Learning Hub

Storytelling in Business

'Storytelling' has become a buzzword in the business world as a way in which to engage audiences. In a world where we are all confronted by so much information and a multitude of pictures and videos every day, it has become more important than ever to ensure that presentations are led by a person with the charismatic storytelling skills to keep the audience hooked. When a consultant has to pitch solutions about complicated financial problems, it is so important to ensure the clients are wanting to listen rather than switching off as soon as the 'death by powerpoint' begins. Hard facts, bullet points and directives are never going to be as memorable as a good story.

Take a look at this short animation explaining a case study from Malaysian Airlines on how storytelling engaged the audience and created change within the business.

Business storytelling experts Gabrielle Dolan and Yamini Naidu (see book below) explain that there are four forms of public speaking which can be plotted on a graph of Purpose against Engagement - The Avoider, The Reporter, The Joker and the The Inspirer.

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The Avoider is neither engaging nor useful, The Reporter gives too much factual information and The Joker simply looks for a laugh. The Inspirer is therefore the most important and sought after speaker as they can give all the relevant information whilst ensuring that the audience is engaged and remembers the pitch.

Needless to say, it is really important to get your skills into the 'Inspirer' box and will make you an indispensable in any team. So take a look at the following resources for some helpful tips to improve your skills and reach that standard....

  • In this good article from The Harvard Business Review, Bronwyn Fryer talks to screenwriting lecturer Robert McKee on how skills used for writing engaging scripts for films are equally pertinent in the commercial business sector. More
  • An excellent article on how to start incorporating storytelling into your pitches including a list of six different types of story formats to use. More
  • A great list of 42 videos on business storytelling and how to influence audiences. Includes TEDx talks which are always very insightful and lecturers from Stanford Graduate School of Business among others. more
  • Shawn Callahan from Anecdote, a public speaking workshop company, has put together this slideshow on how stories and quickfire Powerpoints can hugely help a presentation. more
  • Microsoft offers seven articles here on 'Storytelling in the Boardroom' and how to make your presentations slick and efficient. more

Of course books are always a good source of storytelling so take a look at the following recommended titles:

  • 'Business Storytelling for Dummies' by Karen Dietz and Lori Silverman

Aimed at beginners, this is a recommended Dummies book covering several different business areas from compelling graphics to motivating people into action and tailoring stories to specific circumstances. Includes some real-life examples and a template in the appendix.

  • 'The Leader's Guide to Storytelling: Mastering the Art and Discipline of Business Narrative' by Stephen Denning

A great book for those in a leadership position about how to use storytelling to motivate your colleagues. Full of examples and tips on technique, this is the 'how-to guide'. Denning writes some of the top points here.

  • 'Story telling in Business' by Janis Forman

Recommended by Stanford University Press and winner of the 2013 Outstanding Academic Title Award. By conducting over 140 interviews with CEOs in a variety of companies, Forman gets to the heart of why this is becoming such an important part of presentations in today's business world.

  • 'Hooked: How leaders inspire, engage and connect with Storytelling' by Gabrielle Dolan and Yamini Naidu

They've spent 10 years together running leadership and public speaking workshops and this is their definitive guide to how to get people 'hooked' on your presentation. You can download the first chapter here along with some other useful papers here.

  • 'Lead with a Story: A Guide to crafting Business Narratives That Captivate, Convince and Inspire' by Paul Smith

A business focused approach to ensure that clients are persuaded and engaged by your use of stories within your presentations.

  • 'Tell to win: Connect, Persuade and Triumph with the Hidden Power of Story' by Peter Guber

As a former chairman of Sony Pictures, Guber knows how to tell a good story in the entertainment industry. Uses the Trojan Horse as a metaphor for storytelling - an impressive and engaging delivery system for the speaker's agenda.