Why the Idea of Storytelling for Business Might Be Freaking You Out

Posted by Bridget Beirne
June 4, 2016

bridget-beirne-1.pngFans of TED Talks, or just of excellent presenting in general, embrace the idea of storytelling for business. They see how valuable it is in a presentation, sales pitch, demo, or meeting. But there are folks out there that seem to be genuinely freaked out by it. 

I get it! I really do. Some people are completely turned off by the very idea, and that's ok. But I do think that's a feeling worth changing. 

So, let's have a frank talk today. You know Ovation team members are storytelling advocates, but let's discuss why you might NOT be. Sure, these exact thoughts might not apply to you. But if they do, I hope I can shed some light on why you should give storytelling a try.

You think it's "not serious": "This is a very serious technical presentation. I need them to just listen to the facts, and they can't be tarted up." Do I understand this reaction? Yes. Do I agree with it? Absolutely not. 

First of all, unless you're presenting for a room full of robots (Hey! Maybe you are. That's pretty cool...), humans can only remember so much. Depending on who you ask, we can hold between 3 and 7 things in our working memory at once. But telling a story connected to facts can actually help us remember what we're hearing. You'll save your audience from concentration burnout, too.

Secondly, this particular fear of storytelling seems to stem from the idea that telling a story in a business setting is frivolous or silly. There is nothing frivolous or silly about making your content more palatable, easier to interact with, and simpler to remember. 

Your story doesn't have to be funny, or showmanlike (more on that later). In fact, your story can be "serious". You just have to give your audience something to hold on to other than a pile of data. Even in the most serious of presentations, this is useful.

You think it's too personal: Revealing something about ourselves, especially on a presentation stage, can make us feel incredibly vulnerable. Lots of us like to keep our work life and our personal life completely separated. (That's a topic for another day.) However, storytelling-for-business.jpgyou don't have to reveal your pin code or your innermost secrets to tell a story in a presentation.

The nice thing about storytelling for business is that YOU control it. YOU choose the story. YOU decide how you'd like to use it. If you're not comfortable telling the story of how you met your spouse, that's ok. Chances are you're comfortable talking about a positive client interaction, or when you learned to cook your favorite meal. It's not about telling your most personal story - it's about telling personal story, and letting the audience get to know you a bit. 

And if you think the audience doesn't care to know anything about the person standing in front of them for 45 minutes, you're wrong. Human connection is a very persuasive and engaging thing, and your audience is looking for it. Truly.

You think you have to be funny, or fascinating, or showmanlike: Do you have that friend who absolutely kills it when they tell a story at parties? I know I do. Telling a story can be an intimidating thing to do if you think you've got to live up to the abilities of everyone's favorite party guest. Guess what? You don't.

Your story doesn't have to have to be sidesplittingly funny, or windsweepingly dramatic, or leave your listeners weeping in the aisles. All it has to be is yours, and tied to your content. In fact, stories with the most impact are often about the trials and tribulations of the everyday lives of everyday people like you and me. Don't worry that your story won't live up to the hype. Just give it a go. 

Still on the fence, or feel you've got a different concern? Let me know in the comments.

Want to get started telling your story right now, today? Check out this webinar:

Story Ideas for Presentations

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