Not all Stories are Good Stories

Jane Sheffield
Lead Trainer & Owner
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There is such a thing as a bad story. I know, I know. Everyone is telling you that we need more storytelling in business. But sometimes a story is not relevant.  Feels unnecessary. Or is just distracting.

I came to this realisation during a breakout session at a recent conference I attended. The trainer taking the session loved a good story. Oh boy, was he mad for a story.

First, we heard a tale about his university days.  Then one about a previous job, followed closely by a yarn he had with a client. And then – a couple about his kids, for good measure. And that was only in the first ten minutes! Look, give me a story over a spreadsheet any day. But I was sitting there thinking, “And your point is?”

Don’t get me wrong. I love stories. I tell them all the time. But the key is always: relevance. That’s the difference between a business story, and one to save for the pub. So, with so much “tell more stories in business” messaging out there, how do you ensure your story is relevant? That it’s not one of the pointless ones that leaves people thinking, “so what?”

By doing three things: 

  • Making sure it communicates a clear business message (rather than being one that simply gets laughs). 
  • Linking it back to your business situation
  • Clarifying your point, loud and clear.

Let’s look at this in more detail:

  1. Pick a story based on a clear business message, such as the time you were overconfident giving a presentation, didn’t prepare, and bombed.
  2. At the end of your story, link it back to why you are telling it. E.g., “What I learnt that day was this….”. “The reason I am telling you this is because….”. “So, how did that happen you may be thinking?”
  3. Finish up by making your point loud and clear, such as, “No matter how confident you feel, take the time to practice what you are saying”. 

Don’t just tell stories. Tell relevant business stories that pack a punch.

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