It’s no coincidence that the most prosperous businesses are the ones that are the best at storytelling. So it makes sense that telling stories is an essential skill for ambitious entrepreneurs to master. But why is it so important?
We asked Harrison Monarth, a top executive coach who works with leaders and businesses on effective communication, to fill us in.
1. It helps you stick in people’s minds
Harrison says: "By telling a story, you create context that helps people remember. It’s difficult to store new information, particularly facts or figures, unless they are given some context.
"By using storytelling, entrepreneurs can be more effective at helping their message stick in the minds of potential customers."
2. It makes things simple
Harrison says: "Stories simplify complex subject matter. If we're trying to explain something complicated, it’s common to use metaphor or analogy to help people understand.
"Essentially, this is a form of storytelling. It’s particularly effective because using an analogy can serve to make something new seem familiar, and therefore more likely to resonate."
3. Stories communicate values
Harrison says: "When entrepreneurs tell stories about their business and culture it sticks more than if they just regurgitate what’s in their mission statement.
"So saying 'we have outstanding customer service' doesn’t mean much, but a story that demonstrates this via example has a strong impact. For instance, I often tell the story of a client who called us at two in the morning because he was incredibly anxious about a high-stakes meeting the next day. We called him back 15 minutes later and coached him through his anxiety.
"Using story telling in this way makes what you can offer more tangible and more convincing."
4. It helps people learn
Harrison says: "It’s not always stories with a happy ending that are important. Telling stories with negative outcomes, perhaps about when a poor decision was made, is a great way to engage with others in your business and make them think more critically about what they might do to avoid making the same mistakes.
"These types of stories often resonate more strongly than ‘how-to’ stories that simply show how something is done."
5. It can offer a glimpse into the future
Harrison says: "Smart entrepreneurs of start-ups need to be able to master the art of what’s known as 'vision-stories'. These are stories that paint a picture of what the future can look like.
"It’s vital for securing funding, getting buy-in for proposals and projects, and to help people overcome their fear of uncertainty.
"Uncertainty carries big risk and people are generally risk averse, so if someone tells a convincing story about the future, that person has one of the core characteristics of leadership: being able to communicate a vision."
6. It triggers an emotional response
Harrison says: "Stories can tug on our heart strings and trigger powerful emotions.
"We’ve all experienced a range of emotions throughout our lives – from hope, love and pride to fear, anger and loss. A good story has the power to make us relive those emotions. That’s why we cry when we watch films where someone dies, even though the person that died is fictional.
"The same idea transfers to advertising. When a TV advert tells the story of people having a wonderful time at a backyard barbeque, it triggers the familiar positive emotions we have felt in similar situations – and ultimately makes us more receptive to the message of ‘buy this and you can be happy like these people’. It’s simple but effective."
So it’s clear that mastering the art of storytelling should be an essential part of every entrepreneur’s toolkit for success.
From making you more memorable to teaching new skills, the benefits on offer prove that, sometimes, it’s good to tell tales.