At a time when information is abundant and largely accessible, when messages and all sorts of communication have reached a saturation point, substance is often lost along the way.
We are on the receiving end of a colossal amount of information which we are called upon to access, analyze and filter daily, both in our professional and social environment. It is, therefore, imperative that each message we convey should be communicated in a certain way, to appeal to our audience’s attention and engagement, regardless of if it involves colleagues, friends, an electorate or prospective clients or investors. In this complex environment, storytelling is becoming an essential and oftentimes critical tool to communicate and shape a perception, opinion or decision.
There are some golden rules and tips that allow us to develop this timeless skill, which can be applied throughout the communications spectrum, from political speechwriting and corporate presentations to interviews, Op Eds or even the tiniest tweet.
The first thing we need to realize is that the story—the actual content and substance of our narrative—is far more important than the words we choose. The first question we will need to ask ourselves, before focusing on the words, is “What story am I trying to tell?” “What is my ultimate message?” The answer should be our guiding compass for any kind of presentation. Another important tip is not to become consumed in finding complicated and over-sophisticated words that are open to multiple interpretations—or even misconceptions. Storytelling should be simple, concise and targeted, empowered by clear rhetoric and a logical argument. It is always easier to write long speeches. However, if we do not narrow down our story to the essential point, not only do we lose substance, but we also lose the attention and focus of our audience. When we are all submerged by a multitude of messaged every day, what we need is simplicity and content. A presentation that exceeds 20 minutes is usually a failed one, seeing as no one will remember a thing by its end. To achieve this focus requires an enormous amount of discipline and concentration.
Furthermore, it is equally important to always address the arguments against our position during our presentation, not after. In such a way we are always a step ahead, having thoroughly thought through any objections we might encounter. Think of this in a political context when attacks by our adversaries will be inevitable. If an answer and a solution are given beforehand, we find ourselves in the advantageous position. Another essential element we should not ignore in the art of good storytelling is emotion, which plays a critical role in motivating an audience. It is not a coincidence that nowadays all major companies place great significance on soft skills, such as emotional intelligence, and to listen and empathize with our co-workers, employees or clients. If we are addressing a group of people, no matter its size, it is imperative to see what the world looks like when we are in their shoes, and speak in a language that our audience understands, by addressing the issues they are facing; a language forged through their experiences and sensitivities.
Today we see more and more that people need and seek content and substance, shared through stories they can relate to. Stories that define us, giving substance and setting the proper framework to a collection of events and information that we otherwise might disregard. Good storytelling not only engages our targeted audience in our professional endeavors, but it is often the most powerful tool to break down deeply rooted perceptions and mentalities and reach our objective.