Some time ago when I was working in the commuter transportation industry, I was giving a presentation on using rewards to encourage people to not drive. I was overly reliant on my company’s slide deck and talking points. I could sense that I had lost the audience. I would have been bored as well. In fact, I was bored. Abstract numbers on commuting trips and the environmental impact of single-driver commutes, while important, are incredibly mind numbing.
My presentation needed a lifeline. So, I threw a hail Mary and started talking about how my wife, Val, and I have different approaches to the evening commute. At the end of the day, I like to ruminate quietly. Val likes to dump all the details of her day in a non-stop monologue. This is the complete opposite of how we are in other facets of our life. I like parties and conversations, while she is not as fond of them. As I told the story of our commutes, the audience was now with me and fully engaged. I had made the idea of commuter choice relatable by using my own commuting story.
This was a lesson in public speaking that I recalled after reading Kindra Hall’s Stories That Stick: How Storytelling Can Captivate Customers, Influence Audiences and Transform Your Business.
The central premise of the book is that businesses need to tap into their own stories in order to better connect with their customers. No matter how much better your product or service is, a slide deck with features and benefits is abstract: a story makes it concrete.
Stories That Stick is a quick read that gives practical tips for constructing stories for business, breaking down four different story types. Hall is not suggesting that our stories need to be the great American novel. In fact, she makes the case that stories do not have to all that complicated in order to resonate with the audience. Everyone can craft a short, impactful story. Hall gives several examples of effective storytelling throughout the book, many of which come from her own life experience.
If you’re looking to better connect with your customers, Stories That Stick is worth the read.