In April, many companies will have their year end, striking fear into the hearts of the finance director as they have to present their results to the board. CFO innovation lamented ‘why can’t finance folks persuade others in the team and the rest of the organisation….. to implement (or even just comprehend) a recommended course of action’. It went on to say that the key weakness was story-telling and the ‘art of making numbers come alive”
The art of storytelling is something we can all learn.
Story is a universal medium – it doesn’t just mean fables and fairy tales. A presentation, a conversation, a strategy are all stories. To tell a good story you do not need any special talent, however, we can become more accomplished and confident at using story to our advantage if we have a greater awareness of what makes a good story and some tools that help us to create them. The best deliver powerful and memorable messages that motivate the listener to take action. This is particularly true when presenting where the ability to translate factual financial information into engaging narration can give your presentation a compelling edge and allow for the message to stick in the minds of the audience.
Stories are economical – they can transmit a lot of information quickly. They don’t need reams of data for a good story to stick.
Stories take place in the mind of the listener – we are engaged when our imagination adds something to the story; what sparks that is emotion and what helps to communicate that is imagery and description. This helps messages to stick in the minds of your audience and when only 10% of the information will be remembered, you want to be ensuring it’s your key message that’s unforgettable.
Statistics don’t tell a story but can be a powerful ingredient they can:
- Add a sensory dimension (e.g. a medium sized serving of popcorn contains more saturated fat than an egg bacon breakfast, Big Mac and fries lunch and steak dinner combined)
- Work on a human scale (if a business were a soccer team all but two of the players would be competing against their own team)
- Demonstrate a relationship (deer are more dangerous than sharks. Three hundred times more)
- Ask what are the numbers in your story there for and how can you make them sticky and engaging.
So whether it’s good news or bad news to be delivered, using story to help deliver the financial message can make your results more compelling motivating and easier to retain.