Around the Campfire (with briefcases): Story Telling in Business

[Editor’s Note: This article was written by Laurie Hansen of the Center for Teaching and Learning.]

“Scratch the surface in a typical boardroom and we’re all just cavemen with briefcases, hungry for a wise person to tell us stories,” says Hilary McLellan .  Stories help us make personal connections and appeal to our emotions.  But why use stories in the boardroom? says, “Stories can be powerful leadership tools – if they’re told well.” lists a variety of stories that can be used in the corporate world.  Here are some suggestions for weaving a worthy tale:

  1. Be authentic – The best storytellers talk from their hearts, so don’t try to fake an emotion that you don’t feel. Your listeners will probably see through this, and your story will crash and burn.
  2. Pay attention to your audience – Stories that are too long are generally boring. Tell the story well, but don’t go on forever.
  3. Practice – Try to practice before you tell the story. Even if you tell it to yourself just once in front of a mirror or video camera, this can help you when you’re in front of your real audience.
  4. Create an experience – Remember that when you tell a story, you’re creating an experience for your listeners. Don’t just use sound (words), but the other senses as well. Show your listeners the picture you’re painting, don’t just tell them.

It seems to me this Visions West Corporate Storytelling Video Sample accomplishes this and then some. A video tip from TJ Walker uses Ronald Reagan to illustrate his point that “…stories are not just simply to entertain, they are to bring out principle.”  And, if you’re good at storytelling, it may pay off! Julie Bennett’s article suggests that one may Spin straw into gold with good storytelling.” Sounds like a happy ending-or at least a lucrative one!


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