Why do stories matter?  We recently explored this topic at a highly engaging and thought-provoking LaunchTalks event, What’s your story? The Power of Narrative which Lenore moderated.  Our dynamic panelists Matt Hornbuckle, CEO of Stantt, Amichai Lau-Lavie, Founding Director of Storahtelling Inc. and Spiritual Leader of Lab/Shul, and Karol Nielsen, author, poet, memoirist and editor, allowed us to delve into stories from a business, spiritual and artistic perspective at Botanic Lab, a lounge dedicated to mixology and potent elixirs.  We will be sharing the recorded session separately for those who were unable to attend the event.

Stories are powerful because they touch us emotionally and create a connection between the audience and the individual or company telling the story.  One of the most interesting elements was how stories are universal, regardless of culture.

untitled-39“Some stories seem so particular but are so universal, this is comforting. When you find something that you are passionate writing about, you are tapping into something that is at the core of the human condition.”  Karol Nielsen   Learn more about Karol’s memoir, Black Elephants, here.

Matt shared his experience crafting the story for Stantt, a custom men’s shirt company that has 75 different sizes and successfully raised $120,000 on Kickstarter.  Check out their story and Kickstarter video here.  Stantt was able to raise 6 times more than they projected because their story focuses on their purpose and mission – which is really selling confidence and empowerment.  Matt’s message was so compelling, I’m sure Stantt will be getting more shirt orders soon and I was disappointed they aren’t designing shirts for women.

untitled-93“Telling a story is different from advertising, it’s connecting with people on an emotional level.”  Matt Hornbuckle

Stories can come in several forms.  Karol shared that from a literary perspective, there are usually two approaches: 1) the typical story that has a beginning, middle and an end which can be focused on a conflict and then an epiphany; or 2) an idea can be explored, rather than simply used to solve a problem.  Stories go beyond data (as in traditional journalism) to define who we are and our values.  As a tool, stories have the ability to bring value to our lives as they help us to identify with something bigger.

untitled-82“If we don’t pass on the right stories, we can be sharing a poisoned reality.  There is a theory that there is only one story – The Hero’s Journey.  A great story moves us from ‘as is’ to ‘as if’ – that is what makes a story different from journalism.”  Amichai Lau-Lavie  Check out the transformative experience Amichai had with stories that helped him find his life’s purpose here.

How do you know when your story is finished? Well, unfortunately stories can be re-written endlessly and “much of writing is re-writing,” Karol shared.  However, from Matt’s perspective you need to “trust your gut.  A story is subjective, it will never be perfect to everyone. Authenticity is key.

“If you can’t tell your story in a sentence, it’s not a good story.  It needs to be distilled to the bulls-eye.  You need to chisel it down to its essence.”  Amichai Lau-Lavie

untitled-28Stories are not neutral and they should be used wisely.  They can be used for specific aims, for example pushing people to be better, but without being preachy or possibly pushing a social agenda.  Matt suggested that for business, “avoid the temptation to focus on the functional (ie. how many shirt sizes you have), brands that elevate themselves above the functional to the emotional are the ones that succeed.”

Within a business context, it can be hard for a company to show vulnerability the way an individual can.  However businesses that can be honest, without pasteurizing their messages, will resonate more fully with prospective customers or users.  And of course, if you aren’t pissing some people off then perhaps you aren’t focused enough on targeting the right customer niche for your business, because you can’t be all things to all people and still be effective.

“People are looking for something real – they want something to relate to and trust.  Frame your message to shape the dialogue.”  Lenore Kantor

untitled-86Amichai noted that “one size does not fit all with a story.”  In this world of sound bytes, we lose the nuance as we try to get across simplistic messages.  While succinct messages may serve a purpose in some situations, it is helpful to “recognize that stories can be vehicles of destruction or vehicles of change.”

Clearly the more we understand how to use stories effectively, the more we have the opportunity to create positive change in our lives.  To learn more about telling better stories and leveraging messaging more effectively for your business, please contact us to learn more.