Join Tatiana Kolovou for an in-depth discussion in this video Telling stories, part of Communication Tips.
- Fact sheets, long PowerPoint decks, instruction manuals. Sometimes what we need to drive a point home is simply a story. Stories resonate with listeners, and can make giving a presentation easier. Think about it. You probably can remember a beloved childhood story nearly word for word, even if you haven't read it in years. But the sales data from yesterday's meeting? Already a little fuzzy, right? I have two examples of stories that accomplish business purposes.
Years ago I had a chance to visit with the American ambassador for trade in Turkey. He knew that I taught at a business school, and his mission was to convince me to tell my primarily American business students that they should investigate the possibility of partnering with Turkish companies. He had stats about trade figures that I can no longer remember. He had regulation comparisons that I don't remember. He had policy documents that, you got it, I no longer remember.
But he told me a story about being in a remote Middle Eastern desert area, and seeing an entire flatbed truck of washing machines stamped "made in Turkey". And they were selling like hot cakes! Now, this was a place that an American business person would probably not even know existed, let alone know how to access for business purposes. I returned to the States, wrote a paper about doing business in Turkey, presented at conferences, taught a class about it, I talked to hundreds of students every semester about business possibilities in turkey.
And all of this started with a story. One compelling story. So, knowing how powerful a story can be I tried it myself. In one of my consulting roles I help public school teachers identify gifted and talented children in their classroom. These students are often overlooked or mislabeled as "trouble makers", because they get bored and they tend to act out. I told the teachers in one workshop this true story about my little sister getting married.
I bought sis this awesome cookware set that I knew she and her new husband would just love. I wrapped it all up in beautiful paper and proudly gave it to her at the day of the wedding. Well, fast-forward five years after the wedding, when their first baby is on the way. I'm at her house helping her get the nursery ready. We're painting, and childproofing, and cleaning out the closet so we can hang up all the cute baby clothes. I ask my sister "What's all this stuff in the closet "and what do you want me to do with it?" And she said "Oh, it's just junk.
"Give it away or something." Well, you know what I see? Yup. That awesome cookware set that I got her. Which she had never even taken out of the box! She totally overlooked this awesome gift. In fact, she labeled it junk and just wanted it out of her life. To those teachers in my workshop I then say, let's never make that mistake. Never overlook a gifted child in your classroom, or worse yet, toss him in a closet and label him junk.
Years after I gave that presentation, one of the teachers saw me at a local restaurant and stopped by to say "It's almost time for school to start, "and every year at this time "I think of your little sister's wedding gift, "and I keep my eyes open for my hard to identify "gifted students". This was years later. She remembered that story. What is your mission? Do you have something you need for people to understand? Do you have an idea that needs the buy-in of others? Perhaps a story can be your happily ever after.
- Understanding introversion and extroversion
- Persuading people
- Negotiating your needs
- Making small talk
- Saying no
- And more…
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