The Power of a Story


A good story can work wonders for your business, according to Stephen Denning. In his book, The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling, Denning makes it clear that storytelling is an essential business tactic. Why? “Analysis might excite the mind, but it hardly offers a route to the heart,” Denning writes. In other words, if you want to see change happen, you’re going to have to connect with your people on an emotional level.

Denning discusses eight key aspects of a story you can use, from those that will introduce your brand to others that will encourage your employees to work together.

  1. Stories activate our brains

    When we hear stories, our brains go through waves of tension and tension release. Rather than listening passively (or not listening at all), our brains are actively thinking while we’re hearing a story.

  2. Stories show who we are, rather than tell

    When you say “I’m hardworking” or “I’m trustworthy,” the only thing you’re doing is inspiring doubt in your audience. A story allows you to give an example. “Rather than talking about yourself as an object,” Denning writes, “you tell your story and let listeners live your story as participants and so come to their own conclusions as to what sort of person you are.”

  3. Stories save money

    Smart product design. Raving testimonials. These are stories, and they cost a lot less than an advertisement. “… smart companies have deployed their brand narrative by using their product to tell their story,” writes Denning.

  4. Motivate People With a Story

    Change is hard, and the more people you need to convince, the harder it gets. Even if you’re simply switching your office email provider, it can be tough to get folks on board. Denning recommends springboard stories to motivate people to change. We’ve broken down the springboard story using email as an example so you can try it yourself.

  5. Find the right example

    You’ll need a true example of someone who switched email providers and experienced positive results. The right example should be authentic, and it should focus on a single protagonist. Using one character helps listeners put themselves in his or her shoes.

  6. Define a clear change idea

    Your whole story should support why switching email providers is a good idea. Get rid of any extra details, and extrapolate the story toward your end goal if necessary. For example, because your story is about just one person, help the audience imagine how the change could work for a whole group.

  7. Use details but be vague

    If you say, “changing email providers is a good idea, and we’re going to do it,” your audience will resent you. No one likes to be told what to do. To truly motivate people, you need to lead them into thinking that your idea was their idea. They need to visualize themselves in the story. The trick is to use just enough details so they know it’s true (date, place, time), but not so many that they lose a personal connection with the story.

  8. Ensure a happy ending

    A springboard story should make the listener stand up and cheer. If your story is “that gentleman lost all of his clients because he didn’t switch email providers,” your audience will be too stressed to take action. Your story needs to be true, and the tone and ending should be positive.

Interested in improving your storytelling prowess? Look no further than our Leadership Presentation & Image Workshop. Our program will help you learn to captivate audiences with a convincing delivery, use body language to enhance your presentations and more.