I was struck when I read Alina Tugen’s NY Times article, Storytelling Your Way to Find a Better Job or Build a Business, this weekend. Struck that this thousands of years old art form has now become such a high profile trend. It’s been called a strategic tool with “irresistible power” by Harvard Business Review. And “the major business lesson of 2014” by Entrepreneur magazine.
Tugend says, “In these days of tougher-than-ever job searches, competition for crowdfunding and start-ups looking to be the next Google or Facebook, it’s not enough just to offer up the facts about you or your company to prospective employers or investors. Or even to your own workers. You need to be compelling, unforgettable, funny and smart. Magnetic, even. You need to be able to answer the question that might be lingering in the minds of the people you’re trying to persuade: What makes you so special? You need to have a good story.”
A good story, however, is not that easy to tell.
Turend offers 5 Tips:
• Know who your audience is.
• Have a beginning, middle and end.
• Use concrete details and personal experience.
• Don’t self-censor.
• Don’t try to memorize a story so it sounds rehearsed. It’s not about perfection. It’s about connecting.
I think the first steps to successful storytelling are even more basic:
- Know the story you want to tell.
- Find the information that best tells the story.
- Determine the form that most clearly displays that information.
In terms of you and your work or startup aspirations, stories can illuminate:
- Who you are – your character, originality and authenticity, as well as your skills and expertise.
- Where you came from.
- Where you are going.
- What you care about.
- What is important to you.
Speaking of illuminate, storytelling – especially in our digital age – goes well beyond the written word. In this multimedia world you need to create a spoken, written, and visual message. Pictures, logos, videos and information graphics are all tools to help you tell your story – your brand – and engage your audience in much less than a thousand words.
One of the most valuable resources I’ve found for digital storytelling are these online workshops from The KQED Digital Storytelling Initiative.
No matter what your tools – be it a hammer and chisel, a feather pen, or a mouse – the best, most compelling and memorable stories are those that engage your audience. Anyone can relay facts and data. It takes an artist to build and share a story, but you can learn to do it and it will bring your job interview or new business startup pitch to life. Good stories change lives.