The power of the story – and why the corporate world ignores it

No one cares about your strategic staircase. 
No one cares about your bottom line orientation. No one cares about your global talent sustainability imperative to nurture robust future leaders…

But everyone cares about a good story.

We like stories. Stories are part of our lives; stories are what inspire and motivate us; we have been telling stories for thousands of years. The inside wall of a cave and some charcoal embers being now the office HD multi-function smart screen complete with wireless technology that NASA would be proud of.

Stories are what connect us and business is all about connecting with people. Even the driest of corporate presentations can be brought to life with a story and an engaging storyteller.

It’s the story that we remember.

All too often in the corporate world stories are ignored. They are for others – not for the serious world of business. How short sighted that is – you do not connect with people by boring them into submission through dreary content full of interminable jargon, random meaningless words and lacklustre slides fired off full of overloaded bullet points. Remember – we generally do not speak in bullet points in normal communication.

Stories are not mission statements detached from the reality of life and full of corporate verbiage. Stories are human, real and bring businesses to life and people together. They raise a sense of common purpose and inspire emotion as well as illustrating points, telling people who you are and when told with an outcome in mind, not simply to entertain, are extremely effective.

A good story needs structure, detail (relevant) and an enthusiastic delivery to seize imagination and capture emotion. In so doing it will appeal not solely to the rational side of an audience’s nature, but the emotional side which is what will make it memorable.

Our brains are wired to respond to stories, we remember them and the importance of this in a pitch or presentation is paramount. When businesses go out to market they often do so armed with facts, figures and credentials which will soon be forgotten. Stories, however, remain with us for far longer.

A in 2010, a study from Princeton University was published entitled ‘Speaker-Listener Neural Coupling Underlies Successful Communication’ which found that the neural activity in a storyteller’s brain will be mirrored by the neural activity in their audience’s brain, whereas when there is merely the transference of data no such mirroring will occur. This neural coupling is crucial to successful communication as it awakens the parts of our brains responsible for language, feelings and emotion.

Next month, structuring case studies into compelling stories.

Luan de Burgh of the de Burgh Group is a professional public speaker and presentation coach. More of his articles can be read here.