Let the Story Do the Work

The Art of Storytelling for Business Success

 Let the Story Do the Work

Author: Esther K. Choy
Pub Date: July 2017
Print Edition: $24.95
Print ISBN: 9780814438015
Page Count: 256
Format: Hardback
e-Book ISBN: 9780814438022

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Have you gone through a year-end evaluation where you had to contribute, at least in part, to assessing your own performance? Have you ever had to pitch your great idea to colleagues who weren't sure of the value you could bring? Have you had to ask friends and neighbors to donate to your breast cancer walk and found yourself wondering why people have to be asked to give to breast cancer awareness in the first place--aren't their mothers, sisters, aunts, and wives reason enough?

Hardly a day goes by when you aren't trying to inspire others to join you in some effort. But we live in an increasingly commoditized world, where even the things you hold most dearly--your ideas, projects, and causes--are commodities in someone else's eyes. The true luxury good is your audience's attention, and everyone is clamoring for it.

At the heart of leadership lies persuasion. At the heart of persuasion lies storytelling. Whether you know it or not, you engage in both daily. Competitive admission is only one example where you have to stand out however you can. Whether you are competing for a great job, seeking funding for a start-up or nonprofit, building a professional practice, or selling goods, ideas, and services, you must stand out in a strategic, authentic way. You can even think of these efforts as "lifelong mini-admissions applications." The parallels are striking: you have a lot of "competitors" in any such contest; your competitors may not even be people, but other companies, funding priorities, or endless perfect substitutions to what you're offering; you're also competing constantly for attention with other things that demand people's attention, mostly their phone screens!

Here are several examples of mini-admissions applications from different domains.

In 2010, an investment firm was vying to be one of the first Western players to manage assets for a mainland Chinese sovereign wealth fund. But its performance record ranked it only in the middle of eight finalists. How should this firm have approached its 15-minute final presentation in Beijing?

In 2012, a numbers-driven executive was preparing her speech to accept a lifetime contribution award from a charity at its annual gala in Chicago. She was used to giving only dry financial presentations, not heartfelt speeches aimed at moving and inspiring audiences. How should she have prepared?

In 2014, the owner of a fund-management firm and major sponsor of an important industry conference was told that he would have only five minutes to discuss his company's approach at the conference's main luncheon in Palo Alto, California. In the past, he'd always had at least an hour for such presentations. How should he have made use of those precious minutes?

All of these are examples of people going through mini-admissions applications, facing off against numerous competitors for the hard-to-get attention of important decision-makers.

You may have guessed that these were all situations in which I had the opportunity to consult and coach. In each, I showed the executives how to use the power of story to stand out and succeed: the investment firm won the mandate; the executive awardee received a standing ovation at her gala speech; the fund administrator had a long line of potential clients waiting to talk to him after his presentation.

How can you harness the power of storytelling in your own mini-admissions applications?

Excerpted from LET THE STORY DO THE WORK: The Art of Storytelling for Business Success by Esther K. Choy. Copyright © 2017 by Esther Choy. Published by AMACOM Books, a division of American Management Association, New York, NY. Used with permission.

All rights reserved. http://www.amacombooks.org.

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