As a business owner, you might have heard several times that you need to share your story. And if you haven’t heard about it, here are some of the most common phrases around business storytelling: numbers tell, stories sell; storytelling is inspiring; stories create empathy; the most powerful person in the room is the storyteller; your job is to tell a story; storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world; storytellers rule the world … and I could go on and on and on.
But as much as everyone is talking about it, very few people focus on how hard it is to unfreeze your stories. I would know. Before working as a business storytelling coach, I spent ten years of my life sharing other people’s stories as a journalist. Those were stories of human rights violations; activists changing the world; regular people creating extraordinary impact in their communities. Their stories mattered. Mine? Not so much.
At least that was what I thought. Until I had to work on the ultimate journalism assignment: a documentary series on African migrants in different cities of the world. My parents are African migrants; I am a second generation of migrants. The story of the documentary was personal. And I soon discovered that in order for me to connect to the people I wanted to interview, I needed to share my story.
Once I started, I couldn’t stop. Since then, storytelling has become the focus of my professional activities, it has become my business and it also fuels my business.
What they don’t tell you about business storytelling.
Storytelling is powerful, but it’s not about the performance of the story. What I mean by that is that we are often intimidated by professional storytellers because their work looks, sounds amazing. And somehow, we convince ourselves that we are not capable of such greatness or even that it’s not necessary for us.
But storytelling is not about how you present the story; it’s about the reflection that you present through the story. Think about it, when as children we listened to the fables, we learned something, a lesson. Yes, the story, per se, might have been fascinating. But the most important piece was the lesson, the message that the writer wants to convey.
Yet, finding the right story to share, feeling confident about sharing it, finding ways to tell the story that are authentic for us that’s the hard part. And nobody tells us that. We are led to believe that storytelling is about how we write, present, speak. But those are things you can learn through a book. What a book can’t tell you, though, is which story you should share, how to accept it and share it in a way that feels like you.
So yes, it is hard. But can that be a good enough reason not to do it?
Of course not. Because the payoff is so much worth it.
5 Reasons why you should share your story.
In order for you to tell a compelling story, you need to dig deeper into what’s important to share and why. This is a process that we don’t see when storytellers share a story. Because it’s something that you do before. And the process of deep thinking, exploring and finding the reasons why you want to share a story brings great clarity. For instance, when one of my clients started focussing on why she felt the need to share her story with her customers, she understood who she really wanted to reach and who, instead, wasn’t her target audience. Clarity touch different spheres of our lives. It could be clarity on your business, on your path, on the next move to make. Whichever the field, once you start reflecting on the story, you will shine a light of clarity on it.
Something that I always stress when talking about storytelling is that in the end, stories are not for us. The process of discovering the stories we want to share is, for us, is something that brings us clarity, confidence, focus. But the actual sharing of the story is for people who need to hear it the most. Think about it, so many times, we find the courage to share something, and we feel liberated by doing it. And then someone comes and says, “I really needed to hear that.” Storytelling is an act of kindness towards others.
Selling through stories is a classic one. Many organisations do it; not enough business owners focus on it. But the reason why it works, it’s because through stories, you: connect to your ideal clients; explain why you are uniquely equipped to help them; explain why you understand where they are coming from; simplify what you do. When you sell through a story, you focus on why rather than what, which is a fundamental shift given that there might be several people doing what you do, but no one does it for the same reasons you do. When you are selling through a story, you are standing up from the mass.
4.Connect to the right people
Whenever you share a story, you inevitably address a specific audience. Those are the people you can help, connect, explain something to. And because the story you share is uniquely relatable to their experience, you’ll attract more of your right audience.
Storytelling is a great way to exercise your creativity. Of course, a big part of it is about “unfreezing” your story. But when it comes to the way you deliver, you can and should get very creative. Whether you use video, writing, infographics, presentation or a simple campfire chat, you can engage the creative side of your brain to find interesting ways to share a story. We can never have enough creativity in our lives.
Where to start with sharing a story
The best way to start sharing your story is not actually sharing your story right away. You want to make sure you know why you want to share the story, why it matters and who is going to help. Either way, remember that your story matters. Getting in front of anyone is a process, and you have already made the first step.
Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua is a Business Storytelling Coach and Strategic Communications Consultant. You can connect with her on Instagram and LinkedIn or sign up for her newsletter here.