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Tell Me a Story

Storytelling can be very useful in a variety of organizational settings.  You can tell stories for presentations, managing staff, motivating colleagues, and training. In our Effective Utility Management workshops, we have a structured training module to help you learn about this powerful tool for communication and influence. Your position as a manager and leader can be greatly enhanced if you will take the time to master some simple skills related to storytelling.  A good story:

  • Is captivating – it brings the focus to you as a speaker
  • Brings people together – it unites them in an experience
  • Can sell an initiative or idea more effectively
  • Can transfer values or knowledge to others so they know who we are as an organization

Step 1 – Have a Point

It is important that your story has a point. If you don’t have a point, why bother telling the story?  Making a point means thinking of something you want others to THINK, FEEL, or DO differently after hearing your story. Here are some examples of when a good story is appropriate:

  • Getting people to think in new and more creative ways about their work
  • Working through a difficult task with a hard deadline
  • Coaching/Mentoring
  • Helping groups and individuals work together more closely

Step 2 – Choose the Right Story to Support Your Point

Not all stories are created equal and not just any story will do. It is important to find the right story to tell – a story that will reinforce your point.  Following are some different types of stories to use to support different points:

  • Entertain – choose a humorous or inspiring story
  • Teach – choose a story where someone learned a lesson
  • Persuade – choose a story that supports your idea or refutes arguments against it

Step 3 – Craft Your Story So That It’s Compelling

The next step in developing your story is to figure out how to take your ideas and make them into a tale that people will want to listen to.  Here are some things to thing about as you craft your story:

  • How can I use emotion or humor to engage the audience?
  • How can I set the scene?
  • What details will make this story more interesting?
  • How can I tie the story back to my main point?

Don’t try to write down every word in your story.  Your goal should be to allow for some spontaneity. Simply, write it as an outline. However, if you think of some particularly clever phrase or funny line, write it down so you will be sure to use it the right way at the right time.

Step 4 – Tell Your Story

A good story is one thing on the printed page or up on the big screen at the movies. It’s quite something else when we need to stand up in front of a group and deliver it. That’s why it is important to learn some helpful tips for being an effective teller of stories.  Here are six things to keep in mind when you tell a story:

  • Be authentic – storytelling isn’t “acting,” so be yourself
  • Speak “low and slow” to exude confidence and draw people in
  • Don’t memorize every word of your story: keep some spontaneity
  • Use pacing and timing: take pauses and don’t rush your punch line
  • Use body language to appear engaging, confident and relaxed
  • Practice in front of someone who can give you feedback

Becoming an effective communicator and storyteller may take work.  By using these four simple steps and continuing to practice, you will become a master storyteller with the ability to communicate your point effectively.  Best of luck!

American Water College provides online and onsite technical and management training for water and wastewater professionals. Click on the link for more information about our Effective Utility Management training program.  Or check out our Classroom Training Schedule for dates and locations of our upcoming events.  We also have a complete training library available to your organization.  Click here  or call us at (661) 874-1655 to find out how you can gain access to this industry specific training for your utility.