Storytelling as a Super User Skill

By Taryn Brown, City of Dallas, 2016 SAPinsight Leader Board Member.

Everyone loves a good story. Whether it’s the latest best-seller, a compelling podcast or talking with friends; stories influence and inspire.

Taryn Storyteller 3Super Users use storytelling skills to transform data, facts and figures into real-life visually applicable and relatable understanding that tells the story of what, why, the solution(s), and the benefits of solving… based on analytics. As author Ken Kesey once said, “To hell with facts. We need stories!”

Stories make us think and feel. Shane Snow, Chief Creative Officer of Contently, says in Why Storytelling Will Be the Biggest Business Skill of the Next 5 Years, “They stick in our minds and help us remember ideas and concepts in a way that numbers and text on a slide with a bar graph don’t,” he goes on to say, “Stories make presentations better, ideas stick, and persuade and motivate us.”

Great storytelling motivates because it invokes human emotions. The recent blog post, How Stories Create a Sense of Urgency, by Vitiello Communications Group (VTLO), revealed – change initiatives don’t fail because they weren’t necessary, well-planned, or supported by sufficient information. They fail because they don’t acknowledge human emotion.

Taryn Storyteller 2According to VTLO, to drive transformational change, leaders must put facts into context, engage the senses, and persuade people to aspire. They must tell a compelling story people understand what’s at stake and what their role is in affecting change. The first step in gaining your team’s collaboration in driving change is to establish a shared sense of urgency.

How do you become a masterful storyteller?  Jill Vitiello, president, VTLO says take two important steps—write out the story and rehearse the story.  “There has to be a clear beginning, middle and end,” she says, “Storytelling is more than sharing a joke or anecdote.  It’s about getting people to engage emotionally.”

Here are a few questions to ask:

  1. What happens next? Use strong verbs to express action and provide concrete details to guide your listener. Instead of saying “I felt embarrassed,” tell your listener that your face flushed red.
  1. What is at stake?You are the hero of your story. Thus, your listeners want to know what obstacles you faced and how you overcame them. Describing what is at stake gives story the drama needed to keep your listeners interested in what happens next.
  1. What lessons did I learn?The purpose of your story is to convey what you learned while providing listeners with a lesson from which they can benefit.

Armed with super strong storytelling skills, Super Users can lead the way for compelling organizational change.

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