Last week I witnessed the power of stories. Students in my entrepreneurship class were pitching business ideas to a panel of mock investors. A couple of these mock investors were channelling Kevin O’Leary. But I digress. One of the groups was pitching a concierge service for international students.
All three students in the group were international students. And they opened their ten minute pitch with a personal story. One of the students was very worried about her English and rarely ever spoke in class. But she told her story of fear, anxiety and isolation in her first few weeks in Canada. It was quietly passionate. By sharing her personal experience she highlighted the “pain” that their proposed business was going to resolve. And the mock investors related to that story.
Here is the funny thing. This group’s business idea wasn’t the strongest of those presented. But that story created an emotional connection between the investors and the student pitch team. It didn’t matter that their English wasn’t so great. It didn’t matter that the idea needed some polish. And the team did not use a single power point slide. The story is what mattered. In the end, this business idea received the most funding from the investor panel.
To be really effective, stories need to be concise, related to the topic, unexpected and emotional. And to be a persuasive leader, you need to be a good storyteller. Here are the four books I recommend on storytelling and presenting: Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds, Perfect Pitch by John Steele, Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath, and the Leaders Guide to Storytelling by Steve Denning.
Communication and persuasion are important leadership skills. And storytelling is an important tool in your persuasion toolkit. So do your homework and start rehearsing your stories.