As a kid, I spent a lot of my time with my Dad doing jobs around the house. I loved the smell of the turps and thinners he used for French polishing (everything in moderation) as well as watching him doing welding and soldering.
I knew there was a fine art to French polishing that was beyond my abilities. Welding also looked too scary to undertake on my own, as it required a big, protective mask for the fiery sparks. However, when it came to soldering, that looked so simple enough. I thought it was pretty cool that a small soldering wand could fuse two wires together.
When my cassette stereo broke, at the ripe old age of 15 I unscrewed the back of the device to see that two wires had come loose. So I went to my Dad’s shed, pulled out the soldering iron and started soldering the wires together. As I worked, I would turn the power on and off to see if my attempts had been successful.
During one of these tests, my thumb was in contact with both wires and an electric shock flew up my arm and around my body. I pulled away with my heart racing, my arm uncontrollably shaking and two burn marks in my thumb where the electricity had entered and exited my body.
I packed everything away, never attempted soldering again in my life and of course did not tell my Dad.
I find myself asking how something that looks so simple could go so wrong?
Unfortunate results can also occur when people embark on storytelling for the first time with an attitude of ‘How hard can it be?’. Granted they may not inflict a mortal injury but the results are the same. They pack everything away because it did not work and never try storytelling again.
Storytelling plays an intrinsic role in human activity. As humans, we have been telling and listening to stories all our lives. Consequently, it is very natural to think that it is simple and there is not much to it. On one level that is correct, but when you start using storytelling in business, the game changes dramatically.
Below are the 5 hardest aspects of storytelling that I have seen my clients experience.
Being clear on purpose
When you share stories in business you need to be extremely clear on the message you want to get across. One of the hardest aspects of storytelling in business is not being clear on your message or having too many messages.
Many participants in my workshops think they have no stories. This is because they believe the stories shared in business must include significant accomplishments or tragedies that were overcome. However, normal day-to-day stories are the most relatable and effective in business.
It does not matter how exciting you think your story is; in business, your audience will be thinking (and sometimes saying) ‘Get to the point’. Ensure your stories in business go for no longer than two minutes.
Using language that is real
Stories have impact if listeners can feel and visualise something when you share your story. In business, I often see people using corporate jargon or safe, professional words that do not elicit an emotional or sensory response in their audience. Avoid jargon and use words that mean something.
Show appropriate levels of vulnerability
This is probably the hardest aspect of storytelling in business. Too often people in authority are unprepared to show vulnerability as they see it as a sign of weakness. Yet this is what people relate to and the very best storytellers embrace vulnerability.
The biggest mistake a company can make is to assume that storytelling is not difficult and doesn’t require training. In reality, storytelling is just like any other skill, such as French polishing, welding or soldering – you need adequate time to learn and improve your skills.
The consequence of skipping this step with a ‘How hard can it be?’ attitude, can lead to very disappointing results.