The Art of Storytelling in Communicating to Audiences

Jun 1, 2020

We are sharing an article off the back of our successful Webinar The Art of Storytelling in Communicating to Audiences. In this article, LSPR’s expert trainer and communications professional Susan Croft shares with us her top tips for engaging your audiences. Her tips are applicable to verbal presentations and written communications.

A good and well-presented story is successful in reaching its objective and remembered over others. Reaching its listeners and readers, holding the interest and crossing all age barriers, is the impact of effective storytelling. Knowing and applying the art of storytelling will not only strengthen your stories but also develop the desired interest in the audience and engages them in your brand. 

This article will give you tips on improving your storytelling skills. Read on. 

Susan Croft's top tips for engaging your audiences:  

1. The first step to develop the art of Storytelling is to research good stories

You will come across many kinds of stories, but it is suggested to start with simple tales with simple elements. Whether fairy tales, trickster stories, folk tales, myths, legends, scary stories, and hero tales, from many countries and cultures. One should always start with simple stories, and later progress to the complex ones, as your experience grows. Do not forget to give credit to sources. 

How to know if the story you have chosen is a good one? Here are a few pointers for the right storytelling art: 

  • A good story has a single theme which is well defined with a good plot.  
  • With a dramatic appeal and if relevant, keep it faithful to the source
  • It should bear good characterisation and be appropriate for the listeners. 

2. Adapting your story to your audiences is very important for effective storytelling 

The audience has a very important role to play. Good storytelling involves deep interaction between the teller and the audience. With attention spans getting shorter and more demanding, storytelling has become more difficult. People should be encouraged to imagine independently. So your storytelling skills should be strong and immaculate to lock the attention of the audience completely. 

3. Keep it short 

The true Storytelling art aims at keeping the storyline brief and simple and taking the story as close and relevant as you can to your audience.  

4. Stimulate their senses  

So that they can use their imagination to feel, smell, touch, and listen, visualizing vivid pictures. It is the contact between the storyteller and story listeners that make a story come to life. 

5. Prepare beforehand 

After settling down on a story, spend time perfecting it. Read the story several times, with concentration. Pay attention to its background and cultural meanings. Explore its appeal, the mood you want to create, and the word pictures you would want your listeners to "see", and the mood you wish to create. The characters and setting should become as real to you as people and places you know. Visualize it completely with sounds, tastes, scents, and colors. 

6. The art of Storytelling reflects the use of the story to “paint” word pictures and create a structure 

Use the sound, rhythm, and repetition of words to learn the story as a whole. Know the first and last lines by heart. The beginning of the story should set the stage, introducing the characters and. It should be kept in mind not to alter the essential storyline while simplifying or adapting a story.  

7. Keep faithful to the source if you have sought inspiration from someone else’s story 

One should not lose the original flavour and essence of the story. Even when narrating an old and well-known story, one can use their imagination to make the story come across as fresh and alive, using your imagination. 

A thought: chances are, you've heard a story in the past few months from a friend, family member, or from the tons of media we're all subjected to daily. Chances are, too, that you've also heard some statistics of one sort or another. Which of these two types of information was easiest to remember? My bet is on the story you heard. 

8. Top of Mind Awareness  

We all enjoy a good story, whether it's a novel, the description of an experience shared by a friend, or the story of the founder of a brand you used or the company you work for. Stories put our whole brain to work, not just parts of it.

We feel more engaged when hearing narratives and we remember them more. What gets remembered becomes top of mind. Is there someone you know that everyone refers to as "the computer guy"? Or maybe you've heard something like "I need to see that car-repair guy" or "You know that woman--the birthday-cake lady?" These labels stuck because these people did more than just start their job or career and get to work. They gained icon status (even locally) by creating what's known in marketing circles as top-of-mind awareness.

When the need arises for a particular service or product, ask yourself what the first person, company, or store is that comes to mind? Whether it's a person or a business, whoever you thought of has achieved top-of-mind awareness.

