In business as in life, success often depends on our ability to persuade others to adopt our ideas. If we can't persuade consumers to buy our product or service, or convince shareholders to adopt a new plan of attack, then we won't move forward with our goals.
Simply put, stories are how we make sense of the world. We arrange information according to our experiences and interactions in the world, and stories help us locate our place in the grander scheme.
Storytelling offers a new and innovative way to engage people's emotions, and win their hearts and minds. For years, the word "storytelling" conjured up images of people sitting around campfires or dinner tables, passing along tales that lasted generations. Although this scene still has implications today, today's modern storyteller can often be found in the executive suite.
In 2003, Harvard Business School published an article called "Happy Tales: The CEO as Storyteller." In it, screenwriting coach and legend Robert McKee explains how he coached executives in the art of storytelling. He advises executives to toss away their PowerPoint slides, and engage their stakeholders through the fine art of story. Rather than focus on rhetoric, McKee suggests uniting an idea with an emotion through use of a compelling story. He says that a little imagination can go a long way in getting people to applaud you and your ideas.
According to McKee, a story "expresses how and why life changes", and may help people deal with the fundamental conflict between subjective expectation and often cruel reality. A good storyteller might inspire employees to "dig deeper" by presenting them with scenarios based on characters and principles often found in screenplays: protagonists, opposing forces, allies, calls to action, etc. This approach might help people with their decision-making when they're faced with challenges at work.
Cognitive scientists such as Donald Norman help explain the relationship between stories, consumer goods, photographs and other objects (or artifacts). From a human perspective, the fundamental element that makes an event or object memorable is the presence of emotion. Stories can help capture the context, as well as the emotion.
Remember Scott Bedbury's quote in Tom Peters book "the brand you 50"...."A great brand taps into emotions...Emotions drive most, if not all, of our decisions...It's an emotional connecting point that transcends the product...A brand is a metaphorical story that's evolving all the time...Stories create the emotional context people need to locate themselves in a larger experience."
The next time you're called upon to do a corporate presentation, ask yourself the question "What's my/our story?", and you'll go a long way in winning over people's hearts and minds.