Once Upon A Time…

These four simple words conjure up the anticipation of a tale of wonder and fascination. One might think this is something for a campfire, classroom or bedside. But that would be very wrong.
The definition of story in this case is an account of incidents or events, a statement regarding the facts pertinent to a situation in question – – not a work of fiction.
All of us have been in a business management or sales meeting where the speaker clicks through a PowerPoint presentation showing charts and numbers. Few people, if any, take anything away from those meetings. But put the same information in the context of a story and the point is made. When you tell a story, people understand what the mission is and they understand how they can make it happen. If you just talk at a high level of mission and vision the reaction is, “What am I supposed to do with that!?”

There is a sales management group that had been celebrating sales on a monthly basis, honoring the top salesperson by showing numbers. When they started telling stories about how the person did it, the others learned how to do it themselves. Good corporate stories are more likely to conjure up tangible visible images than anything in a PowerPoint presentation. Stories are the “flight simulators” for our brains in that they portray experiences that members of the audience may not have had yet.
Creating Your Story…
Corporate stories are used for numerous purposes. They convey information, share knowledge, clarify an organization’s mission, underscore values, sell products or points of view, honor traditions and celebrate successes. Here are some ideas to create your own:
What is the purpose of the story? Are you looking to convey information to employees about company culture or trying to convey your level of service to customers?
Think of an experience that reflects that goal.
Write it down. Perfect it. Practice it. Record it. Listen. Edit. Repeat.
Use your employee’s name. Make that person a hero!
Keep it simple. Keep it to less than a page in writing. Less than three minutes as a story.
Keep looking for new stories to tell! Keep them fresh.
Your goal is to create a relationship with the people before they look at the data. Stories engage the heart and minds of people; data engages only the intellect.
Once your stories are gathered, organized and polished up, using them depends on purpose. They can be told in front of internal audiences to convey company values and goals, or to outsiders to show how you have helped other customers overcome a challenge.
An authentic story reveals the true personality of an organization – – its heart and soul. But to be effective, it must be focused on a clear objective, and told consistently and sincerely.
The basic value of using stories is to create relevance and cohesion for all stakeholders. And storytelling works for small businesses as well as large, for organizations as well as individuals.

Posted by Barbara Hoganson  February 25th, 2009

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