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Telling the Story of Your Business, Part 1

A big part of an entrepreneur’s job is communicating his or her value proposition effectively to investors, partners, retailers, and even employees. Persuading potential stakeholders that the entrepreneur’s products or services are worth their while, especially in the beginning stages of the business, may be crucial to the business’s existence.

Even though business schools have taught us that PowerPoint skills are the first stop on the way to business success, there are those who suggest that what entrepreneurs should really work on is becoming storytelling experts.

I will dedicate this post to talking about storytelling in business, based on the knowledge of Robert McKee, an award-winning writer and director who shared his insights in an interview with Harvard Business Review’s senior editor, Bronwyn Fryer.

Why should you ditch PowerPoint presentations? According to McKee there are two ways to persuade people. The first is by using conventional rhetoric based on arguments and intellect. This way usually includes a PowerPoint presentation detailing all the facts and numbers, all the challenges and the solutions the product or service offers. There are two main problems with this way of persuading. The first is that the people you are trying to persuade are usually involved in the industry to a certain degree; therefore, they have their own knowledge and experience. That might lead to a situation in which, “while you’re trying to persuade them, they are arguing with you in their heads.” The second problem is related to motivation for action. Basing your persuasion efforts on intellect alone might not be enough because “people are not inspired to act by reason alone.”

Why should you focus on storytelling? The second method McKee suggests using in order to persuade people, and the one he considers the most effective, is “uniting an idea with an emotion.” He proposes that the best way to achieve this is by telling a compelling story—one that includes a lot of information but also arouses the listener’s emotions. While the rhetorical method does not require much creativity, this is not the case when it comes to storytelling. In order for it to be memorable, the story must stir the imagination and include vivid scenes that will activate the audience members’ emotions rather than their intellect.

This was just an introduction. In my next post I will dive deeper into storytelling and discuss what a good story is and how you can to create one.

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Small Business and Big Firm: A Love Story?
Be the Architect of Your Own Vision: The Key Behaviors of Entrepreneurs, Part 2
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