How to be a Storyteller in Business Settings: Quick Advice

Here’s a little extra information that does not appear in the book.

When I talk about corporate storytelling, I am referring to any type of storytelling that is used to enhance any type of business or nonprofit organization. Although “business storytelling” seems to be a fad now, with a new book or project coming out a rapid pace, there are many good things that storytelling can do for business.

Here are three things you need to be aware of when you want to know how to be a storyteller for business settings:

How to be a storyteller for business1. Don’t start with “Now, I am going to tell you a story.”
Most likely, there are people in your company who think that storytelling is really just for children. Do not telegraph to your audience that you are about to begin a story. Rather, just lead naturally into the story. For example, do not say: “Now, I’d like to tell you a story about a boy named Jack who traded a cow for magic beans.” Rather, you should say something like, “In our (business) we’re often faced with trying to make the best of a bad situation and the results can be surprising. That reminds me of Jack whose mother told him, ‘Go sell the cow…'”

2. Develop a repertoire of short, to-the-point tales.
Especially in the beginning, you will need to be able to ease into your storytelling. If you come from an environment where cutting-edge communication consists of animated slides shown on a screen, you will need to have short stories to illustrate your points. In cases like this, learning to tell a large handful of Aesop’s Fables, for example, will help you a great deal.

3. Storytelling in a business needs to start in one area of the company.
Although you might be enthusiastic about recreating your company’s story with good storytelling, focus first on one department at a time. I have seen this reality in several companies where I was hired as a storytelling coach. In any company, there is going to be resistance to storytelling as a business tool, with plenty of resentment that anyone would waste valuable time on “soft skill” training. Instead of fighting these beliefs, find the one department of your company that is enthusiastic and let them lead the way into this powerful means for your company to communicate.

The challenge for the corporate storyteller is to engage this process creatively and intentionally. Be patient with yourself and your organization as you work through the storytelling process. Simply put, do it right, don’t just do it fast.

To help you learn more, here is my telling of a simple Aesop’s fable. It’s easy to learn, too.

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Sean Buvala is a professional storyteller, the founder of Storyteller.net and the editor of the “How to be a Storyteller: Essays and Advice on the Art of Storytelling” book in paperback and Kindle. Photo courtesy of Fotolia.com.

About Storyteller

Sean Buvala has been engaged with storytelling and communication since 1986. From kids in classrooms to bosses in boardrooms, from presenting workshops for global salt miners to consulting with Ph.D.’s in pharmaceuticals, Sean has told and taught stories in nearly every industry and setting. He’s been the boss (and janitor) of a non-profit organization and is currently the entrepreneur-in-charge for his work as the “No-Nonsense Storytelling Coach™.”
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