What’s Your Story?What’s Your Story?

Sally Strackbein, Chief Story Finder, Defining Story

‘One of the most effective stories you can tell is the I’m-human-too story.’

Human beings are hardwired to communicate through storytelling, says consultant, speaker and coach Sally Strackbein, chief story finder for Defining Story. If you’re not telling stories, you’re not being as persuasive as possible.

What advice do you have for an executive who wants to use storytelling to become more persuasive?

Use storytelling to build relationships. One of the most effective stories you can tell is the I’m-human-too story about how you messed up in a funny, but not important, way. Perhaps you wore one brown shoe and one black shoe or you attempted to make a deposit at the wrong bank. Your embarrassing moments make great stories, especially when you learned valuable lessons from them. When you make fun of yourself, you make yourself likable and approachable, building rapport. Search through your personal and business history for funny events or memorable turning points, write down when you experience something jarring or profound, and keep a story file so you’ll be ready to tell the perfect story at any time.

What is an example of bad storytelling?

The most boneheaded storytelling mistake is a common one: telling stories you heard somewhere else, because other people have probably heard them too. Telling recycled stories diminishes your credibility.

Can you give me an example of persuasive storytelling?

A client was rolling out a business continuity initiative for a large organization and opened the presentation with a story about how a similar organization — which didn’t have a business continuity plan — was wiped out when a tornado struck its community. My client got the business!