Just at the point of unease, it would stop, and you would fall headlong into the next part of the story.

The pause is power for a storyteller. It is an invitation to your listeners to fully engage in your story and message. To be involved. To reflect. To answer the question you have posed. These are the points when your message is truly made.

Always give your audience the time and the space to engage with your story.

 

Vocal variety

Fast. Slow. Loud. Quiet. A whisper. Deep. High. All have their place in a memorable story. Use this purposefully in your business stories

Aim to add colour to your voice and avoid a monotone at all costs!

The prop

Not essential, but a prop can enhance the mood and the message. Granddad’s story will forever be remembered as ‘crocodile shoes.’ Did my granddad ever mention shoes in his story? Never. But nanna did. As an important part of his storytelling, nanna’s props added a detail which added truth (?!!) and humour. And a lasting visual takeaway.

An appropriate prop can illustrate your story and help the audience remember you. Your might even find that a well-chosen prop becomes part of your business brand.

It’s all about them

No, it’s not a mistake. We are circling back to the key message: It’s all about them. It’s all about your audience. Granddad’s stories changed because he watched his audience. He continually met their needs. He sensed the mood, energy and need and adapted accordingly.

Your message is important. But without your audience’s buy-in, it’s going nowhere. Focus on how to create a story that will live in the hearts and minds of your audience, and your story – your message – will last a lifetime.

Always remember that it’s not about you or your business or your product – it’s all about the audience.

I hope these tips for storytelling will help you tell stories that will be remembered and repeated. That way knowledge of you, your message and your business will spread far and wide.