Nancy Duarte on Storytelling in Business

I created a series of sketch notes for Tiffani Bova’s “What’s Next” podcast where she meets brilliant people to discuss customer experience, growth and innovation. Tiffani Bova is a Global Customer Growth and Innovation Evangelist at Salesforce. I will post sketchnote versions of selected podcast episodes that enlightened me.


When driving large scale change, leaders often fall in trap of presenting the current reality and future state in form of data, numbers and charts. Data and information may provide clarity to people, in itself, they fail to connect people emotionally to ideas.

That is an area where modern advancements like AI with all its information generating capabilities, will still not fill the human need to connect emotionally.

For that, leaders need an ability to empathize with current realities of people, tell stories that resonate, in a way that inspire thinking and provokes meaningful change in how people operate on a day to day basis.

In this episode of What’s Next podcast, Nancy Duarte, a communications and persuasion expert discusses ideas on how to use storytelling and emotional connection to engage people/customers better. Do check it out.

While I present the sketchnote summary of this excellent podcast conversation, I also encourage you to watch Nancy’s famous TED Talk, The Secret Structure of Great Talks, which is viewed over a million times.

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Related Reading at QAspire:

Storytelling: Begin With The End in Mind

Stories and narratives that touch us emotionally have power to transform us. When hearing a moving speech, story or talk, we feel that it is delivered effortlessly but we know it doesn’t happen on its own.

I have learned that:

A performance that feels effortless is often the peak point of great preparation behind the scenes.

As leaders, our ability to tell stories that resonate at an emotional level with others is at the heart of elevating aspirations and sparking change.

Bernadette Jiwa is one of my favorite bloggers because she packs a lot of substance in a few words. She recently wrote a short post on “How to Craft a Powerful Message” which outlines three steps to create a story that resonates.

Most speakers focus on what they want to/have to share. But great storytelling starts with an understanding of the audience, aligning your message to needs of the context and then delivering it in a way that creates impact.

Here is a quick visual summary of the post:

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Related posts at QAspire:

Leadership, Connection and Power of Storytelling

If the job of a leader is to take people to a better place, they first need to take people’s imagination to that better place.

One of the biggest mistakes leaders make when communicating about the future is to show future in form of data, numbers and charts. They are good to capture the mind of people, but people will only endeavor to go there when their hearts are engaged.

Storytelling has been one of the most powerful tools to drive imagination of people first before people decide to take actions towards the future. The historic “I have a dream” speech by Martin Luther King or the narrative of non-violent movement for India’s independence by Mahatma Gandhi are powerful examples of story telling that led to massive change, first in the minds and hearts of people and then in reality.

If you are a leader who is facilitating a large scale change or transformation effort, paint a compelling picture of the future before you show the data. Ability to tell stories that foster change is a critical leadership skill.

In his classic HBR article titled “Telling Tales”, Steve Denning outlines seven aims of a good narrative. The article also provides an excellent context of leadership storytelling and offers practical ways to frame your narrative depending on your goals. I recommend that you read the original article.

Here is a quick sketch note of seven aims of leadership storytelling:

 

Additional Resources:

Engagement, Leadership and Power of Storytelling

Last week, I had a short conversation with one of my colleagues in HR about the all important topic of employee engagement. In an impromptu conversation, we touched upon a very important point: People love (and remember) stories, not facts.

We loved it when our grandparents wrapped important life lessons in form of stories. Vivid situations weaved in words and narrated with great zeal. The stories I heard in my childhood, and the messages therein, are still afresh in my memory. My daughter almost gets hooked when a story is narrated. We grow up on stories, so do our belief system and our world view.

For leaders, ability to communicate using stories, choosing stories in line with listener’s current context and structuring them for maximum impact are very crucial skills.

Here are a few ways you can use power of storytelling:

  • As a speaker/presenter, you can use stories to capture the imagination of audience. The lessons we learn as conclusions of interesting stories make a bigger impact than getting directly to the lessons. Great presenters tell great stories, anecdotes and experiences that truly engage the audience. They make a point at the end of each story.
  • As a business leader, your biggest challenge is to keep your people engaged with your mission and with their work. Inspire them with stories about the organization. Show them the future. Tell tales of triumphs and trials, of success and failures, of past and future. Stories reinforce the belief system. Stories validate people’s aspirations and empower them. Stories create alignment and hence culture. Your people, new hires and aspiring leaders are not as fascinated by numbers as they are with the stories associated with the organization. Listen to their stories as well.
  • As a sales leader, you can use power of well crafted stories to project your organization. Numbers and explicit details are fine, but stories of your inception, growth, challenges, success stories (in similar context) can help you a great deal in establishing comfort and confidence with your prospective customers.

Critical Question: How can you leverage the power of storytelling to enrich your conversations, build great relationships, truly connect with people and make a difference?

Have a FANTASTIC Friday and a great weekend ahead!