Are you boring your staff? How to get your message across through better storytelling

Business team training session

“Why don’t they get it?” is a common cry around the boardrooms and corridors of workplaces. While this is frustrating for the leaders of business, the harsh reality is that they have to accept responsibility. When communicating in business it is not the responsibility of the employees to “get it”; it is the responsibility of the leaders to help them “get it”.

The biggest inhibitor to brilliant communication is how we convey messages in business. We rely heavily of dry facts and figures and a lot of jargon. Terms such as “executional excellence”, “optimisation” and “strategic direction”, dehumanise the way we talk and inhibit us from communicating effectively. As a result, every time we use corporate jargon, we disconnect and isolate people.

The leaders that understand this look for ways to replace isolating and disengaging corporate jargon with language that is inclusive and engaging. Real storytelling has emerged as an effective and authentic way to achieve this and consequently many business leaders and companies have embraced this concept.

The reason why storytelling is such a powerful way to communicate is because it taps into emotion. Engaging people on an emotional level does not mean you have to make your audience cry. To be more precise, we are talking about a healthy range of emotions that are appropriate in a work context, such as the feeling of pride or making a difference. A relevant story helps people understand what you have said. In other words, a story can simplify the complicated.

Seven tips for getting your message across through a story

1. Be clear on your message

Ensure that you’re clear on the purpose for sharing your story and don’t dilute your story by having too many messages. One message, one story.

2. Avoid facts and figures in your story

Bringing facts, figures and statistics into stories starts to reduce the emotional connection your listener will have with your story. Use the data to support your story but keep it separate from your message.

3. Avoid all corporate jargon and management speak

When sharing stories avoid all corporate jargon, management speak and acronyms. These become barriers for your listener when trying to understand and connect with your message.

4. Share personal stories

Not all you stories have to be personal but your personal stories have the capacity to create a greater emotional connection. Your day-to-day stories are the most powerful; you just need to ensure they are relevant and appropriate.

5. Be authentic

It is not worth the backlash to your credibility and brand to make up or to spin stories. All your stories need to be authentic. People are very good at detecting inaccurate or fabricated stories.

6. Keep you stories short and sharp

The very best ‘natural’ storytellers prepare and practise their stories. This allows them to be disciplined enough to ensure their stories go no longer than a couple of minutes.

7. Have a variety of stories

It is important to have a variety of stories. You don’t want to rely on just one or two stories for every message. Additionally, you don’t want all your stories to be about one particular topic, such as your kids or when you learnt how to play golf.

Leaders who ignore emotion in their communication and just stick with logic do so at their own peril. As Dale Carnegie once said: “When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.” Accordingly, business storytelling is a skill that is well worth investing in. A well thought out story will help you communicate your messages more effectively as it will create a connection with what you are saying and reduce that frustrating feeling of “why don’t they get it?”

Gabrielle Dolan is an expert in business storytelling and the author of Ignite: Real leadership, real talk, real results and Storytelling for Job Interviews


Notify of
1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
5 years ago

OR you can tell a slightly off color joke like this:

A pharmacist walks into his shop to find a man leaning against the wall.

“What’ s wrong with him?” he asks his assistant.

“He came in for some cough syrup” the assistant explains.

“But I couldn’t find any, so I sold him some laxatives instead”.

“What” the chemist says. Horrified.’ You can’t treat a cough with laxatives!’

‘Of course you can,’ the assistant declares. ‘Look at him – he’s far too scared to cough’