The number one piece of advice given to anyone seeking to persuade or influence others is to tell stories. And no wonder, since storytelling has been one of our primary methods of learning for centuries.
At their best, stories help you to associate with the given information and create a vivid memory of it (Quicksprout: How to Engage and Persuade People Through Storytelling).
That is why the art of storytelling is one of the key skills every manager and marketer should master. There is no shortage of advice on how to do it in practice, but the first prerequisite is that you need to have a story. Identifying and sharing your own stories can seem daunting at first if you are not used to telling stories, for example as a part of your presentations or discussions with team members. You may also feel that you do not have any stories to tell or that they are too personal to fit with your professional role.
But we all have stories and experiences worth sharing and connecting with others. Here are five steps to get started with sharing yours:
1. Use your memories as a trigger
The first and often easiest way to identify your stories is to recall your memories. You can do this either chronologically or in relation to the people, places, and things in your life. Was there something special in how you met certain people? Which places matter to you the most? What scenes, sounds, and scents are connected to them? Which items do you love? Do you have a special gift or a book that holds a special meaning for you? The answers to these questions usually include a story.
2. Recognize when you are in a story
Once you have recognized the stories in your past, you can focus on the present. Pay particular attention to the moments when you are experiencing peak emotions and breakthroughs. Is there a certain situation when you realize you have been mistaken? Or that you have made the right decision? Or maybe you get joyful because a stranger was kind to you? Every one of these moments includes a story waiting to be captured.
3. Capture your stories and create an inventory
When you identify a story from your past or present, it is important to capture and store it in your story inventory, in paper or electronic format. Things to write down are, for example, a title for the story; basic facts such as what happened; where, when, and who with, in bullet points – as well as which themes your story is related to. Also try to estimate how long it will take you to tell this story to others. You can categorize this inventory in any way, whatever suits you best. The most important point is to have it, so you can recall and prepare your stories in all situations.
4. Tailor your stories to your audience
In addition to making your preparation for a presentation easier, the inventory helps you to tailor your stories according to your audience. For example, what kind of values, goals, and interests does your audience have? In what kind of context are you presenting? And, of course, how much time do you have to tell your stories? The answers to these questions will help you to determine which stories to use for each occasion.
5. Practice whenever you can
Finally, aim to practice your storytelling whenever you can at both business and private events. Try telling your stories in different ways and at different lengths to see what works best, and take notes of the results. Is it easy for others to understand your story? Are they engaged with it? Is there something you could change in the way you tell your story? The more you practice telling stories, the faster you will develop your storytelling skills.
Once you have followed these steps, you will already be well on your way to becoming a master storyteller. By continuously identifying stories and telling the ones worth sharing, you can authentically connect with other people and create the change you want to see.
This article was originally published in Aalto Leaders Insights.