Stories are just words. So why are they so important? Studies show that the average American hears or reads 100,000 words every single day. Findings from studies dating back decades have shown that 80% of what we learn is gone within 24 hours of our hearing it. That means that many of the message we hear simply don’t make an impression.
And yet, we’re told more and more that it’s even more important than ever to have a personal brand, to build a platform, to stand out, to manage our careers. But how do we do that without words? And how do we make the words we say meaningful enough to stick?
We tell stories.
Why Telling Your Story is So Important
These stories aren’t necessarily the ones you read to your kiddos at bedtime or those fairytales you remember hearing as a kid. But they’re important just the same and they’ll be remembered (just like those fairytales) if you tell them right. These stories are facts, but they also provide plenty of opportunities to connect with those you tell them to and the connection is what will make you memorable.
But why is telling a story so important? Don’t we have other means that showcase who we are and what we’re capable of. We do, but the honest truth is that not many care and even less remember. Here’s just a few reasons telling your story can be so important:
- no one really cares about your resume – gone are the days of relying solely on a sheet of paper with your greatest accomplishments. Many employers today are more interested in reading your bio, seeing what they can find about you when they search on Google, and hearing about the life experiences that have shaped you into the person you are today (you get bonus points if the life experiences you share showcase skills that apply to your work!)
- the biggest leaders and greatest marketing campaigns start with a story – look around and you’ll find some of the most influential organizations tell a story that is so compelling others want to join or contribute just to be a part of it. (If you’re racking your brain trying to think of an example, here’s a few, Apple, R[E]D, Toms)
- telling your story helps you evolve – how many times have you introduced yourself? Do you always say the same things? If you look back you might find that the details you include have changed over the years – when we tell our story often we start to find out subtle truths about ourselves that help us gain confidence and understanding about who we are and what we can and want to do.
- sharing your story can accelerate interpersonal connection – think about the people you work with. Those that you eat lunch with or have known for years have probably shared at least a few personal details about their lives and likes. Because of this, you’ve got a better gage at how to work with them and that means that you can accomplish more. Creating these connections is a great way to be efficient and it’s also incredibly effective when you’re striving to put together high performance teams.
What Makes a Good Story
Now that we’ve seen why a story is so important, we want to make sure the stories we tell are as effective as they can be. Miscellaneous facts and data aren’t easily remembered if they’re line-itemed or randomly listed, but include them in a story and you’ll find the recall rate is a lot higher. Tucking in important points within your story is key, but the most memorable stories are those that are practiced and that have a set pattern. Here’s how to get started & a few tips on telling a good story:
- make sure you have good story structure – start at the beginning and provide ample background without losing your listener in the details. Every story should have a beginning, middle, and end.
- keep the reason or moral of your story simple and stick to just one – learning 17 different lessons from a story seems overwhelming not to mention a little unrealistic. Pick the most important reason for your story and stick to it.
- Personal connection – sometimes in story telling a character can seem one-sided or flawless. Make sure that you have your main character be relatable – remember to show them in real life even if the story is about them taking on a challenge or overcoming a tremendous obstacle.
- Include common reference points – this is one of the best ways to solidify your characters being relatable. Include feelings, ideas, thoughts, that others can relate to. We all know what it’s like to feel scared, take on a new task, or work towards achieving a huge goal.
- Pacing – having a beginning, middle and end isn’t all you need. Make sure you have a good pace – that you don’t dwell too long on setting up the story or belabor certain points. Instead make a full circle and come back to the point you started with in the beginning
No matter what, remember that stories need to be practiced and then shared. They might help you get a job interview, inspire an employee, get you a promotion or help you sell your product or service.
Ben Sutton is the founder of Mazuma USA, an accounting firm providing tax, bookkeeping and payroll services to small businesses. Since founding Mazuma, Ben has established himself as an expert in the small business world. He’s still driven by that same desire to provide accounting help to all small businesses – from photographers, bloggers and creatives to lawyers, doctors, and dentists, everyone needs affordable accounting help. Ben is a Certified Public Accountant, and a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. But Ben considers his greatest achievement and credential to be his happy wife and four children.