Tell It with a Story

Tell It with a Story

November 24, 2011

Storytelling is an important skill that we should all embrace, hone and master.  Stories draw us in… they paint a picture… the best among them make the listener feel as if he/she was there. 

A friend of mine, Andrew Nemiccolo, owns a company called Seven Story Learning.  The organization helps companies to develop their natural story-sharing abilities in order to influence, lead, and sell more effectively.  He says that more than ever before, stories remain one of the most potent ways to deeply connect with others.  I agree.

Another colleague, Craig Wortmann, who is an entrepreneur, an author, a professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, and a master story teller wrote a book, What’s Your Story?  Using Stories to Ignite Performance and Be More Successful, in which he illustrates how stories can help to address common performance challenges around leadership, strategic selling, and motivation.  It includes valuable lessons for us all that we can apply to our varied businesses.

With an eye toward using storytelling to become more effective networkers, we must each think of ways to set ourselves apart, to ensure that we are memorable (in a good way!) and that our networking contacts remember us.  Storytelling is the answer to the question of how to do just that.

The lesson here is to be prepared for networking encounters with a few great stories.  The beauty of storytelling, I believe, is that your stories are your own!  You were there.  You know the particulars inside and out. 

To be effective at imparting the information and engaging the listener, think about how you will stir all five senses in him/her.  Write your story or stories down in advance.  What was the situation?  Who was there?  Where did it take place?  What was the big moment… or punch line… or poignant lesson… or…?  After you have written down the information for the first time, re-read it.  Cut out all of the extraneous information that creates noise around the main point of your commentary.  Then, practice. 

Practice in front of a mirror.  Practice in front of your dog.  Practice in front of your spouse, partner or networking buddy.  Be ready when you get to your meeting and wait for the right time to unfurl the great story that will keep you top of mind with your contact.

Think of the last time you heard a really well told story.  As the autumn sun shone on the maple tree with its burnt orange and red leaves, was the air crisp and could you taste fall in the air?  Could you smell the aroma of the pumpkin bread, the nutmeg and cinnamon bursting forth as the silver tin with the budding loaf peeking out over its edge was pulled from the oven?  When grandmother served you the holiday turkey, did the juices seep out as the fork stabbed the tender meat?  Are you getting hungry, yet?  Can you see, hear, smell, taste, feel what I mean?

With tomorrow being Thanksgiving, I have a challenge for you.  You have a perfect opportunity to create a few new stories and to practice sharing and hearing stories.  Mention this post – you don’t have to do so by name, but simply tell your family that you plan to beef up your networking efforts, you want to arm yourself with some great stories and you want them to help you:

  1. Think of a couple of good stories that are appropriate for all audiences; and
  2. Document the story so that you will successfully capture the attention of listeners for years to come.

Tomorrow, I will share my story of thanks with each of you.  In the meantime, I wish you a very happy and meaningful Thanksgiving holiday!  Gobble.  Gobble.