It’s a bit cliche to say that communication is important, but just like being able to sell, being able to tell a great story is an important skill for any entrepreneur. A friend recently recommended Storytelling in Organizations as a general storytelling overview.
The book starts off by demonstrating the importance of being able to tell a good story. Up to 28% of the United States GNP can be attributed to persuasion (think marketing, PR, consulting, financial services, etc.) and storytelling is a key form of persuasion.
“When we dream alone, it’s just a dream. But when we dream together, it is the beginning of a new reality.” – Brazilian proverb
The book lagged a bit longer than I would have liked discussing storytelling as means of communication. They discuss how people are better able to retain knowledge when gained through a story rather than through a list of bullet-points. They discuss how stories are best told orally in-person because of how much information is communicated non-verbally. Basically: a lot of this is common sense.
I did enjoy their discussion of how to use stories for better defining and communicating a company’s (or product’s) value through storyboarding. This is something that Airbnb has done exceptionally well.
To get to the actual nitty-gritty, these are the book’s main storytelling recommendations. Great stories…:
- start with what the audience cares about. (This isn’t always going to be the chronological beginning)
- should have punch. How do you give it punch? Make sure it has each of these six ingredients: wit, succinctness, emotional power, it’s funny, it’s clever, it’s moving.
- are told by someone who is clear with why they’re telling this story. What response are you trying to elicit?
- are told when the audience has everything they need to understand the story. (i.e. Don’t start using acronyms unless you’re 100% confident that the audience knows what they mean.)
- tell the story “from the perspective of a single protagonist.” Ideally first-person.
- should include some strangeness. Something that’s plausible – but strange.
- should have happened as recently as possible.
- should “embody the change idea as fully as possible.”
- should be expressed with feeling and passion.
- should answer the question, “So What?”
- should be practiced. Practice alone. Practice with friends. Practice with colleagues. Practice. Practice. Practice.
- manage the audience’s inner voice. Everyone has two voices. One that you use to communicate externally and one that you use to communicate to yourself internally (I’ve talked about this second voice before).
“My objective is to create a space for the little voice in the head to tell a new story, that is, to generate a new narrative based on the listener’s context and drawing on the listener’s intelligence.” – Storytelling in Organizations
All in all, the book had some good parts and some bad parts. If you refer back to these 12 points, you can save yourself the couple of hours reading the book.