Earlier in 2016, I wrote a post that talked extensively about the value of storytelling and how to learn more about it. You can read that post by clicking here – I think it is actually one of the better ones I’ve written if we’re being honest.
What made me think about that blog post today was interesting. I was watching the new HBO series “Westworld” (which is absolutely fantastic) and flipping through my Facebook feed while sitting on the couch. In my feed popped up this question from someone in a group that I’m in asking how to become a better blogger.
The answers were fascinating.
Some people recommended that this person become a member of Digital Marketer Labs, another person said they should listen to Darren Rowse’s Problogger podcast, some folks talked about the technology this person should employ and there were more books recommended than you could shake a stick at.
I made a simple suggestion, “Learn how to tell stories.”
It surprised me that nobody has recommended it earlier, but I suppose that’s because people associate blogging as some technological process and were offering paths to monetization. The problem was that nobody was offering up the idea that you need to entertain people.
For me, the best blogs, podcasts, videos and books all tell a story even if that’s not the primary purpose of the communication. The best teachers and communicators of ideas almost always do so in story form. It doesn’t even matter what they are talking about, they contextualize their ideas via stories.
I just genuinely think it’s one skill that is almost always undervalued because when someone is good at it, you hardly notice that they’re doing it. A great storyteller is like a magician, you know you’re seeing something, but you’re just not sure what it is you’re seeing.
Some of this is because learning to tell a good story is actually pretty hard and takes years of practice to become good at. Part of telling a good story is in the actual delivery, you need to instinctively know how to convey the subtleties of emotion that you want your listener to feel. To do that properly, you need to know your story, you can’t just read it on a teleprompter or a slide deck and that’s the part people today struggle the most with – they aren’t prepared to invest the time to learn the craft.
And as a result, storytelling is incredibly underutilized in business.
Let’s go back to our friend on Facebook who asked about how to improve his blogging. If he listens to the advice he got from everyone else, he’ll learn some tactics about how to format his post the right way, how to share it on social media and he might even learn how to try and monetize his posts. What he won’t learn is how to actually write compelling content that captivates people’s imagination and curiosity.
If he starts telling his audience stories in his blog posts, he sets them on a journey with him in whatever it is he’s doing. If he keeps moving forward with his narrative over time, then people buy into what he’s saying. They are entertained and educated.
Finally, when it comes time to sell he’ll have no trouble convincing the audience because they’ll know the story and if the offer is constructed to fit the story as a natural conclusion, then the story sells the product.
But it’s not just selling where stories help in business.
I find when I’m trying to teach someone something at my day job or maybe a customer I’m working with in my own businesses that sharing stories not only gets the information across but does so in a richer, deeper way. They not only listen, they learn and understand.
People online are now starting to talk about it more, but the reality is they’re doing it from a perspective of teaching the mechanics – you have plot points, an arc, a conclusion and then a narrative to weave them all together into your story. You sprinkle in some open loops and the occasional witticism and the world is your oyster.
The art of storytelling is grossly underappreciated and takes years to master. The simplest way that I think people can learn to tell stories is to talk about themselves – we’re all most comfortable when we’re talking about ourselves. Think back to experiences you’ve had or situations you’ve found yourself in and when you see an opportunity amongst a group of people to share it, pull it out of your kit bag. Feel free to take some poetic license in order to entertain – that’s the whole point of a store to enlighten and entertain!
Once you get the knack for telling stories, look at your business and see where there are places you can weave them into what you’re doing. If you think back to the person who asked about how to improve his blogging, imagine if he was writing about the most boring topic in the world, let’s say he works at the cardboard box factory. He could write a blog about the dizzying array of cardboard boxes available, but that would be boring as muck – on the other hand, imagine if he told stories about some of the weird and wonderful things people wanted to do with boxes and then how the factory adjusted to suit those requirements. Suddenly box making is a bit more exciting.
The key for me is to look at every situation and try to contextualize what I’m seeing in story form. I try and remember things as stories.
Once you start thinking this way, then finding a way to slip them into conversations becomes much easier. As long as you remember that you’re a person communicating with another person, then things become easier. Look at our blogging friend – blogging becomes much easier when you write to one person rather than trying to write to some unknown number.
As soon as it becomes second nature to you, then you’ll start noticing the positive impact that storytelling can and will have on your business. Eventually, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start sooner!