Define Your Big Idea, Use Visuals, Drive Action
Business storytelling is an essential skill because it helps articulate the vital data and story to enable decisions and actions to optimize results. This article offers seven practical and actionable tactics which, as a Learning and Development leader, you can use to enhance your business storytelling skills.
7 Tactics For Successful Business Storytelling
1. Use A Story Structure
A narrative structure can help to create a sense of momentum and build suspense in your story. A simple yet effective story structure to consider includes identifying your big idea and using three of the critical elements of why, what, and how to support it. Kurnoff and Lazarus  offer another storyline structure: setting, characters, conflict, big idea, and resolution. The location, characters, and conflict make up the “why,” the big idea is the “what,” and the resolution is the “how.”
2. Know Your Audience
An essential step in creating a successful business story is to understand your audience. Who are they? What do they care about? What are their pain points and challenges? Often, your audience is diverse, and each audience member has diverse interests. To engage each member of the audience, you may want to introduce specific characters in your narrative that represent the particular interest points and conflicts of the audience member groups you have identified. This means that your story will need to be even more airtight to ensure that all characters eventually align with your big idea. Once you have a clear understanding of your audience, you can tailor your story to lead off with their needs and interests and engage them emotionally so that they embrace your big idea and call to action.
3. Craft Memorable Headlines
Business stories should be simple and straightforward. Avoid using jargon or technical language that may confuse your audience. Instead, use clear, concise language to craft memorable headlines that tell the story and drive toward your big idea and call to action. Well-crafted headlines help you keep the audience engaged, control the narrative, and drive the outcome forward. Kurnoff and Lazarus recommend three tactics for crafting memorable headlines: be concise, specific, and conversational. Being concise means that you have to edit, and then edit some more, to eliminate unnecessary words. Being specific means that you can use a data point, time frame, or unit measure that resonates with the audience. Lastly, being conversational means that your headline is easy to understand and avoids jargon and big words.
4. Use Visuals
Visuals are a powerful tool for storytelling. According to research by John Medina, three days after hearing a story, people remember 10%. If the story included a picture, they would retain 65%. The adage “a picture speaks louder than a thousand words” rings true here. They can help to illustrate complex ideas and make your story more engaging and memorable. Use charts, graphs, images, and videos to enhance your story and capture your audience’s attention.
In their book, authors Janine Kurnoff and Lee Lazarus  highlight five visual elements that can enhance your storytelling: photos, diagrams, data, text, and videos. Photos can be quite powerful because they help humanize the message and create an emotional connection with your audience in ways that resonate more deeply and remain memorable longer. Diagrams can help you chunk out key points and drive the message quickly and succinctly. Data, both qualitative and quantitative, is critical to your story. While you can use it in charts, tables, or quotes, you can also combine oversized text and numbers to highlight key messages. Text is also a type of visual that is typically overused. You can use text sparingly, leveraging various fonts, colors, and sizes to highlight your big idea. Video can be used to bring a character to life and enhance the big idea and your call to action.
5. Close With A Call To Action
Your business story must culminate with a call to action. What do you want your audience to do? Engage more, make a decision, or direct their teams into action? Lee and Lazarus call the story ending a “resolution”. The resolution should have enough detail to enable the audience to make a decision. You should have enough backup information in case your audience asks for more details. The call to action, or resolution, must align, support, and highlight the big idea of your story.
6. Use Emotion
Emotion is a powerful tool for storytelling. It can help to create a connection with your audience, make your story more memorable, and inspire your audience to take action. Aristotle defined ethos, logos, and pathos as the three foundational pillars of emotional engagement and persuasion. TED talks are a great example of stories that use an emotional connection to elicit engagement and action on behalf of the audience.
7. Be Creative, Concise, And Crisp
Creativity and authenticity are essential in business storytelling. Being bold in how you use the various tactics described here can help you and your team boost your creativity. Being authentic, honest, and genuine in your storytelling, and even showing vulnerability, can be useful depending on your audience’s interests and needs. Lastly, being concise is critical. Most people can remember up to three things after a presentation, so keeping the story concise and crisp is vital. Your audience will appreciate your honesty and brevity and be more likely to connect with you and your message.
Business storytelling is an essential skill everyone needs to master. Several business storytelling tactics, including crafting a story structure, knowing your audience, and using visuals, among others, can be valuable to you and your L&D team. As you endeavor to create more engaging and memorable stories, remember that business storytelling is an invitation to your audience to take a journey of ideas with you. The story helps you and the audience navigate a plethora of information and zero in on the big idea that captures your audience’s attention and inspires them to take action to improve learning business performance outcomes within your organization.
 Kurnoff, J. and Lazarus, L. 2021. Everyday Business Storytelling: Create, Simplify, and Adapt A Visual Narrative for Any Audience. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.