There’s a Native American saying that goes, “Tell me the facts and I’ll learn. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.”
Stories, whether first-hand accounts, tales shared by other people, or even the ones lifted from other fictional and non-fiction books or novels, are usually part and parcel of many corporate, leadership, and coaching talks or seminars.
As an industry, business or company leader tasked with speaking publicly, you must be able to share some relevant stories, tales that will enable you to teach, inspire, prove a point, or simply capture the interest of your audience during your time on the stage.
A Leader’s Must-Have Arsenal of Stories
Storytelling is an effective leadership tool and it can help you become a great leader. As such, whenever you’re giving a talk, seminar, or leadership coaching workshop or training course, you need to have a good story ready for sharing, regardless of whether this is included in your presentation or not.
Here are five types of stories you can (and should) tell whenever you have the floor:
1. The “I’m like you” story
As a speaker, especially in front of a new, unfamiliar crowd, one of the first things you have to do is to connect with your audience. A particular type of story which can be helpful if you want to reach out to your audience in a more personal way is to tell an “I’m like you” story. With this story, you show your audience you are just like them in some way.
People will find it easier to build a relationship and a connection with speakers and leaders if they see them as someone o can relate well to them. There will be a higher chance that other people will listen to and like us when we share similar experiences, opinions, concepts, and principles with them. So although you would like nothing better than to share a unique experience you had during skydiving, share this story some other time. Talk about something that many people go through instead, such as commuting or driving or having a stressful day at work.
2. The Failure story
This type of account is similar to the “I’m like you” story, but on a more personal level. Under this type of story, you have to show that you are human and vulnerable; you have made some mistakes in the past. But the important thing which you should highlight is that you learned from your mistakes, found a way to rectify it, and eventually found success. For this kind of narrative, you have to make sure you choose your words carefully. This is because although this is a failure story, your main point should be eventual success. And this is what your audience should take away from your tale.
3. The Inspirational story
This is the most important story you can tell that should hit the mark – the one that gets your audience to do something significant or life-changing. In essence, these stories should be aspirational; they should give the audience an image of what the future could look like. Under this type of story, you can also share goals for them to work on and specific actions they can take to achieve them.
This is another type of story that can be challenging to craft. After all, you want to be as natural as you can be when you tell it. To come up with a good inspirational story, start by creating an outline that covers these:
- All relevant information
- Proper chronology of all information
- Protagonists your audience can relate to
- Most appropriate narrative arc
- Ways of highlighting the most important details
4. The Good Example story
Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, J.K. Rowling, and Sir Richard Branson are just four of the most inspirational persons and leaders in the world today. They had to go through bad experiences to get where they are and enjoy the success they have right now. Their lives are just some of the best examples you can talk about during a business leadership coaching program or seminar.
When telling this type of story, you don’t always have to use big-name celebrities. Most of the time, you’ll get a better impact when you exalt an ordinary individual who exemplified some good traits in an unusual or difficult situation. For instance, you can share the story of a co-worker or friend who was able to overcome a particularly difficult issue because of hard work and some ingenuity.
5. Subtle stories
Lastly, you don’t always have to be very detailed about the stories you tell. In the right situation, ambiguous or subtle stories can be very effective. Ambiguous stories can linger longer in a person’s mind because we will always try to make sense of and understand the tale. We will try a bit harder to work out its meaning and because of this, it has a longer-lasting impact. A subtle story can also be a great foundation for conversations during a seminar or training activity so it’s worthwhile having one in your arsenal.
There are many skills you need to have to be an effective leader today. Storytelling is one of them. Make sure you’re not lacking in this department by being prepared with different types of stories you can share with your audience, whether or not the situation calls for it.