“Let me tell you a story”. There’s something magical about those words. As soon as a good story starts to be told our brains quiet, our brainwaves go into sync with the person telling the tale and we become lost in the words.
The Power of Words
Storytelling is one of the most primeval ways of communicating. Before books people would gather around the campfire of an evening, telling tales of the hunt, stories of heroism and adventure and reliving the day.
People passed on knowledge and wisdom through the words they spoke. It is how they remembered their history and planned for the future. With the advent of the printed word, people lost themselves in the books – creating visions of what they read, no longer tied to the voice of a superb storyteller to find their meaning for them.
Many of my earliest memories revolve around books and stories. I remember being rugged up in flannel pajamas, with the doona over my head, book on my knees and holding a flashlight, breathlessly reading the adventures of the Magic Faraway Tree. Torn between wanting to quickly absorb the words before I was caught and wanting to savor the words like an ice-block on a superheated summer’s day.
I remember another time almost crawling into the lap of the local librarian who was reading aloud some of Grimm’s fairy tales – I wanted to become part of the book and find out what happened next… and she read so slow. I wanted to know now!
Most of us carry some similar memories of stories in our childhood. And yet we often forget the power of words to weave their magic. We forget that one of the most powerful ways to influence people to buy, to change cultures or to embed a new idea is not a fistful of graphs, but a story carefully crafted and woven and told in the right way.
Exceptional leaders know this. If you look at the best speeches in history, they are the ones where the words seamlessly wove together to create a compelling vision of the future, and were delivered by master storytellers.
And yet, today business leaders and managers rely on facts, cold data and plans to try to compel their organisations forward. They block their ears to the stories being told every day in their businesses from employees and customers about “what it is really like here”.
Exceptional marketers haven’t forgotten the power of the story. The most effective sales letters and marketing materials all tell a story – either of success after tragedy or hardship, local boy making good, breakthroughs and new ideas, and hope over adversity.
And yet, today many businesses websites have no sparkle, no life and no stories to engage people in their business. They focus their story only on themselves and allow no room for others to be part of their story.
Annette Simmons said “People don’t want more information. They are up to their eyeballs in information. They want faith – faith in you, your goals, your success, in the story you tell… Once people make your story their story, you have tapped into the powerful force of faith”.
What is your story?
So what is your story? What is the story of you and your business? If you had someone write your tale for others, what would it say? Is your story a comedy or a tragedy?
What is your story for the future? How can you paint your future so bright and colourful that people will fall in behind, to help you create that dream?
What is your transition story? The story between the story – from where you were, to where you are now, to where you will be in the future?
And remember, in the words of Joseph Campbell “If you’re going to have a story, have a big story or none at all”.
By James Clapton