Like many Canadians, I am still awed by the Toronto Raptor’s victory as NBA champs. The highs and lows of the playoffs had fans literally on the edge of their seats. It’s not just because of the spectacular plays like Kawhi Leonard’s “four bounce shot.” It’s also because of the human stories that unfolded. One of the most dramatic was about the Golden State Warriors’ Kevin Durant, who seemed “destined to hobble out of the dressing room with his team, down three games to one, and lead Golden State to its third consecutive championship,” as Pasha Malla pointed out in the Globe and Mail article, Joy, Pain and Basketball.

But the story didn’t end that way. Instead, we got a different, happier ending. (For Raptor’s fans that is!) Malla compares the Raptors/Warriors series to a kind of fairy tale, and proof if you needed it, that humans “need stories to order our experiences into beginnings, middles, and endings.”

Malla is right. We turn to all kinds of stories to make sense of our world. Since our world includes business transactions, as a business person you need to be able to tell your story. Sometimes I think business people forget this, or maybe they just don’t understand what storytelling is, in a business context. But it’s not that complicated a concept. As David Beriev notes in his blog post, The Importance of Storytelling in Growing Your Business, stories connect people with other people, businesses, brands, products, and their dreams.”

Take one of the most common forms of business communication: the email. An email that tells a story has a much better chance of connecting with its recipient than one that doesn’t. Think of it this way. Just as every basketball shot tells its own story, with a beginning, a middle and an end, so does good written business communication. In fact, you could consider approaching a business email the way a basketball player takes a shot on the court, by following these steps:

Locate Your Target
In basketball, your target is the net. In business communications, it’s your audience. You need to know who your audience is and give that audience something that will matter specifically to them.

Jump!
All eyes are on the basketball player who makes a powerful jump at the beginning of a shot. The business communications equivalent is an attention-grabbing opening paragraph.

Release the Ball
Just before you get to the top of your jump in basketball, you aim your shooting hand at the basket and release the ball. A good release has a lot to do with the success of the shot. Similarly, in a business email the middle paragraphs must be focused. You have to clearly outline your services and how they might make a difference to the recipient.

Follow Through
In basketball the follow through of a shot is important to its accuracy — you can’t just shoot from the wrist. In business your email needs to compel the recipient to follow through by providing that person with a call to action, or a compelling summary of your message.

Whether or not you think like a shooter, it pays to head what Celinne Da Costa has to say in a Forbes article called Why Every Business Needs Powerful Storytelling to Grow. To paraphrase, no matter how great a vision a business may have, without clearly communicating that vision, the content will be “confusing, ambiguous, and inconsistent.” Good storytelling, she points out, is “a competitive advantage.” Not only that, but unlike the NBA championships, a successful business email is unlikely to be affected by anyone’s tendon injury!

 

To find out how you can become proficient at employing storytelling to make your business communications compelling for your audiences, contact me at the the Language Lab.

 

 

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