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How business storytelling can transform your communications, career and company fortunes

By 1st February 2023October 23rd, 2023Blog
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The right business story told the right way, at the right time, can move us to think, feel and act differently.

It can seed the understanding of your strategy, speed the pace of change, and succeed in helping you attract and retain your talent. Yet we still tend to shy away from storytelling in business. We shouldn’t. Storytelling can be truly transformative, regardless of where you are in your career.

What is business storytelling?

If you’ve got ‘once upon a time’ or ‘happily ever after’ front of mind, think again. While well-told business stories are as magical as Harry Potter for workplace engagement, there’s nothing childish about them.

So, if the very word ‘storytelling’ is a mental block for you (while the two aren’t strictly interchangeable), replace it in your mind with the word ‘narrative’… ‘and I’ll begin’.

What business stories are brilliant for is making sense of complex topics in a world awash with data, inputs and information. Marketing experts suggest we see as many as 10,000 ads daily – and that’s just ads! Great leaders and successful communicators cut through the noise to help people make sense of all that information. That’s tricky and it’s where storytelling comes in.

“Strong communication is always about connection before content, and storytelling is one of the most impactful tools we have to connect,” says Axiom’s Managing Director, Chris Carey.

But why is storytelling so powerful?

Storytelling is effective because it fires so many regions of the brain. Scientific studies using MRI scans show how so many different areas of the brain light up like a Christmas tree when we listen to story, making the messages more memorable.

Those same studies also show a mirroring in brain activity between the teller and listener of well-told stories, we literally ‘sync up’ the storyteller and the listener. In other words, stories make a meaningful connection. We experience what the storyteller describes, so we don’t just connect with the words, but with our emotions. That emotional connection means we feel story, and that’s powerful.

“Savvy professionals use story because it’s the most effective communication method ever devised and we still haven’t found a better one,” says Chris Carey.

The importance of storytelling for leaders

Want to give work a sense of purpose? Share a story.

Want to share strategy? Use a story.

Want to seed change? Tell a story.

Want to stop the great resignation? Harness story.

Story makes complex information accessible. And the real magic is that once engaged with the story, people become far more receptive to the detail; the facts, figures and data. But the real beauty is that stories are sticky, shareable and anybody can retell them. We don’t just remember stories – we pass them on – even amplify them, often through social channels.

That’s why stories are so valuable to leaders. Both memorable and shareable, stories are the starting point for transformation – seeding and speeding change, aligning entire workforces to deliver it.

Is storytelling only useful to leaders then?

Definitely not. From the moment you embark on your career, storytelling is a skill that will help you stand out and succeed.

It will enable you to tell the story of the contribution you make to the success of your organisation, or the contribution your organisation makes to you and others. Storytelling mastery is available to us all and the earlier you start, the faster you’ll benefit.

But I don’t have the time or expertise to construct a compelling story

Axiom has a strong track record of bringing complex messages to life through storytelling. We understand the transformative power of storytelling in business and want to help it spread.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a CEO, computer programmer, or a scientist. If you want to engage and make your message memorable, by far the best way is to tell a compelling story.

But how?

There’s no need to scramble around on your own trying to figure it out. Axiom’s comprehensive storytelling offer has something for everyone. We can help you in four main ways…

1. When you want to grasp the basics: The Power of Storytelling eLearning Course

Want to understand the basics of storytelling at work? Then our Storytelling eLearning Course is for you. With half an hour and £75, this online workshop offers everything you need to start sharing stories at work – and the resource is there for you to dip in and out of all year round.

“I’ve taken Axiom’s storytelling eLearning workshop and highly recommend it. It will help you keep your audience engaged. Chris Carey has given me the best tips ever.”

– Business Analyst, AstraZeneca

2. When you are presenting and want to engage your audience through story: Leadership coaching

We know a leader’s biggest challenge is time. That’s why Axiom has helped hundreds shape and share relevant, relatable and impactful stories.

Our leadership coaching offer formalises how we’ve successfully worked with senior executives to tell stories for more than 25 years.

Over four coaching sessions, each lasting two hours, we’ll help you:

  • Get clear about what you want to happen after telling your story.
  • Develop the content you need to get your story straight.
  • Rehearse telling your story in the time available.
  • Polish your performance to get the result you want.

 

“Each speaker had an opportunity to go through their presentation with Axiom. They were able to coach them, advise them on content and performance. These sessions proved extremely helpful, and, on the day, I was impressed: Our event ran to time and speakers really benefited from Axiom’s leadership coaching.”

– Event organiser with Local London

3. When you need to engage your people in change and strategy: Big Picture Communication

Can everyone in your organisation easily retell your strategy? With 10 minutes and a Big Picture, they will be able to do so.

Used by some of the world’s leading organisations, the Big Picture Approach is a proven communications technique for sharing complex messages accessibly. The Big Picture blends the magic of metaphor with the power of imagery. Shared through storytelling it’s a way to get people to engage with strategy, without using strategic language.

When people use a Big Picture, most don’t realise they are even talking about strategy. Yet time and again it’s helped colleagues see a future vision, understand their contribution, and onward share strategy to make it reality.

 

“Our people liked this innovative Big Picture approach to strategy. It helped overcome language and cultural barriers. Now everyone is talking about the strategy – including a tremendous number who wouldn’t usually engage.”

-Former HR Director, Mölnlycke Health Care

4. When you want your people to be better storytellers: ‘How to tell powerful business stories’ live group workshop

If you have brilliant people who fail to connect by hiding behind technical expertise, then our half day live storytelling workshop is ideal for a small group of leaders (up to 12 at any level).

Covering the art of storytelling, we’ll share business storytelling techniques and the elements of what makes a good story. Your people are sure to come away with the confidence to craft, tell and sell a great story.

 

“Axiom’s storytelling workshop was fab. Not only did it educate people on the concept of storytelling and help them see why it’s so important, it also developed their practical skills for how to tell a better story.”

-Head of Transformation, BAM UK & Ireland

Harness and hone

Ultimately, we are a storytelling species. Even if we told people ‘no more stories’, we’d have stories about why we can’t have stories!

Why go against the flow? Why not harness the power of storytelling in business?

You don’t have to be a showman or lyricist to tell great stories – they are in our genes. All that’s needed is a little help to hone the craft for a business communications setting. Doing so won’t make you the next Stephen King but it can transform your business communications, your career and your company’s fortunes.

Want to find out more about any of our business storytelling products or services?

We’ve got a few stories to tell about how we’ve helped others like you, and we’d love to connect with you. Contact us today!

You may also be interested: Three secrets successful business storytellers know and do…