Monday, March 14, 2016

Callahan tells about stories

With a plethora of books about the value and importance of storytelling, we might wonder if another could offer any value. Well, the answer is yes, emphatically.

Shawn Callahan's about-to-be released book Putting Stories to Work: Mastering Business Storytelling, is a must-have for your actual or digital library.  It is available now on pre-order and will be on the "bookshelves" on March 20.

Shawn is the founder of Anecdote, the world’s largest business storytelling company.  His book is engaging and wise, and yes, replete with useful stories. His advise is concise and helpful, and--unsurprisingly--he has a way with words!  Let me provide some excerpts.  First, this teaser:

Natural as it is for us to tell stories, as soon as we enter a meeting, begin a presentation or start a formal conversation with a colleague, all our stories disappear. We bring forth our most authoritative voice and opine away, saying things like: ‘There are three key points here...’ and ‘I think that...’ and ‘It’s my view that...’ But as we’ve seen, the problem with this approach is that it’s mostly forgettable. You need to inject some storytelling into business proceedings to get the right balance of argument and narrative. And to do this effectively as a leader, you need to concentrate on what I call small stories.

Big ‘S’ storytellers apply plot structure, character development, beats, scene design and myriad other storytelling principles and practices—they’ve probably read Robert McKee’s fabulous book Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting. At the other end of the spectrum is little ‘s’ storytelling, where we find the stories we tell on a daily basis in conversations: anecdotes concerning real-life experiences. 

We can certainly improve our storytelling by applying some of the techniques used by the best screenwriters, playwrights and novelists. But beyond a certain point, your storytelling will drop into the Uncanny Valley, at the bottom of which your efforts will seem artificial, forced and unappealing. And that’s fatal for business communications. 
And some basic rules:

It’s been proven that the real efficacy of storytelling lies in three standout features of stories that can help us do our jobs as business leaders:

They're memorable—There’s no point in saying something if it’s forgettable.

They convey emotion—People are inspired to act when they feel emotion.

They’re meaningful— In the complex environment of work, people need to be able to make sense of what’s going on and how they fit in.

I could go on with more, but you can download a free sample here. Reading this book once will be well worth your time.  And, then you will come back to it many times over the years.

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