Effective storytelling for corporates

Most CXO’s believe once they have clicked through a PowerPoint, they have successfully communicated the idea! All they have done is share data. But the surprise will come about when they realise they have not had an impact, they haven’t created ideas that are lasting and useful. Stories are nothing but data with a soul! Creating verbal imagery and firing up imagination is an art form that sadly is not taught enough and leaves many a CXO with the mistaken impression that cognitive understanding of their message will result in an impact.

We can learn from various disciplines on the art of stagecraft and storytelling from some of the world’s best speakers.

Pathos, Logos and Ethos are the fundamental moorings of effective stagecraft that has been gifted by the Greeks – Emotion, Meaning and Evidence. A potent mix of these techniques ensure that the heart and the head gets the message.

Emotion Trumps Logic:

I remember Prahlad Kakkar narrating this anecdote at a conference. He had been called to create a corporate film for an industrial springs manufacturing firm. As a part of his research, he spoke to the chairman, employees and other relevant stakeholders till he got to the watchman. The watchman told him that the land on which the factory was built, belonged to him and it was an immense source of pride to him that such a big enterprise stood on his land, providing employment for the community and ensured the well-being of his family as well. Prahlad’s eyes twinkled and he went back to the chairman and said this was the core of the corporate film.

In an age of abundance, especially in the light of India as a growing global power. A huge number of Millennials are entering the workforce. Along with pay cheques and pool tables at work, they are asking tough soul searing questions as well. “The why of work” has to be clearly defined.

Consistent engagement and challenges with the right spread of motivation is a key essential that separates “great places to work” from other organisations. When the organization asks for a moon shot, merely communicating with logic is only half the ammunition. When you have to get people to trust you to go to battle every day – emotion trumps logic.


Great Leader speakers are extremely passionate about what they do and this does not stay hidden. There are a million ways people communicate passion and for an astute observer, all these signals light up as beacons. The way they can hold forth, go six questions deep, the way they breathe, how animated they become etc is some of the ways the body shows passion. For them, this is no longer the right thing to do, it is their reason to be! Like great actors on a stage, they choose to punch appropriate phrases and radiate energy that flows across to the audience. In any language and in any part of the world, speakers who genuinely express their enthusiasm and passion for the topic are the ones who stand apart as inspiring leaders.

In my early one-on-one with my coachees, my core question is: “What are you passionate about? “What product or service of the company really excites you”? This sets the renewed search for purpose. What we do is essentially the path to meet that purpose! Apparently Howard Schultz was not as passionate about coffee as much as he was about building a “third place between home and office” for people to hang. Some of my coachees genuinely felt, interacting with younger talent and grooming them was the best part of their jobs. There are two kinds of values that we often mistake for one another. The “means” value and the “ends” value. Money is a means value, the end value could be in various cases security, freedom, and in some cases love! The “job” or function of a leader is the means value and very few leaders have found their end value -the day they find their end value, they would have found their passion and once they do, they won’t be able to hide their “light under a bushel”. In order to find these areas of passion, I ask a series of questions starting with -What does your company do ? As a result of that what happens and as a result of that, what happens? Once you start mapping these areas- there will be interesting insights that reveal what people are passionate about. Passion and public speaking are connected powerfully. For ten years, Pace University management professor Melissa Cardon has studied passion. In her breakthrough study, the nature and experience of entrepreneurial passion plays a critical role in an entrepreneur’s success. According to her, ’Entrepreneurial Passion’ catalyses full blown emotional experiences, complete with engagement of brain and body responses.

How exactly does one measure passion? In order to establish passion as a robust area of study, she had to develop a definition, most scholars would agree upon. “A positive intense feeling that you experience for something that is profoundly meaningful to you as an individual”. Passion is core to the self-identity of the person. So, when a person like Jill Abrahamson (formerly of the New Yorker) sports the tattoo of the famed newspaper or the founder of Nike, Phil Knight with a tattoo of the Swoosh on their ankles – it speaks volumes of their passion.

Passionate business leaders are more creative, set higher goals, exhibit greater persistence and record better company performance. Melissa along with her colleague commissioned a research study to understand the role passion plays in investor decision making and published these findings in the journal of Business Venturing. The setting was one of the largest angel investor organisations in the US, Tech Coast angels. From August 2006 through July 2010, 64 angel investors screened 241 companies. The screening involved a 15 min PowerPoint ppt and a 15 min Q&A. Forty-one companies eventually got funded. Using a 5 point scale, angel investors were asked to assess the passion and enthusiasm of the presenter whilst controlling for other factors such as market opportunity, relative risk and revenue potential. Isolating Passion allowed the researchers to quantify the role it played . Investors had a 13 point criteria on funding, strength of the opportunity and strength of the entrepreneur were the first two aspects they considered before moving on to “perceived Passion” at number 3 well above criteria such as Entrepreneurs education, style, startup experience etc.

Leave out the technical jargon and insert memories, lessons and moments! Every story contains fragments of who you are. When you find something that makes your heart sing! you will know you have found your passion and purpose! And that would be your story!

Jay is an Executive Coach, Speaker, Author and Deep Sea Diver, not necessarily in the same order! If you liked what you read, book a session with him at https://calendly.com/jaykumar_coach to learn more!


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