Harnessing the Power of Storytelling

Once upon a time, around a campfire . . .

to my 8 year old horror, shock and embarrassment, my father started telling stories to strangers around the campfire. My parents and I loved the Florida Everglades and spent several weekends each month at a State Park. It had running water in the roofless public restrooms. That's all. I did not have electrical service or lighting—not even in the Ranger's office. 

Despite the humidity and heat of summertime, the crackling fire the rangers built on Friday and Saturday evenings drew campers out of darkness of their tents, trailers, and motorhomes. Lanterns of any type would attract a blitzkrieg of buzzing biting insects that defied classification. The fire, however, is nature's ultimate bug zapper. 

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Strangers huddled next to one another on log benches always developed a need for someone to step up and say something, anything, or sing, or entertain them. I was known to play a jaw harp to accompany the ranger's 12 string guitar.  I watched my father evolve into the reluctant storyteller on many of these dark swampy nights.

I heard the same stories many times, yet I never grew tired of hearing them or watching the facial expressions of those listening to simple tales of growing up during the depression, working on an uncle's dairy farms, and of course my favorite genre was about a ghost (who always taught some virtue to those they haunted) including his own version of the "true" ghost story of the young man and the beautiful vanishing hitchhiker the one that happened near the park, of course). 

It is something we all know deep inside: storytelling is the most effective way to communicate and the most powerful tool humans possess. 

But how does storytelling relate to

Corporate Presentations?

Seminars?

Conferences?

Quarterly and Annual Meetings? 

Story has been and will always be the most powerful tool humans possess. It has the power to both heal and destroy, to bring encouragement and despair. It can rally people to settle down and live among each other in peace or drive them to rise up and kill one another on a battlefield.

Your business or organization has a story. Your story is how you recruit employees, convince customers to try your products or services, it is how you secure funding and the one message investors most know in order to have the motivation to put you in their portfolio. 

In the business arena, the story of your organization is the most important message you can communicate. Perhaps it is the only thing you should be concerned with sharing. 

You won't convey new mission, vision, and values statements with fancy graphics and flash animation. Ideas will not linger in the mind of listeners any more permanently than the projector image of the slide lingers on the screen after the presentation.

You must be able to tell a compelling story about how you "got here". 

You must generate interest by inviting people to be a part of  your story. That's the point and purpose of nearly every staff meeting, corporate seminar, webinar, and executive presentation. It is the foundation of every sale, conversion, public offering, and employee orientation. 

Michael Cooley