How Stories Can Create 20X Returns in Your Career
August 5, 2019
Whether presenting to an audience, selling to a client, or interview for a job, telling a power story in a professional context is one of the most effective ways to influence your listener. Storytelling is effective because it intuitively connects people’s individual lived experiences with ideas or values that are common to us all.
If you can use a power story, do so. Not only will it help build closeness and trust with your audience, but it’s an effective rhetorical method to bring dry information together in a way that’s easy to grasp and remember. Psychologist Jerome Bruner suggests that facts are 20 times more likely to be remembered if they’re part of a story.
An added advantage of a power story? There’s something for every audience member. Some people understand things by visualizing; others by hearing; and a third group by experiencing or feeling. A story effectively appeals to all three.
How to Do it
First, know your audience and message
To tell a good story, you must start by knowing who your audience is and what they are interested in. Knowing your audience’s values, pain points, shared experiences, and goals is a great way to find a story that your audience can relate to and care about. Know, too, your message—what you want to convey so that your audience will adopt your ideas or calls for action. Tailor your storyline to your audience and message.
Choose a story with contrast
Every memorable story has a problem and a hero to solve it. Pick a story that contrasts the problem and the hero, creating a tension that must be resolved: what is versus what could be, the before versus the after, the old versus the new, the good versus the bad. The hero in the story is not you the speaker, nor your product or solution. Instead, your audience should be able to see themselves as the hero in the story.
Pick an easy-to-follow structure
A good story comes in many incarnations, but one easy-to-follow structure is the STAR method: Situation, Task, Action, and Result. The S and T answer the question: what were the situation and task at hand? The A: what action was taken? And the R: what was the result? Another way to think about this is Aristotle’s threefold story structure: beginning, middle, and end. Keep the structure simple to follow.
Open and/or close with a story
Use stories in the beginning of a presentation to captivate your audience, or at the end to underline the message of your talk. Whatever you do, your story should engage, inspire actions, be authentic, conversational, and free of verbal flourishes.
If you want to learn more about how to use storytelling in an interview, a business presentation, or other professional contexts, feel free to access TalkMeUp’s online courses here.