Business Storytelling For Dummies
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You’ve likely heard the idioms There are two sides to every story and There are two sides to every question. Some people suggest there are actually three sides: Yours, theirs, and the truth. When it comes to stories, there are as many sides as the number of people who’ve been touched by the situation — which in some cases, means a seemingly limitless number of perspectives.

So what? What does that mean to storytelling? It means you need to determine which side(s) of the story you need to hear. If you elect to formally capture the story for use in a presentation, in a document, or for placement into a story bank, you need to be especially strategic in figuring out which perspective will be of most value to the most people in the long term.

How to identify who has story and perspective

Imagine you just read a Facebook posting from your friend. Dave says he was in a biking accident earlier in the day. His post says a car hit him as he was turning the corner while riding his bike on a major thoroughfare. He broke his wrist and got some nasty bruises and a gash on his knee. The bike is totaled.

How many stories exist in this situation? There’s Dave’s story about what it was like to be hit and his thoughts on how the situation could have been prevented. In addition, there are multiple stories associated with all the bike rides he’s taken with his bike and what it’s like for him to lose such a beloved vehicle.

Is that it? No, there’s the car driver’s perspective on what she experienced and why, and what is lacking to alert drivers to bikers at the intersection. Imagine all the people who observed the situation. Each of them has their own take on what happened, the lesson they each took away from the situation, and what they believe could have mitigated the accident.

Which story do you listen to? Which story do you pay most attention to? Which story do you choose to capture, if you elect to share it with others? One? Some? All? These questions aren’t trivial in the field of business storytelling. Whichever stories get listened to, captured, transmitted, and promoted to others have the ability to influence decisions and actions.

When a problem arises, you may elect to listen to several perspectives to get a feel for the totality of the situation. In a staff meeting, for example, you may hear multiple stories about what’s happened in the past when a specific change was made.

If you want to tell stories in a presentation to make a point, capture stories to share with others in a deliberate manner, or find compelling stories to place into a story bank for anyone to use, then your first consideration in choosing them has to do with listening for the key message in it.

Figure that out first and then ask yourself who has the story that best supports what you want to convey.

How to identify the myriad uses of the story

Before you get into the uses you might make of a story, there’s something you need to consider: Was the story meant for your ears only? If so, then you don’t have the right to pass it on in any manner. You can ask for permission to do so, but chances are good that you won’t get it.

Assuming it’s okay to use the story, identify and consider all the ways you might use it. There are many: You could use the story in oral presentations, in a blog or newsletter article, in a press release, in a report, grant proposal, or business case, in tours of your facility, new hire orientations, customer proposals, in marketing materials … the list is endless.

Once you have a feel for the potential uses, ask yourself which perspective on the story would be most fruitful.

The customer’s perspective on a story is not always the best one to capture. Especially if you’re advocating for additional funding for your organization, group, or project.

Instead, tell the story about what’s been compromised in the past or the problem in your group that resulted from lack of funds. These will have far more impact than relaying a specific customer problem you’ve already solved that could increase in magnitude. Why? In the latter case, you’re demonstrating how you effectively overcame the issue without funding.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Karen Dietz, PhD, is a 25-year veteran in business storytelling consulting, training, and leadership, and organizational development. Lori L. Silverman offers business storytelling training, keynotes, and consulting. For 26 years, she's advised enterprises on strategic planning and organizational change.

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