Maybe you've even heard a story or experience related to these people, products, or services. The goal of marketing is for a brand to be at that top spot, right where all the thought of a need or a want passes through. 

Creating and sustaining top-of-mind awareness is a long-term process, not a one-time marketing event. You have to think in terms of a "process" because, according to Chilton Research, more than 60 per cent of your potential customers are waiting seven to 12 months to make a choice, a preference, or a final purchasing decision. Because of that, you need to have a long-term plan for top-of-mind awareness. In marketing, consistency is a foundational concept. Staying fresh, interesting, and relevant over the long-term will contribute to staying top of mind. 

If you want to be top of mind, you also naturally have to put your message where you'll find the customers you're trying to reach. One of the dangers of mass marketing is missing your target market and hitting those who aren't your target. Let the world know that you exist and what you have to say. But remember to talk from the perspective of the prospect or customer, answering the question, "What's in it for me, the prospect?" Think about being valuable to your prospect. Think about being informative. 

9. Create a buzz about your brand 

Stories create buzz. The more buzz about a product or service, obviously the more awareness there is about that brand. And the more awareness there is, the higher the probability of being in that top-of-mind position. Your customers and prospects are making choices, preferences, and buying decisions every day. Very often, these decisions are made as a result of what comes to mind first. 

Consider these characteristics when creating thought leadership that helps create top-of-mind awareness: 

  • Do your thoughts advance a concept or idea?
  • Are your thoughts actionable?
  • How commercially relevant are your thoughts?
  • Do you have data and research that back up your thoughts?
  • Is your point of view new and fresh?
  • Does your information offer a new insight?
  • Can your thought leadership influence others?
  • Will recipients of your thought leadership change the way they think or act about something? 

How Nike uses storytelling to enhance brand loyalty and added value:

Stories have existed since long before recorded history, but the desire to hear stories hasn't changed, nor has the longing to tell stories. Today, though, there are more stories than ever. So the challenge is standing out from this clutter. Just as important to stand out is getting remembered in this ultra-connected, interruptive world. 

Nike is one company that embraces the power of the story. In 1970, Nike designated its executives "Corporate Storytellers" as part of their corporate culture. The stories the company leaders told ranged from recounting the company history -- "the Nike story" -- too many tales of people simply getting things accomplished. By helping all their employees understand the company's past, the stories help shape the company's future. Imagine hearing the story of how Nike founder Bill Bowerman went to his workshop one day after a brainstorming session and poured shoe rubber into the family waffle iron. That was the birth of the famous Nike waffle sole. The telling of stories like this reflects "the spirit of innovation" at the shoe company while connecting today's work to Nike's heritage and roots. 

Whether it's sharing a mission, selling shoes, or inspiring a commitment to performance, storytelling is a powerful tool that can mean the difference between extraordinary status and being just another brand. More businesses are realising what Nike has recognised: the power of storytelling. Business communication doesn't just have to be bullet points, simple statements, or rhetorical rants. A dose of the human element, emotions, and branded thinking can result in a memorable message. Stories build messages that people care about. Stories help people bond with messages. People remember what they care about and bond with. When you engage listeners in a powerful, entertaining, and informative story, they remember it, and many times they ask for more. 

10. Connecting with people is vital to resolving most business problems 

  • Customers have no emotional connection to your brand or company.
  • Your strategy frays as it’s communicated through the business.
  • Your salespeople tell different stories and customers are confused.
  • Your teamwork is often more draining than it is enriching.
  • You crave innovation but struggle to generate compelling ideas.
  • Storytelling could be the answer to these kinds of communication problems in your business. It will help overcome the above issues and enhance your brand loyalty, engagement, builds on your reputation, and enhances the brand experience.

Sign up to get our free Webinar on The Art Storytelling for Communicating to your Audiences

Book on the online course and train with Susan Croft on building your ability to develop stories to enhance communicating about your brand and improve your presentations

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