The Value of Storytelling

April 24, 2023

Most everyone has enjoyed being around a good storyteller. For me, it was my late father. His audiences were typically friends and family, and most of his best stories were about failure. Funny accounts of things like confiscated BB guns, fish and other farm pond creatures we tried to catch, or the year he thought he’d won the Easter egg “race.”

In business, though, storytelling should focus on success. What are the good things that your company or organization is doing that you want your audiences to know? And when you find yourself in front of a camera, a microphone, or a roomful of your stakeholders, what are the stories that tell YOUR story?

Think about the last time you heard a really strong presentation. Was the speaker motivating because he or she used a slide deck with lots of data, facts and figures? Probably not. Great presenters are great storytellers, and those stories have a way of sticking in our brains long after the room has emptied.

Here’s another reason storytelling is a vital tool in your communication toolbox: stories have legs, and they can walk out the door. Not literally, but figuratively. In other words, when you share an impactful story in a presentation or media interview, your audience will likely share that story with others. And others with others.

In the movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles, there’s a scene where Steve Martin’s character caps off a lengthy rant by strongly urging John Candy’s character to, “HAVE A POINT! IT MAKES IT SO MUCH MORE INTERESTING FOR THE LISTENER!!” And that’s a crucial piece of advice when it comes to storytelling. Don’t just tell a story to be telling a story. You have to connect the dots for your audience, and your stories must relate to the messages you’re delivering.

Let me give you an example. My colleague, Andy Garman, tells an entertaining story to kick off many of our Wixted & Company training sessions. The story centers on Andy covering a rodeo early in his TV career. Halfway through the rodeo, five fans were chosen to compete in The Poker Game. Long story short, the winner was a lone cowboy remaining bravely in the bull ring, and the point of Andy’s story is this: that’s how it can feel when the media comes calling.

So, the next time the media comes calling, or it’s your turn to present, tell your audience a good story… one that tells YOUR story.

Blog by Jeff Johnson