When was the last time you decided to start something new or change something in the way you do things? Maybe you changed your job, or perhaps you joined a gym or started to learn a new language… No matter what it was, you felt compelled to do something and you did it. What fueled that decision? Could it be that you felt inspired by someone’s example, by someone’s story?
When I first heard a story of Mary Kay Ash, the founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, one of the leading global skin care brands, something quite extraordinary happened to me. I felt such a powerful surge of emotions that I had goose bumps raising on my arms. I could relate to her struggles and frustrations when she tried to get her business off the ground. My heart ached when I heard her late husband George died of a heart attack just one month before she launched her company. In spite of all the odds, she managed to build a multi-million dollar enterprise virtually out of nothing.
Her values and her passion for what she was doing resonated with me. As a struggling entrepreneur, her story inspired me and gave me a renewed sense of purpose and hope that I could, just like her, pursue my own dreams and succeed. Her story inspired me to start and run my own independent Mary Kay. Although years ago, I am eternally grateful for the experience. It’s been 17 years since her death yet her story and her vision continue to live on and inspire millions of women all around the world. That’s the power of a story!
We love stories because they give us hope
Although stories have been told for centuries we are only now discovering just how powerful they really are and why. People crave stories because they make them understand that with the right set of “tools” and attitudes one can overcome any situation, no matter how difficult it is! Through stories we learn to accept that problems and obstacles are inevitable parts of life and that without them we cannot hope to grow personally, let alone transform our lives. Stories make us see that our own life is one big story and we can become the heroes or the victims of that story…
Strong, interesting, compelling and relevant stories resonate with people and they can literally become co-creators of the story with the storyteller, i.e., the speaker. Since our brain is designed to look for patterns, on hearing a story we immediately relate the story to our own experience. We become so engaged and involved in the story it is as though we ourselves were participating in those events and neuronally speaking, we are…
Stories change people’s brains
When we tell or hear a story, different parts of our brain light up, something that does not happen when we simply hear words, facts or data. This has been proven and can be clearly shown on fMRI brain scans. Our emotional brain is activated and a powerful mix of chemicals is released into our system, namely dopamine, oxytocin and cortisol. These chemicals not only make us pay more attention and remember the story, but it’s through the emotional charge that we feel inspired to act. Stories have power, they persuade…
Leverage the power of a story in your own business
I am sure this is not the first time you hear about storytelling. The question is, how well do you leverage the power of storytelling in your business? How effectively are you using stories to inspire others? It’s definitely something to think about. What’s more, stories enable you, the speaker or the storyteller, to better convey your message, make it stick and create an emotional bond with your audience. It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it that makes all the difference. And it’s stories that can help you convey your point in a different, more compelling and touching way that people will resonate with. The next question you might ask is…
What stories to tell?
This is something I often hear from my customers: “Alena, we’re an IT company with highly complex technological solutions, what stories could we possibly tell our customers? And is it at all appropriate?”
Yes! It’s not only appropriate, it is essential. The more complex your message or the solution you’re trying to promote, the more important it is for you to find an easy way to explain it. And what better way to do so than telling a story?
When I work with Startups on developing their elevator pitches, the first thing I do is to extract some stories that we can work with. These can be “product” or “customer” stories that clearly illustrate the uniqueness of their solution and its added value for their customers. They can also be “founder” or “vision” stories to explain the purpose behind their business, the reason for their existence.
Some companies, such as Mary Kay Cosmetics, have at their core truly inspirational stories based on the challenges or frustrations of their founders. They talk of how the founder came across a specific pain point or a challenge in the industry that was not being addressed and decided to develop a solution. Or they talk of their frustration with something they saw in the society or experienced at the workplace. Such as Mary Kay Ash who was frustrated when passed over for a promotion just because she was a woman. That was back in the 1960s in a world ruled by men. She decided to leave her job and start her own company with the mission of assisting women in business and helping them achieve personal and financial success.
Such stories are very inspirational. But worry not! You don’t need to be Mary Kay Ash, Sir Richard Branson, Steve Jobs or Martin Luther King to have a great story to tell!
Think of your customers, especially your happy customers. What was their business like before they found you or your product/service? What challenges they struggled with? What did they use to do in order to achieve their objectives? And what is it they can do today with the help of your solution?
Think about you. What brought you to this business? Why did you pursue this business and not something else? Surely you will find there are noteworthy and persuasive stories to share.
You will be surprised at the number of ideas that will come to your mind. And you should get ready because you don’t want to forget any! What you can do right now is set up a document or a simple note on your Phone and start collecting stories. This document will eventually become your “story bank” from which you’ll be able to select the most appropriate story to tell for your next speaking opportunity.
Great stories are everywhere around you. You just need to stay open to them.
I wish you success in your story-hunting and story-telling and many truly inspired customers!
ABOUT ALENA HUBEROVA
Alena has a professional background in sales, marketing and communication in a variety of sectors including IT, travel and tourism, wellness and beauty. With over 15 years of experience working in corporate business and living in 5 countries across Europe and Asia, she embarked on a quest to discover her mission. Diving into entrepreneurship, she developed an online portal to promote healthy living. Later she built a team of 50 sales consultants in the beauty sector and became a role model to her peers. Learning by working with hundreds of professionals and overcoming her own struggles as an entrepreneur and introvert, she was inspired to start her communication business, which has since turned into a lifelong passion.
Today, she assists business leaders in developing a powerful personal presence on and off-stage, delivering presentations that capture the hearts and minds of their audiences and inspire action. She also acts as a mentor for startups, helping them design and deliver winning business pitches. In collaboration with Presenation.com, she coached the X.GLU Czech Team to win the world title at the Microsoft Imagine Cup in 2017. She also presented at the TEDx UNYP 2017 conference which is part of a global initiative by TED, a non-profit organization devoted to spreading ideas.