What is storytelling? Showmanship or just regular communication tool?

“When conducting a presentation training recently, I heard: ‘Storytelling is for showmen.’ And further:

‘We are not showmen. We don’t have the skills to effortlessly share anecdotes, evoke emotions.’

A participant expressed what many people think – that storytelling is for extroverts. Storytelling is for those who enjoy shining in the spotlight. It’s the domain of charismatic leaders.

However, storytelling is not just showmanship. The simplest definition of storytelling is: the art of telling a story.

At the same time, it’s one of the first human entertainments. It originated in prehistoric times – elders sat around the fire and told the youth about their day on the hunt, how they avoided dangers, how they obtained food, etc. Our brains learned to reward us for attentive listening – every time we hear someone start telling a story, our bodies are flooded with a pleasant dose of dopamine, the pleasure hormone.

Today, storytelling is not only about tales, movies, books, or fairy tales. It’s also about business communication.

Contrary to many beliefs, storytelling works exceptionally well as a tool for introverts too. It’s simply recalling real-life examples that support our ideas.

In well-performing organizations, it works like this:

  1. We present numerical data (e.g., on charts, tables).

  2. We find an anecdote that confirms the general thesis from point 1.

[By the way, in most situations, presenters stop at point one.]

An anecdote, a storytelling form, is thus a concretizing argument for numbers.

Colin Bryar and Bill Carr in the book ‘Working Backwards Insights, Stories, and Secrets from Inside Amazon’ mention that anecdotes had a huge impact on implementing ideas at Amazon.

I quote from memory: ‘Numbers alone don’t contribute much. They show a general picture, but only when that picture is concretized through a customer’s story – we understand the situation much better. It’s the anecdote, not the numbers, that increases motivation in the team to act. To change currently malfunctioning mechanisms.’

So, let’s not treat storytelling as a magical wand only for true magicians of the stage.

Let’s treat it as one of many tools in our communication toolkit. A tool supporting the message. A tool evoking emotions. A tool that persuades most effectively.

You don’t have to shine on stage to support your argument with an anecdotal example. Just speak exactly as you would when talking about something with a friend over coffee.

If you want to learn the secrets of creating spectacular presentations and excellent business communication, ask me about storytelling and presentations training HERE> 

In the training, I explain two main storytelling schemes:

  1. Problem to Solution Scheme

  2. Story as an Example Scheme