When I was the lead trainer of an organisation called Speak To Influence, we traveled the country, delivering staff training to medium/large companies.

We taught the attendees of our training sessions how to be influential while communicating (be it one-to-one communication or one-to-many).

While there are many experts on communication out there (and they all specialise in their unique messages), there is one common denominator when it comes to creating influence.

Many sales trainers will talk about this common denominator, and suggest that it be used in the sales process.

In delivering staff training on effective communication, we were very emphatic on this common denominator.

And here it is – share a story!

Why? It is part of human nature to hear stories and to share stories. Most of us loved hearing stories when we were kids. Story sharing is a big part of many indigenous cultures in the world eg. the Aboriginal culture in Australia.

International speaker and best-selling author, Sam Cawthorn calls it “Story Showing”, not “story telling”. He makes a very emphatic point that you must show how a story goes.

Stories make it realistic. You are more likely to be influential when you share a story that resonates with the person or the audience that you are connecting with.

Many memorable speeches in history have had stories in them. It is said that Barack Obama’s infamous speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention brought him to the spotlight. Political allegiance aside, let’s briefly look at that speech. He started with a story about his Kenyan goat herder father’s journey to a better life (coming to America). Then he said “My story is part of the larger American story”.

While it is not expected of everyone reading this article to become a polished speaker like Mr Obama, there are several keys to sharing a story in order to be influential.

Here are 5 steps to effectively sharing stories and being influential:

1) Set the scene – a story will be more impactful if you set the scene for what is to follow, and build anticipation for the listener(s). For example, instead of saying “I was once taking my son to a football game……” you should say “In October, 2016, my ten year old son and I were driving to a football game on a sunny Sunday morning”. Do you see how descriptive the second sentence is compared to the first one? Chances are, the listener(s) will start to imagine you and your ten year old son in the car on a sunny Sunday morning. Once they start imagining, they will pay more attention.

2) Condense – you will make a greater impact with your story if you condense time, events, and conversations. For example, if you are telling the story about a challenging client with whom you had six meetings before he agreed to invest in your service, you should avoid saying “During our first meeting…….”, “Then, in our second meeting……” and so on. It is far more impactful to condense those events with “Over the course of six separate meetings, he asked numerous questions…..” In doing so, you are maintaining the attention of your listener(s). Remember, the story is a support tool, not the entire content of your conversation/presentation.

3) Be in it, don’t just narrate – including dialogue in your personal story is effective, easy, and gives you the opportunity to incorporate emotion in your communication. For example, instead of saying “When I told her that she had been recognised for her dedication, and had received a pay rise, she became emotional”, you should say “I looked at her in the eye, and said (pause) “Jenny, you have worked extremely passionately for this organisation. Here is your pay rise”. By including dialogue your story becomes more realistic. If you ever read a kid’s story book, it is full of dialogue eg. "The elephant said to the deer "Come with me to the river for a drink"". Including dialogue personalises the story.

4) Ask for their experience – this is when you bring them into your story. Whether you are communication one-on-one or one-to-many, asking them for their experience will help them make an emotional connection with you. A very effective question that Craig Valentine (World Champion Of Public Speaking) asks his audience is “Have you ever….” This question will make the listener(s) think about their life/experience. It makes them connect with your story, is very likely to help them put themselves into the situation that the story is describing.

5) Call to action – at the end of the story, give a call to action to the listener(s). If your story was based on “How you can lose 5 kg in 10 weeks”, now is the time to give a call to action. The key here is to use a positive action-oriented statement. Negative-generating questions such as “You don’t want to be overweight for the rest of your life, do you?” should be kept out of your communication. A positive-generating question would be “Just like Rodney lost 5 kg in 10 weeks, what would it mean for you to do the same and enjoy a healthier, fitter, and active life?” (Rodney in this case would have been someone you shared a story about).

As an anti-bullying campaigner, I deliver one hour presentations in front of up to 1,000 school kids. As the old adage in professional speaking goes – "If you can hold the attention of an audience full of kids, you can handle any audience". How do I effectively engage with kids for that long? By sharing stories! Every five to ten minutes, I will share a real and applicable (to them) story.

Quote: "Give people a fact or an idea and you enlighten their minds; tell them a story and you touch their souls." Hasidic Proverb

I sincerely hope that you have gained insights into how you can improve your influence by sharing stories.

Influencing you to your excellence,

PS: My Anti-Bullying Charity's latest short video addresses – “Another Tip For Kids Who Change Schools” - https://youtu.be/Iw2PLRTvQc4

Author's Bio: 

Ronny Prasad is an author, speaker, corporate trainer, and anti-bullying campaigner, based in Melbourne, Australia. He is the author of WELCOME TO YOUR LIFE (simple insights for your empowerment). His anti-bullying charity regularly delivers presentations at schools, and uploads videos on Youtube, for kids who are being bullied at school. You can download his free anti-bullying app on Google Play or Apple's App Store. Just do a search for Beat Bullying With Confidence.