A few years ago, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos gave a speech at a graduation ceremony for his alma mater at Princeton University. His advice for the graduates was, “Build yourself a great story”. Besides feeling inspired to a lifetime goal of creating impact that we would be proud of, there is more to these five simple words.
Jeff Bezos overtook Bill Gates to claim the title of the world’s richest man with a fortune reaching over 90 Billion US Dollars for the first time ever. When markets opened on Thursday 27th July of 2017, Bezos had a net worth of $90.6 Billion, placing him 500 million US Dollars ahead of Microsoft founder, Bill Gates. Also, Amazon stocks opened up 1.6%, adding $1.4 billion to Bezos’ net worth. Bezos became the seventh person to grasp the title of the world’s richest person and the third American to top the global ranks besides Gates and Warren Buffett. Bezos wore the crown for barely 24 hours before falling behind on Forbes’ Real-Time Ranking, with Gates ending the day as the world’s richest person.
It is still noteworthy to share his thoughts in five simple words – Build yourself a great story.
Although everyone has a story to share, most people are shy about sharing stories about themselves, especially stories relating to our experiences of the good, bad and ugly. These are crucial stories that form the foundation of how to solve problems, critical reasoning and conducting business.
Storytelling transcends writing, and employing social media as the primary vehicle for sharing experiences is very effective to reach as many people as possible. Also, as humans, we learn best from our experiences and the experiences of other people. As a storyteller, it is your duty to create multiple opportunities to establish emotional connections to the key elements of the story so the listener can learn and gain insightful information from you.
An essential ingredient in storytelling is having something worthwhile to share, great stories are about the content. What if your stories are boring because you don’t really have any interesting life experiences? Well, there is a way to fix it. You need to get out of your comfort zone to get more enriching experiences – not just so you can share them in great stories but so you can also learn a lot more and meet more people with similar and different experiences.
I love storytelling so I never shy away from any opportunity to share my experiences and anecdotes. Although many of the stories may not be mine, yet I have had the privilege of interacting with people from diverse backgrounds. Here are some basic rules for business storytelling summarised below:
- Ensure your story is verifiable
As mentioned earlier, do not get out of your comfort zone just so you can share more dramatic or engaging stories. In the true pursuit of life’s dreams, stories are formed so focus on your work, business or achieving your dreams and for as long as you are in constant interaction with human beings, the stories will emerge. Nonetheless, credibility comes from sharing stories that are true based on facts to support them. Nobody will take seriously, an individual who likes to share fictional stories so make sure the elements of the story are verifiable. In some cases, the activities and elements may also tie to real – life events such as the start of great businesses, getting fired, accidents and plane crashes as well as others that made news headlines or were reported as having occurred.
- Build a strong connection
It is one thing to tell a story and another to connect to the listeners. A story that does not resonate becomes a performance in public speaking or literary fiction. In achieving this, find elements of the story that you can draw lessons from. Lessons such as patience, sense of urgency, critical thinking, double-checking facts, building relationships, gut feeling amongst others, resonate with people because they can clearly identify themselves in your story and immediately picture how they would have approached the circumstance. In most cases, the connection helps others to not get carried away by the story but focus on the lessons.
- Keep it Short
This is every wise man’s counsel. Stories should not take hours because keeping people engaged for an hour is almost impossible in this era. People have increasingly shorter attention span before drifting off in thought or attempting to quickly check in on social media activities through their phones. Always make it short, possibly between 2 – 5 minutes so that you can spend some more time dwelling on the lessons and most importantly, the relevance to the dialogue or topic.
- Let it be relevant
Another challenge with telling real stories is how they add value to a conversation, dialogue, article and speech. Stories that are not relevant distract the listeners and only cause their minds to drift from the conversation. Most times, due to the number of experiences, business leaders are tempted to tell more than one story. Do resist this and tell at most 2 stories in any given conversation no matter how many relevant stories or experiences you may have. This will allow others also share their experiences so you can learn from them and help you focus on the dialogue and not yourself.
- Tell the story with enthusiasm
This is the icing on the cake. The connection built with the listeners largely depends on the enthusiasm of the speaker. Do not tell great stories sounding bored or tired or reluctant. Enthusiasm keeps the listeners engaged and helps them better draw lessons. Nobody gives an encore to a speaker that is not enthusiastic because the stories may sound untrue and void of human emotions.
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