Using Anecdotes that Work

Put your anecdotes to work! Yesterday, I had the pleasure of participating in an energizing virtual workshop led by Shawn Callahan, Founder of Anecdote, a professional training and coaching company as he presented his session “Story Acquisition — The Missing Link.” His wise and witty insights about the art of business storytelling are worth sharing and remembering:

  1. Don’t tell your listener “I am going to tell you a story,” which may put them in an alarming state since they don’t where you are taking them. Instead, ease into your story by saying something like “this situation, experience, etc.” which reminds me of something I witnessed or experienced. Your listener will know the point and that the story has a potential payoff
  2. Make sure you know your story’s “Why” and that you have a clear ending. This sounds so obvious, but we’ve all experienced a situation when that was not the case.
    Engage in story finding — listen for the small as well as big moments that make a difference in your team and organization. Those moments are hiding in plain sight and can be crafted into Inspirational anecdotes.
  3. Don’t focus your energies on delivering a rigid, structured story where each element and point is in its set place. Instead, concentrate on developing the highs and lows of the stories and adding elements that will give it depth. Ironically, one of the best ways to achieve this is to actually tell the story and then observe how people react.
  4. The suggestion I appreciated the most was Shawn’s guidance on engaging in story sharing as if we were teaching someone to learn a new language. Teach and learn like a child, using creative visuals and repeated words shared in a positive, nonjudgmental manner.
  5. Finding our own voice and language is key to effective storytelling
    The focused listening and the non-critical acceptance of the story will make all the difference.
  6. Setting time aside to share ideas with colleagues and being open to meaningful input is a key learning component.

Shawn Callahan’s published works include:
Putting Stories to Work
Storifying Events (in-person & virtual)