Storytelling is an underutilized skill that can make anyone who must communicate in their work more effective. No matter if it’s during a five-minute update at a weekly team meeting or a 40-minute pitch to sell the C-suite on a new initiative, using stories will humanize any presentation and bring better results.
Stories can align teams around a purpose and cause. Regardless of the purpose behind your organization bringing people together at a specific moment, building comfort and trust between participants is the first element necessary to make that meeting worth the cost and effort.
Here are three simple questions for your attendees to answer in an icebreaker session that will get them telling stories and building camaraderie and trust.
What was the first meeting, convention, or large gathering you ever attended, and how did you feel there?
Regardless of how much business experience an attendee has, everyone felt some effect from that first large, energetic gathering of people with common interests. This question directs an attendee's memory to a specific time and place: Perhaps it was at church as a child, a school pep rally, a college protest, a concert or festival, or their first industry convention. By asking this question, you get attendees to dig up pure and authentic experiences they probably have not thought about in a long time. As a result, their answers are likely to have a lot of emotion behind them.
What has been the proudest moment in your career so far?
People might feel a bit embarrassed at first to tell their stories, but asking people to share a critical moment in their work life can be quite revealing, and perhaps give you clues on what content you could present to this particular group that would inspire and motivate them. In general, people are most proud when they overcome a challenge or struggle, and others are naturally interested in the drama within such stories. This question has nearly unlimited persuasive potential, and the answers can help prepare your team for the curve balls that inevitably come at them in their own work.
Would you like to hear a story from me?
Consider this logic for a moment: We open up to people we trust. We trust people we know. We get to know people through their stories. So, if you want people to trust that you have planned this meeting to make them the best they can be at certain things, they need to know that you relate to them. Prove that with a personal story of your own that connects to the content or objectives of the meeting.
Kindra Hall is president of communications consultancy Steller Collective and author of the book Stories That Stick: How Storytelling Can Captivate Customers, Influence Audiences, and Transform Your Business. Download her firm's new study, Key Findings that Make a Story Stick.