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Use storytelling at work

Did you hear any captivating stories as you sat around the Thanksgiving table this past week? If so, you might have noticed that the speaker used certain techniques to draw you in–vivid descriptions, facial expressions, a narrative arc. A good storyteller makes these things seem natural.

If you think about it, storytelling has A LOT of cross-application when it comes to work. In the past, I’ve discussed how it can be a powerful sales tool, but it can be useful to anyone in almost any industry. Use storytelling techniques to:

  • Be a more engaging, charismatic leader
  • Keep others’ attention when you’re presenting during a meeting
  • Snag a new client
  • Make a convincing argument or illustrate an idea
  • Present a point to your team

Ok. You’re probably convinced that storytelling is useful, but it doesn’t necessarily come naturally to everyone. How do you work on developing your storytelling techniques?

1. Practice

You probably won’t be a natural storyteller at first, but the key is to PRACTICE. Think about scenarios in which storytelling might come in handy, and then make an effort to do it. Be sure to practice the story you’d like to tell beforehand–do it aloud and in front of a mirror to work out any rough patches.

2. Consider the main point

Your story can’t just be a story. It has to have some kind of relevance to the topic at hand. If, for instance, you’re trying to prove the effectiveness of a product, tell a story about how the product helped a specific person. If you’d like to demonstrate to a potential new client that your company is trustworthy, tell about a time that your team came through in a pinch.

3. Remember the classic story arc

Every good story has a beginning, middle, and end. The beginning should hook your audience, while the end should clearly give the main message and potentially be a call to action. If your story is jumbled, others will have trouble deciphering the main message or become disengaged.

4. Use a “lead-in”

It’s odd to jump straight into a story with no lead-in. You’ll want to tie the story to the topic that’s being discussed before plunging in. Frame up your story with a lead-in like one of the following:

  • “I am confident product XYZ is a good value to our customers. One example that comes to mind is…”
  • “I think it would be beneficial if we changed to system X. One reason is that…”
  • “This reminds me of something I witnessed last year…”
  • “We have to consider statistics, of course, but anecdotally, I once noticed…”
  • “I’d like to give you an example of why I think X would be a good idea…”

5. Practice some more

You may not hit the nail on the head the first time you try storytelling. Keep at it and modify your techniques as need-be. Does your delivery need work? Do you need to use better vocal inflection? Are you having trouble articulating your main point?

Assess, try again, repeat. Skilled storytellers don’t develop overnight.

 

Need more storytelling techniques? Feel free to contact me for guidance.

 

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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Speaking Tips to Build Confidence

As a coach, one of my focuses is on courage. In fact, I’ve developed a whole keynote (and even a little video) around the topic. Tapping into your courage isn’t always easy to do. We each have certain stumbling blocks that make us feel anything but courageous. For some people, it’s speaking.

Whether presenting in front of a group, or simply meeting with your manager in a one-on-one meeting, having polished speaking skills can help you succeed. When you’re articulate and confident, you can convey your ideas with clarity, improve your leadership, build relationships, and better interact with customers and co-workers. In short, having excellent speaking skills makes you seem more promotion-worthy (and who doesn’t want that?).

So, how do you improve your speaking skills and start expressing yourself with confidence?

It won’t happen overnight, but with time and conscious practice, you’ll be able step into any room and clearly communicate your thoughts. Start with these nine tips:

1. Prepare

Usually, you’ll have some kind of idea of what you’re going to have to talk about. Whether you’re speaking up at a meeting or going over your latest project with your manager, it’s a good idea to make a few notes about what you’d like to say and do whatever research you need to do. Anticipate questions and have answers prepared—but don’t be afraid to go off-script if necessary.

2. Pace Yourself

Confident speakers have careful pacing. They don’t speak too quickly, so that others can’t catch what they’re saying, and they don’t speak too slowly and completely lose their audience’s interest. The trick is to find your happy medium and while you’re at it…

3. Enunciate

Have the confidence to speak clearly. Practice your enunciation in front of a mirror or with a partner and make sure you’re sounding strong, instead of canned.

4. Listen

It may seem counterintuitive, but some of the best speakers are also excellent listeners. They pay attention to what other people are saying and respond in-kind. If, for instance, someone is expressing concern to you, it’s a good idea to acknowledge and address that concern. Remember: words are only part of the picture. Body language, vocal inflection, and other visual cues can help determine what’s on the speaker’s mind.

5. Empathize

Aim for understanding. When you have some kind of idea of what the other person is thinking or feeling, it will be easier to talk with that person on their level.

Part of empathy may involve asking clarifying questions to make sure you’re understanding the other person’s point of view.

6. Have a personality

Everyone’s speaking style is unique. You might be more boisterous or reserved. You might prefer more formal or casual language. Just make sure your best authentic self is shining through.

7. Cut convo fillers

Those “Ums” and “Ahs” and “You knows” can be distracting and can make you seem less confident. Practice eliminating them from your speech.

8. Put away distractions

When you’re speaking, give your full self. Put away your phone and pay attention. You might be surprised by the nuances you can pick up and then feed off of when it’s your turn to speak.

9. PRACTICE

As I mentioned above, it takes time to become an accomplished speaker. If you flop at first, don’t give up! Continue to engage others, practice your statements in front of a mirror, and keep at it. Try not to measure your progress against others, but regularly check in with yourself and recognize your personal progress. Did I mention, KEEP AT IT?

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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