Whenever I tell people I give storytelling trainings the reaction is often pretty much the same: “That’s great! It would be nice to be able to tell a story instead of doing a boring presentation”. And it is hard to blame them, I was exactly the same 3 years ago when I did my first storytelling training.
I figured it would be nice to learn how to tell stories to spice up a presentation or two.
But boy was I wrong.
One of the exercises was to tell a story about one of the values of my employer at the time. I immediately started telling a story about how a customer wanted to prevent me from going to our bi-weekly knowledge sharing meeting. It’s quite the dramatic consulting story starring a new employee, a threatening manager and a cool-headed director. And about halfway through telling the story to my storytelling class it hit me:
I had told this story a million times before.
I had told this story to every new hire and sometimes a not-so-new hire. Whenever they were not sure what to do if the customer demanded they did not go to the meeting, I told them this story. It embodied one of the core values of the company: “That sharing knowledge is essential in a company that relies on knowledge workers.”
And that it was good for both our company and our customers. If our customers could not see that and refused to do business with us because of that, that was fine.
So if I used stories to spread our corporate values and protect our culture during our growth from 20 to 100 people, what else did I use stories for?
It turned out I used 2 more types of stories in my work. I called them experience and vision stories.
Annette Simmons, in her excellent book “Whoever tells the best story wins” calls them teaching stories and vision stories (and she has 3 extra)
Knowledge and experience are two completely different things. Knowledge is black and white. It is made of rules, procedures, facts and checklists.
Experience on the other hand is messy, and has lots of shades of grey. It is about when to follow the rules and when to break them.
Good stories are also messy.. and even the most cheesy Disney stories are not so black and white. That makes stories an excellent tool to convey experience.
Have you ever tried to convince someone to do the right thing? You had all the facts lined up in a convenient graph or spreadsheet and it was so damn obvious? And they took one look at your data and said no?
Nope. Never had that happen to me either
Human beings have the unique ability to completely reason away all facts, especially if they don’t agree with them. The facts are either not applicable, not accurate, not (statistically) relevant or just plain wrong.
So what we need to do is get people emotionally invested. And one of the ways of doing that, is by telling a story. The story of what the future will be like when that decision is made. Get them to see, hear, feel and experience it.
So yes, stories are great for presentations. But they are at least as great to teach, motivate and inspire others (and yourself) in everyday situations.Tags: experience, knowledge, presentation, vision