I logged on to a webinar last week conducted by Mikki Williams, a member of the CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame, whose talk was titled “The Art & Heart of Storytelling”.

While you might think storytelling is for kids in doing further reading I found that storytelling is all the rage…in business. And that was the essence of Mikki’s message to her listening audience. But first, let’s review the history of storytelling.

Storytelling predates writing. Before we learned to write our only means of communication was oral, along with gestures and expressions. Customs and traditions were passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth. Stories were used as a means of entertainment, education, cultural preservation and instilling moral values. That is why it was so important in earlier civilizations to learn from the elders in the tribe. There would be no manuals to follow once they had passed.

What is the reason storytelling can be so powerful a tool of communication that you should consider using it in your business life?

Psychologists Melanie Green and Tim Brock contend that entering fictional worlds “radically alters the way information is processed.” They say that the more one becomes immersed in a story the more the story can change them, even to the point of overlooking things that may be wrong or inconceivable. Relate back to some of the fiction you have read or movies you have seen and how it pulled you into its world, even though it may have seemed implausible.

The point to “get” here is not to tell untruths, but the potential power of having your audience, whether it is many in a staff meeting or a single individual client, not only attentive to your message but connecting to it personally.

Now back to Mikki’s webinar. She emphasized that stories must have a beginning, middle and end. They must have a crest, that is, there must be a point to it. And there are three essential components to an effective story: heart, heart, and heart. As she says, “real learning happens heart to heart, not head to head. Storytelling will help you persuade, influence and motivate.”

Take this example. A CEO is presenting to a potential group of investors a new product his company has invented. It is a new design for a heart value that has proven in tests to be more effective than what is currently being used. He has charts, graphs and statistics that show how many people have died from their own defective heart values and the failure rate of artificial valves on the market. This is what Mikki refers to as the blah, blah, blah of a presentation.

Now what if this same CEO shared a story about his brother who at 48 years of age was on his way to his daughter’s college graduation and suffered a heart attack due to a faulty valve. Fortunately he survived and underwent valve replacement surgery. However, before the incident he was a marathon runner and now he has difficulty walking even short distances. And he suffers frequently from dizziness. This is because his artificial valves are leaking slightly. The valves your company has invented have proven not to leak. You ask these investors to help fund this project so that people like your brother can live a more normal life.

How much more powerful is this story from one with data or the blah, blah, blah?

Mikki encourages you in whatever message you are going to deliver to include a story, make it as personal as possible to bring your listener(s) into your world, your life. Be authentic.

Consider Reading This

Tell to Win: Connect, Persuade, and Triumph with the Hidden Power of Story by Peter Guber. Current co-owner of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors and MLB’s Los Angeles Dodgers and life-long entertainment executive responsible for films such as Rain Man, Batman, The Color Purple and Soul Surfer, Guber shares his philosophy on storytelling with us. He says it is state of the heart technology that is the game changer, not state of the art technology.