I am often asked why I call myself a storyteller. It’s a good question, especially considering the number of people who also call themselves storytellers and operate in a vastly different arena than I do.
My preferred operating area, the place where I most want to communicate the value, the necessity, of good storytelling, is in business – particularly business-to-business enterprise. That’s where jargon and buzz-words rise and spread fastest, making authentic communication – what I call good storytelling – almost impossible.
It’s true that jargon can communicate, yet its use is, at heart, aimed at clearly marking lines between "us" and "them". "We" get it, "they" don’t. Which is fine, unless "they" happen to be looking for what you’re offering, but can’t clearly understand what you’ve got because the jargon has fogged their windshield.
Another issue is that the word "storytelling" has almost become jargon itself – the jargon of the children’s library, the folk festival, the book fair. I cannot emphasize enough the value of the storytelling found in those venues, particularly for children, and for the propagation of the oral traditions of historically-ignored populations. Yet, when I call myself a storyteller, I can often see the eyes of my audience glaze over as they imagine me, oh, dancing a hornpipe or – just shoot me – demonstrating my skills as a mime.
I repeat – just shoot me.
Storytelling, in the business sense, is the authentic statement of your value in the marketplace. It’s not charts and graphs, it’s not a slide presentation – let me repeat that, it is not a slide presentation – it’s the language, spoken or written, that says why you’re the best at what you do.
All storytelling is theater – in the business form, if you’re talking to a couple of people at a networking event, it’s close magic; if you’re presenting at a sales meeting, it’s a one-act play; if you’re giving a workshop at a trade conference, it’s a mini-series.
One of the most central tenets of theater (storytelling) is – keep it fresh. Each performance has to be approached as a new game, every time. Which means that the cute speech you’ve memorized, the one that you blather out every time someone asks you some version of "what do you do?", is hugely counterproductive if you truly want to connect, to communicate your business’ value.
Try this: what really fires you up about what you have to offer? What audiences (customers) do you want to tell that story to? Exploring the answers to those two questions can put you on the road to really engaging your customers, really attracting your market.
And if you need help uncovering the answers to those questions…you know who to call.
That’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it.