If we’ve learned anything from the past 18 months, it’s a renewed appreciation for how critical people are to the resilience and success of everyday business operations. Understanding how each person contributes to the business, including their talents and transferable skills, is table stakes as we head into a future where growth is determined by agility, collaboration, and being able to make faster (and smarter) decisions.
What’s this mean for you? Now is the time for companies to double down on professional development and leverage training to develop skills that can flex and adapt to the changing needs of business.
So what’s the one critical skill that’s increasingly being recognized as essential for capabilities fluency? Business storytelling. The ability to communicate with impact has unlimited benefits for an organization, and for many individuals, it’s the accelerant needed for career growth and success.
Regardless of your role, level, or industry, storytelling is a foundational power skill that helps organizations embrace three emerging trends:
1. Finding success in the new “Distance Economy”
Technology has dramatically come to the rescue to help organizations operate effectively when physical interactions with customers became increasingly impossible — including the dramatic rise of telemedicine, professional services, and live virtual events. As we emerge from the pandemic, consumers’ love affair with accessing business services remotely is here to stay. In the process, it’s forcing companies to reinvent work and, in some cases, transform the way workers perform and interact with their customers.
Because the ability to connect and empathize with customers is more challenging in remote environments, storytelling is a superpower for unlocking productive virtual meetings and presentations. How? Storytelling helps you:
- Create a two-way dialogue: Online meetings tank for two main reasons: your audience is bored, or you’re not responding to their needs sufficiently. The best way to prevent both? Keep people interacting with you and with each other using a solid story as your foundation. It helps you build in planned interactivity to engage your audience and get critical feedback during the session.
- Be nimble and responsive: Using a story framework allows you to organize information into a roadmap from which you can jump around based on your audience’s needs and questions. This makes is easy for you to pivot in unexpected situations, like when technology inevitably fails, or your meeting time is cut short.
- “Own” the virtual room: Being able to break through in virtual meetings is critical for professional recognition and career growth. Showing up with a well-prepared story, including visual and verbal cues to guide interaction, will help you stand out from the crowd and feel relaxed, in control, and confident, which is key to developing your communication and leadership skills.
2. Creating connection in hybrid work environments
Hybrid workforce models are now embraced by 63% of high-revenue growth companies, and 66% of business leaders are considering redesigning physical spaces to better accommodate blended work environments. This new reality means most interactions with colleagues will now live in a hybrid environment. Unfortunately, running these types of hybrid meetings, presentations, or trainings can be super stressful. You must corral the attention of people hidden behind their screens, engage them, answer questions, solve technical problems, all while trying to get through your content.
And while today’s virtual meeting technology can help, it also presents its own set of challenges. Technical issues can kill your flow and confidence and make it harder for meeting attendees to stay engaged and participate. Moreover, a poorly executed hybrid meeting risks leaving colleagues bored and unlikely to act on meeting insights.
How does business storytelling translate to more productive hybrid meetings? It ensures that everyone is included in the participation and outcomes of any well-planned meeting, including:
- Helping to get the story straight. Yes, it’s important to know a story backward and forwards for any meeting, but when the audience is split between people in the room and people calling in remotely, you can’t take any chances. A well-prepared narrative that uses basic storytelling structure becomes the foundation for meetings where people may struggle to belong.
- Building in prescribed interactions. Storytelling creates frequent opportunities for hybrid participant interaction by helping you inject interaction at natural (yet meaningful) touchpoints during your story. Planning proactively for when you will engage your audience makes for more lively and productive hybrid meetings where everyone can weigh in and feel heard.
- Encouraging equity. A cohesive story encourages inclusion by choreographing opportunities for everyone to speak. When presenters know their story inside out and their audience can easily track along and pause for questions, everyone in the virtual and physical rooms are more likely to enthusiastically participate.
3. Innovating through social connectivity
In a world of newsfeeds, overflowing inboxes, and information overload, the ability to get your ideas heard and acted on is critical. One of the biggest complaints we hear from business leaders is their struggle to deal with an “always-on, never done” business culture where ideas across an organization are not clearly communicated, opportunities for collaboration breakdown, and ultimately, innovation suffers.
The solution? Simply put, a compelling story helps us cut through the noise and make ideas memorable, whether you’re presenting internally to co-workers or externally to clients and business partners. Most great ideas that come to life start with a story. It’s how we move business forward. Why? Because storytelling creates a speed of trust that encourages insights to spread across an organization. If you look at any great product breakthrough in the past decade that disrupted an industry, chances are it came out of an organization that communicates and collaborates well with one another through storytelling.
BONUS! Boosting career agility
It’s undeniable: People who work in environments with a rich storytelling ecosystem rise more rapidly in their careers than those who don’t. It allows you better understand your audience’s needs and care-abouts, allowing you to craft more memorable, persuasive communications. And even better, a powerful byproduct of learning effective business storytelling skills is that it increases our executive presence, making us demonstrably more confident, authoritative communicators.
Now, we know what you’re thinking: Storytelling is usually thought of as “fluffy” — it doesn’t apply to the average person in business who doesn’t write Hollywood scripts or give TED Talks. But the truth is, story structure doesn’t just apply to screenplays or marketing folks. It’s a critical communication skill that can be applied to presentations, emails, virtual meetings, one-pagers, even voicemails. No matter where or who you are presenting to, a succinct story provides a clear roadmap to help you navigate flexibly through your material and stay calm, responsive, and confident.
Whether you’re making a recommendation to your boss’s boss, providing a product update, or managing difficult questions from a prospective customer, knowing how to frame your ideas in a story framework humanizes your content, creates a two-way dialogue, and lets you meet your audience’s needs in the moment.
Now is the time to invest in business storytelling
Given the increasingly fast pace of change in today’s business environment, companies need to invest in learning and development of their employees while simultaneously future-proofing their strategies to ensure they remain relevant as skills evolve. Recent innovations in online delivery options make it possible to personalize learning and make it accessible even when teams cannot meet in person, either through live virtual instructor-led training or self-paced on-demand learning. When done well, online delivery fosters a sense of community and allows employees to fit learning into their busy schedules.
So, what are you waiting for? The Presentation Company has a variety of storytelling training modalities, including flexible face-to-face, virtual, and on-demand delivery options. Whether you want training to create a culture of storytellers in your organization or are simply looking to up-level your own skills, our business storytelling workshops are designed to craft compelling visual narratives, flex your stories, and reclaim your time. Who doesn’t want that?!