Win Over a Business Crowd. Tell Them a Story

Let me tell you about something that happened to me on the way to work today. It’s a funny story and pertinent to what I am writing about in this first blog of 2018.

By the way, before I continue, Happy New Year to you! A week has now eclipsed since the arrival of 2018 and this is probably the last opportunity to roll out this greeting.

According to the director of a wedding stationary company, writing a blog for the Metro newspaper (yes, I thought it was an odd choice of expert too), ‘Wishing someone Happy New Year after a week into January can be unwanted and insincere.’

Incidentally, going back to work is a shock to the system for many as the brain tries to re-engage with the pile that was left ‘for the new year’. Facts and figures you were previously working on can seem as unfamiliar as alien scripts for the first day or two back.

Hold that thought! Let us skip forward a little so you are now presenting those facts and figures to an audience. You have worked on them for so long that the big picture is blindingly obvious, but never forget that it is you that is giving the presentation.

Want to make that rather dry content stand out? Tell your audience a story. Take those facts and figures and wrap them up in a narrative that will make them easier to digest for your audience.  There are several effective storytelling techniques for engaging an audience.

I am reminded of the comedian Ronnie Corbett who was a fixture on Saturday night primetime TV in the 1970s and 80’s on the Two Ronnies each week, he would deliver a joke that constantly deviated off topic on its long and winding way to the punch line.

The point is that he managed to keep the audience’s attention by using a technique referred to as ‘nesting’ – starting a number of stories without actually finishing them. This is just one of many effective story telling techniques, that keeps the audience hooked. Words and phrases along the way such as ‘incidentally’, ‘by the way’ or ‘that reminds me’ allowed Ronnie to add extra layers allowing him to cover a lot of ground.

To the audience the ramble seemed like an ad-libbed piece to camera, but in fact it was tightly scripted. This is the key to storytelling in a business situation – creating a story that has a point (or many points), but does not deviate from the script.

Stories should have a simplicity (ie a clear message) and be relevant to your presentation topic. They should also be tangible to your audience, whether a packed conference hall, a small meeting room or a social gathering.

Humanising facts and figures in a way that illustrates their significance or makes them relevant will be far more memorable than using dull phrases such as ‘if you look at the figures in the list you will see…’ Injecting some creativity through aspects of storytelling can make you stand out, be memorable, connect with your audience.

Now where was I? Oh yes, of course, that funny thing that happened to me on the way to work today…

You know what, it wasn’t really that funny, but it did lead nicely onto the topic of storytelling  – by way of new year’s greetings, wedding stationary, Ronnie Corbett and tips to bring your presentation to life – give you a little illustration of how nesting works!   See what I did there…!

If you would like to find out more please do have a look at our storytelling course. In the meantime, it’s goodnight from me… (and it’s goodnight from him).

Luan de Burgh

January 2018

Luan de Burgh is a speaker, writer and founder of de Burgh Training – a specialist business communication training provider dedicated to helping people perform at their highest potential.