Back in November 2018 I was privileged to attend Gabrielle Dolan’s Business Storytelling workshop hosted by the State Library of Victoria in Melbourne Australia. Her message was simple and based on evidence: Quote: ‘The science is in — we are hardwired to tell stories as humans and we are hardwired to listen to stories’. So why do library staff need to improve their business storytelling skills? The number one reason is Library advocacy. The message of the impact of libraries still does not always cut through to resonate with our funding organisations key players. The number two reason is the continued need for library staff to adapt, change and innovate in response to community needs and this can be very uncomfortable for staff who are over emotionally invested in the status quo.
In the business of libraries our leaders have been focusing on the facts and figures and let’s acknowledge that these statistics are often impressive and needed to rebut uninformed opinions that library use is declining. So why do impressive facts and the figures and good return on investment evidence not engage our stakeholders and lead to increased funding? Libraries are also coming together to gather case studies demonstrating how they are delivering on the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030. This is still not giving libraries the cut through government austerity that was expected. This is evidence proving our place and impact surely.
In this workshop it was impressed on all that a story is stronger than facts and figures. Facts and figures are still needed but when linked with a relevant story they have maximum impact, and a story should not be mistaken for a case study.
Another quote from Gabrielle resonated so strongly that I wrote it down and underlined it and then had to own it as a bullet point queen!
‘Bullet points enrage us Stories engage us’
Telling stories within our family and friends circles is different from telling stories in business as there needs to be a purpose when introducing a story to a business situation.
There are four types of storytellers in business situations.
- The Bragger: the subject of the bragger’s story is always themselves, with one purpose to show how good they are. Do not be the bragger!
- The Joker: is a great storyteller and workmates often love their stories as they are very engaging, but that’s the failure of the Joker’s story as their aim is to entertain and they fail to attach a key message to act. Do not be the joker!
- The Reporter: delivers a very clear message, uses relevant case studies and business examples, with lots data (often in bullet points) but ultimately they do not engage with the listener. Do not be the reporter!
- The Inspirer: is always authentic and uses personal stories to illustrate the business message. Be the inspirer!
Tips to delivering an inspiring story.
- Know the reason for the story, it has to have a purpose and the hard and fast rule is one message / one story.
- For a story to be a story it needs a beginning, a middle and an end. Simple but does need to be repeated. In the Beginning the story must have a time and place which signals to the audience that a story is about to be told. The story needs a protagonist — animal or person,
- If the story is to connect then it also needs an actual event to tap into the sensory and emotional part of the brain as the listener needs to imagine something and feel something. It has to be relate-able so ordinary / normal stories are best.
- Pace is important and the story cannot be too long — Gabrielle’s recommendation is 1 to 2 minutes — be succinct. Always question the detail you put in, remove any jargon or acronyms and remember the time limit of the story — there is a discipline to leaving some detail out.
- The story must be congruent to who you are to have impact and authentic stories were emphasised throughout the workshop as essential.
- The ending of the story needs to be on message. Tell the listener the reason for sharing the message. It is not the listener’s job to intuit the meaning of the story, it is the job of the storyteller to communicate the message clearly.
- There are 3 parts to the end: 1. The Bridge — this is one sentence - I am sharing this with you because it reminds me of the role we play in …. work situation 2: The Link — 1–2 sentences linking back to the message — Imagine what we could achieve if? 3. The Pause — Stop talking and breathe through your nose — 1–2 seconds.
There was much more to the workshop than these highlights and I can recommend Gabrielle Dolan to any organisation who wants impact and change.