Stories are in, but telling is the challenge

‘Great brands, warm and fuzzy corporations are all about powerful storytelling’ – they said! And thus started a bandwagon effect that social media and internet marketing companies vouch for today … the power of “emotional connect” in moving customers and driving followers. A vibrant content strategy, creative minds to express messages into themes and modest budgets to own the digital assets is surely the clutter-breaking formula of this decade. It works and will continue to do so for a fair bit of time to come. What can be better than a scenario that ensures the ‘happily ever after’?

It’s about making sense of the senses – the difference between Storytelling & Reading

But wait! Could there be a difference in impact and outcomes between ‘Story-Telling’ & ‘Story-Reading’?

While great content attracts eyeballs, does ‘Telling’ necessitate a human protagonist – someone like the traditional village storyteller or a fascinating TED speaker or CEOs like Steve Jobs, whose life-journey attracts rapt attention from the listeners?

“The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller. The storyteller sets the vision, values and agenda of an entire generation that is to come,” Jobs said while he was busy setting up a way of life called Apple.

Stories need great tellers (speakers) to be heard and believed. Leaders like Richard Branson or the New Age entrepreneurs running businesses that shape habits, lifestyles and sometimes ideologies of customers are often seen on TED forums or at commencement speeches of prestigious universities. Each of these ‘speaker-storytellers’ wields the power to enrich our perspectives, inspire new thinking, and trigger new trends that cater to our inner asks or desires.

The stage is now set for the ‘actor-director-CEO’ avatar whose live interactions are the toast of the YouTube and Vimeo netizens and TED addicts. The transition from Story-Telling to ensuring Story-Listening is the key to how some brands are ‘killing it’, while some corporates are using the same tools to convince detractors on why they are not. The CEO is often the human face who brings the credibility quotient as an image builder and is also the one who protects it in crisis.

Rant over! Now, what’s my point?? – Breathing soul into your story

Storytelling needs powerful leadership speakers familiar with the science and craft of integrating messages, themes and stories into their public speeches. That means they must also develop some public-speaking skills. Else, we are missing the human connection behind the beliefs and philosophies that guide corporate life and the people around it.

Almost all large global corporations I have worked with have powerful stories to tell. But they are often challenged by the ability of their front-line and second-rung leaders to narrate these stories on industry platforms, during internal townhalls, at colleges or even to their very own digital editors. Herein most need some help, often as organisations and occasionally as individuals.

Public Speakers & Storytelling – Challenges and Solutions

  1. Stress: Performance pressure arises when one is not in control of engineering the outcomes of a speech, laced with the fear of audience reaction and stage fright. Everyone can be a good speaker … the idea is to ensure they know their very own tenor and personality nuances. This is a critical psychological piece that needs figuring out.
  2. Strategy: What you want to say may not be what people want to hear. The key is figuring out how to ‘pitch’ your stories in a manner that will resonate. It’s like changing lenses on your camera for the same landscape shot.
  3. Script: Confusion of cue-cards and alien content is a refrain of many speakers. While the obvious formula of a power start, engaging elaborations and concrete closing works, the speaker must own the stories and messages. Credible storytelling happens when you can narrate it with conviction, without cue-cards
  4. Style: Energy or histrionics is not everyone’s cup of tea. The bogey of being boring often causes the biggest anxiety. This must be overcome through a guided journey about your personality and speaker comfort zones
  5. Support: Some of the more experienced speakers talk about the lack of time to curate experiences into stories. They would also like someone to evaluate and guide them to better their speeches and stories. An experienced coach can make all the difference.

Storytelling is critical. But ensuring that stories are not just TOLD but sometimes SHOWN, can be the added X-factor to thought leadership, credibility and brand stickiness. And that’s the moral of it all!

Devdarshan Chakrabortyy
Founder at Strongkofee
Dev has spent nearly 27 years in advising corporates on their communication and brand strategies and working with CEOs and business leaders in the area of communication skills development. He has worked with some of India's largest advertising and PR firms such as Ogilvy & Mather, Perfect Relations and Mudra in leadership roles and across various sectors.

At Strongkofee, Dev helps clients discover the right tools, strategies and channels that can make for powerful communication through effective messaging and storytelling to their stakeholders.

A post-graduate in social sciences, Dev holds a degree in Mass Communication from IIMC, New Delhi. A passionate speaker in top management schools, he is also a part-time mentor at the IIM-A incubator for startups and social entrepreneurs.

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