In Public Speaking Tip 83, I covered the basic structure of good business stories (they’re like good regular stories, with a few twists).
Now it’s time to create business stories that will work for you. Here’s how:
1. Chose a Business Story that You Want to Tell
Notice that I didn’t say “choose perfect business stories,” or “the world’s best business story.” Just pick a story to develop and tell, either from your own experience, or borrowing something that you’ve heard or read.
2. Now, Talk Through Your Story OUT LOUD
The first time you do this, you’ll probably sound and feel awkward. (Public speakers call this first time a “stumble-through.”) You may have several false starts. You’ll probably put in too much detail or too little.
But resist the temptation to write down your story and work it out on paper, because what works on paper rarely works in the telling.
That’s because, like regular stories, business stories are an oral / aural (saying and listening) form of communication.
That’s why the best way to develop them is by saying them, and listening to how you sound.
3. Everyone’s Favorite Part — Practicing
You’ve stumbled through the first telling of your business story.
Now tell it again.
It probably sounded a little better than the first time, right?
OK, now we’re going to break your story down into the three sections we discussed in Tip 83,
- The beginning/challenge,
- The middle/actions taken, and
- The end/positive business outcome.
Each of these sections is important, and each one should get roughly the same amount of time and attention when you tell your story — which is why we’re going to…
4. Use the Mix and Match Approach to Practicing
Most people practice a story (or any other kind of public speaking) from beginning to end, beginning to end, beginning to end, beginning to…
Unfortunately, you’ll get bored with your story fast if you only take one approach to practicing it. So instead, try telling the story’s sections in random order.
This best practice for practicing will help you:
- Keep you on your toes,
- Help you to become a more flexible storyteller, and
- Give each story section an equal amount of attention.
For the structure wonks among you, there are six possible ways to practice a three-section story; be sure to try at least three of them:
Eventually, you’ll be able to jump into your story from any section (or any vantage point) and tell it convincingly. This is a great feeling, and lots of fun.
5. Some Other Tips for Practicing Business Stories
On this site, you’ll find many other posts about how to practice, how to be your best self (your “Avatar“) while practicing, how to practice in short bursts, and (maybe most importantly) how to have fun while you’re practicing.
What it boils down to is this:
Because you’re building muscle memory as well as mental skills, telling your story once every day (or every few days) will get you much better results than practicing for hours on end, once.
And now you’re ready to…
6. Try Your Story Out on People
You never want your first telling of a high-stakes story to be with the people you’re trying to influence. So practice your story on trusted friends and colleagues, and ask them for specific, constructive, feedback.
Don’t expect that feedback to be technical (“your build-up to the payoff was a little rushed”). Instead, listen for where the story did and didn’t work for them (“I loved how you described the two people, but I wanted you to take a little more time with the ending.”).
If this feedback makes sense to you, try different ways of strengthening your story’s weak points.
Then practice until the new version of your story has replaced the old one in your mind.
Your Business Stories Will Get Better and Better
Don’t get discouraged if it takes a minute to get the hang of telling business stories. The more you do it, the more you’ll:
- Get comfortable,
- Discover new ways to tell your stories, and
- Actually start having fun when you tell them.
Remember: Like fine wines, good business stories get better with age!