Stories are an important part of the human experience. Compelling narratives build connections and communicate important information — and for businesses, this means sharing what makes them special and different from other brands.
Telling your business’s story well is key to attracting customers, partners and investors, so it’s important to work on improving and perfecting your skills as often as you can. To that end, we asked the members of Business Journals Leadership Trust to each share one actionable way leaders can improve their storytelling skills. Their best responses are below.
1. Gain clarity around your ‘what’ and ‘why.’
Spend time revisiting your purpose, mission, vision and values. Having true clarity around what you do and why you do it will make storytelling a breeze. Why does your company exist? Who do you seek to serve? If you succeed in accomplishing your vision, what will be different five to 10 years from now? Understanding these key pillars is crucial in telling your story. – Shannon Laine, Emerge Brighter, LLC
2. Encourage internal storytelling.
Task your people with telling stories internally so they will flow and seem more realistic when shared with outside parties. We take time on Friday afternoons to share successes and understand what each of us is working on so we have a better understanding of what the entire team is capable of handling. – James Rosenblatt, Rosenblatt Law Firm
3. Tell your story to different audiences.
Repetition is the key. Practice telling your story to different audiences, and tailor it to fit each audience. Be sure to tune in to the feedback you are getting during the story and make adjustments as appropriate for the next time. – Michael Videira, STRAC Institute
4. Watch good storytellers in action.
Know what “good” looks like. Of all of the U.S. presidents, Abraham Lincoln is best known for his storytelling prowess. He learned it by watching his father and passersby gather around the fireplace hearth and swap stories into the evenings. You can do the same — watch other storytellers in action. – Keith Woods, KB Woods Public Relations
5. Slow down and incorporate pauses.
Leverage the power of the pause. It’s easy to talk quickly when you are on a pitch because you are passionate about the services you provide, but speaking too quickly can be distracting. Slow it down, and pause occasionally. It builds up anticipation for your audience while giving you a break. Try taking your sales presentation and mark where you plan to pause, and practice so those pauses come more naturally. – Scott Scully, Abstrakt Marketing Group
6. Get honest and varied feedback.
Getting honest feedback through constant practice and exposure is one way to become a proficient storyteller. You can join groups focused on improving communications skills, such as the Toastmasters Club. Get more exposure by volunteering as a speaker or practicing with your family, friends or even customers. Get their feedback on how you deliver your message and what resonates with them. – Jack Smith, Fortuna Business Management Consulting
7. Adapt your story to the medium.
It’s important to adapt. Consider the four seasons of the year, and imagine each piece of copy you write as a new season. You will not create a landing page the exact same way you’d create a sales pitch. The story on the page must be compelling yet must also match the niche where the writing takes place. – Wesleyne Greer, Transformed Sales
8. Ask customers and employees to help tell your story.
I’ve honed my storytelling skills by asking my customers and employees to help me tell the story. Asking your customers to share with you what you do well and what led to them choosing you as their vendor is powerful in telling your story. There is no sales spin or marketing spin; you can confidently say, “This is why our customers choose us.” – Matthew Halle, Lead2Growth
9. Infuse it with passion.
I look at this similarly to the way I look at an elevator pitch. If you only have two minutes to tell your story, then it should be impassioned, and you should believe in what you are selling. Don’t just rely on the traditional marketing pitch; if you’ve heard one of those, you’ve heard a thousand of them. – Jerry Ramos, Ramos Consulting, LLC
10. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes.
We try to place ourselves in the customer’s seat. What would your impression be if you were introduced to your own company, and would it result in your desired response? Have you tried calling your own number and asking your representatives about the services you offer? Have you ordered a product from your own company? Your clients will have the same experience you do. – Jared Knisley, Fizen Technology
11. Let the audience know why they should care.
Getting people to care is at the heart of good storytelling. You need to practice grabbing the listeners’ attention by addressing upfront the question of why they should care. To do that, articulate the problem you are trying to solve in terms of how it impacts real people in the real world. Then tell them how you are solving the problem. People connect more when they know “what’s in it for me.” – Daniel Serfaty, Aptima, Inc.
12. Keep it short and simple.
Write down your story and all the key points you want to express, and then edit. The best tale is short and concise. Fit all you want to say in three sentences or fewer. Less is best. – Rachel Namoff, Arapaho Asset Management
13. Make sure your story is important and relevant.
Go back to the fundamental “why” your business exists and ensure that your story is an important, relevant one. The best way to develop your skills is to share your vision with as many people as you can, highlighting the “why,” “what” and “how” you do what you do. Often it’s less about the “what” and more about the “why” — and the impact you’re making. – Bruce Weber, Weber Group