By Andy Boenau, Founder of SpeakEasy Media

Preparing for Autonomy Digital 2.0: Three storytelling lessons to get more business for your business

I hope we agree that “just the facts” is a losing approach for presentations, webinars, or interviews. Storytelling in all its forms is a key to separating your brand from the rest when it matters most. Written stories about technical products and services are important. But in this article, I’m going to direct your attention to the spoken word.

Most people are capable of telling a story, yet most stories are utterly forgettable. We’ve probably all been in the office kitchen or a virtual meeting where we knew the story we were sharing was fascinating and had a surprising climax, but we failed to hold our coworkers’ attention. “I guess you just had to be there,” we tell ourselves. Or worse, we stop telling stories.

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Professional storytelling is an art that can’t be mastered in three easy lessons. However, the telling of stories can be improved by appreciating the elements that make a story good for telling and by applying some techniques and devices employed by the professional storyteller.

With a few practiced habits, your audience reactions will shift from “bleh” to “bravo!” A well-chosen, well-told story has more to offer than mere entertainment. It has something vital and lasting.

The first storytellers were the tribal warriors who sat around their campfires at night and recounted their day’s conquests. Another group of storytellers practiced their art in the homes when the lights and fires were lit for the night. They were the grandmothers and the grandfathers, and the tales they told were of the folk, their actions, their thoughts, their ideas, and their beliefs.

Today’s storytellers include bike share operators, transit planners, and MaaS platform developers. Your stories reflect the human experience, but not for mere entertainment. You have a business to run, and it needs more business.

Whether you’re hosting a webinar, interviewing a potential client, or presenting at Autonomy Digital, oral storytelling is a muscle you can strengthen.

Curing Imposter Syndrome

21st-century humans are turning to oral storytelling in the professional services realm. We have come to a fresh realization that the spoken word is more vivid than the written word, so we return to storytelling as a means of conveying ideas and ideals of lasting value.

It’s natural to feel like an imposter when delivering a story. Transport professionals were trained to be technical experts, not psychologists. You’re busy integrating contactless payment systems or designing multimodal charging hubs.

The pressure you feel to come up with a story about your firm’s mobile app or design project can be overwhelming. “This isn’t me. Where do I begin? How to make this interesting without sounding cheesy?”

Here’s the cure to the imposter syndrome: use other people’s stories to make your point. Bypass the emotional trauma of creating from scratch.

Practice some of the tactics in the short lessons below to be the person clients are clamoring for. There’s no need to try everything at once. Start small by focusing on one detail per lesson. The goal is to feel comfortable embedding stories in your parking and mobility work by learning some of the tactics of professional storytellers.

Lesson 1: Choosing a Story

The choice of a story is most important. First of all, you have to like the story. If not, the selection panel you’re pitching won’t like the story either. So first choose or develop a story that you enjoy and want to tell, one that has meaning to you. We all know when you’re feigning interest.

Points to consider in choosing a story

  • Subject is the focal point. This person, place, or thing is the hero of the story and should be easy for the audience to relate to.
  • Theme is part of another’s story that can be transposed to your presentation.
  • Look for stories with structure or patterns that you’re most comfortable retelling.

Essential qualities of stories

  • Vivid action clarifies the point of the story.
  • Word pictures are sticky, and help the audience remember your talk.
  • Find stories that appeal to the imagination, so you’re thought of as one with big ideas.

Types of stories to tell

  • Hero legends and folktales are rich with stories for parking and mobility industries.
  • Comedies, modern or Shakesperian, can brighten the room.
  • Realistic and fantasy backdrops both work. Don’t be restrained by the typical board room.

Lesson 2: Preparing a Story

You’ll deliver your best story when you know the background. Your grasp of the story’s context is vital, even if it’s one small arc within a larger story. That knowledge produces an intangible quality in the telling, and it helps make the story your own.

Master the structure

  • Confidence in the start and end of the story will help maintain your focus and ward off the stutters and stammers.
  • Know the characters and situations, even if the story is focused on two characters making a fateful decision.

Practice a style

  • Retain the mood of the story whenever possible.
  • Reproduce drama to underscore the gravity of the subject disturbing the status quo.
  • If the story has unique language or phrases, make the expressions your own.

Learn the story

  • Prepare as a whole, not in parts.
  • Avoid memorization. Learn the story so well that you can deliver conversationally and deal with interruptions.

Make the story your own

  • Visualize the happenings of the story.
  • Imagine the sounds, tastes, and colors in your story.
  • Reproduce those happenings to the extent possible.

Lesson 3: Telling a Story

The art of storytelling must not be confused with the art of acting. Interpret and express the ideas, moods, and emotions of the original author, without identifying yourself as one of the characters. The goal is suggestion, not imitation.

Produce a well-told story with correct use of voice, applying oral communication fundamentals, imagination, and real thought.

Voice

  • Be heard with controlled breath. In an online setting, that means use a microphone.
  • Be clear with articulation. Small words and short sentences will boost confidence.
  • Change pitch and speed for variety and emphasis.

Expression

  • Know what you want to say.
  • Think what you mean.
  • Express what you feel. Trust me, this is just as true with professionals as it is children.

Methods of effective communication

  • Pause to make the audience look up or lean forward.
  • Place emphasis by imagining italics in the story.
  • Build climax, having thorough knowledge of all the elements of the story.
  • Begin with confidence.
  • Use gestures and body language, as you would at the campfire or coffee pot.

Start a new habit

A well-chosen, well-told story remains with your audience long after you leave the room. Remember, you don’t need to start from scratch.

It’s much easier to convince our brains to go along with a new habit like than it is to pursue an abstract goal like “tell stories.” Give yourself achievable goals and the storytelling habit will form.

Here’s an easy assignment based on the lessons above:

  1. Choose one famous story that has an interesting application to your mobility work.
  2. Prepare an abridged version while visualizing the story happenings.
  3. Practice telling the story with gestures and changes in your voice.

My new book expands on the ideas in this article. Click here for early access to That Was a Great Story: Five lessons to tell memorable stories so your business can get more business. Additionally, if you are looking to apply the lessons of storytelling to your participation in digital events, don’t miss out on Autonomy’s 3-part guide on preparing your company for a digital future!


ANDY BOENAU founded Speakeasy Media to help clients create, distribute, and amplify stories that sell. LinkedIn Social Selling Index ranks him in the top 1% of the design industry. Andy has won awards as a filmmaker, photographer, podcaster, and author. Contact him at +1-804-291-6853 or andy@speakeasymedia.tv.