Do you have a good business story about yourself? (And by “business,” I mean whatever you do to make a living, whether you teach kindergarten, conduct a symphony orchestra, or run a Fortune 500 company.)
If not, you should!
The form of a good business story is easy to master, and being able to tell one can be a great way to build your career and your public speaking confidence! After all, you never know when someone is going to ask about you or your work, and it’s great to know you have an effective reply at hand.
What Makes a Story Good?
Think of any movie you’ve seen or book you’ve read.
The chances are good that your book or movie told a story that had three sections: The beginning (where something changes, kicking off all the events that follow); the middle (where people take action to cope with that change); and the end (where they’re either better off or worse off than they were in the beginning).
In this example from the classic movie Casablanca, (a) boy meets girl, (b) boy and girl and everyone else have World War II adventures that they must survive, and (c) boy loses girl (sort of on purpose):
A Good Business Story is Just Like a Good Regular Story (Sort Of)
To craft your good business story, follow that same dramatic format, with a few key differences:
- A business story is about business. Even if it’s about relationships (“tell us a story about a difficulty you solved in managing a team”), it’s about how those relationships affected the business.
- In some industries, people never use the word “problem,” so your story will be about a “challenge” [!]
- In business stories there are no bad outcomes. You either won the job, satisfied the client, improved the bottom line, or launched a successful new initiative… or things didn’t go well but you learned everything you need to know about how to succeed and triumph next time (which is your positive outcome)!!!
- If possible, your business story should include a metric (business word for measurement) that describes your success. (And if that’s not possible, use adjectives that give a sense of the scope of what you accomplished: major, important, first-ever, highly regarded, etc.) To use the examples above, you:
- won the $10,000 job;
- satisfied your firm’s most important client;
- improved the bottom line by 14%;
- launched a new initiative that saved the company almost $80,000 and raised its profile with an exciting new audience; or
- learned everything you need to know to streamline the company’s operation going forward, saving hundreds of hours of wasted effort.
- Finally, in regular life, stories have one main purpose: to entertain. But a good business story can illustrate many points and serve many purposes.
A Good Business Story Is Versatile, Without You Doing Any Extra Work
Let’s say that your good business story is about how the team was falling apart under pressure, but you rallied them, raised their motivation, inspired them to push through the technical difficulties they faced, and saved your company’s most important client relationship.
This story could be used to illustrate many important things about you, including your :
- Great people skills;
- Great technical skills (you guided the team to technical solutions after you’d straightened out their relationships);
- Initiative (solving a problem that others thought was hopeless);
- Stick-to-itiveness (ability to persevere against tough odds);
- Loyalty to your company, and much, much more.
If this sounds complicated, it’s not — because you’re not going to make all of these points in one telling.
Instead, the trick to making a good business story work for you is to decide in advance what point you want to make, and practice telling your story until you’re comfortable enough to tell it flexibly.
How do you go about that?
That’s the topic of Public Speaking Tip 84!
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In 25 years of speaker coaching, I’ve helped my individual speaker coaching clients develop their strengths and skills to become authentic and effective communicators.
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