Business Storytelling Coach and Training

In this note, I am specifically talking to those connected to the nonprofit, business, entrepreneurial, or “start-up” worlds.

Tired, yet? Have you heard:
“Use Business Storytelling to Make Your Company Stronger.”
“Everyone is a storyteller.”
“You have to have great stories.”
+ more. . .

I do understand the problems you’re facing.

Look, there are some fine people out there talking about business storytelling. Maybe you were lucky and you have learned from one. That’s great.

But. . .

Maybe your company management bought the hype of a “storytelling consultant” who became an expert in storytelling sometime in the last year or so. You are commanded to “tell a story” at the start of every meeting. The consultant showed you papers, articles, books, charts, tables and graphs about storytelling. You get that corporate storytelling works, but you look at the faces around the conference-room table and you know you and they would rather die than tell another bad story.

It’s time for no-nonsense coaching in the art of communicating via corporate (or non-profit) storytelling. Talk to me.

Or maybe…you’re standing in front of a table of “Angel” investors. You know you need to use storytelling to communicate your great ideas. You’ve read all the books about storytelling. You’ve seen the charts, diagrams and info-graphics about business storytelling. Yet, there you stand, unable to actually tell a story. Millions of dollars of investment go to the best storyteller. And…you’re not the best storyteller in the room.

It’s time for no-nonsense training in the art of “platform” storytelling. Talk to me.

What about the sales and marketing professionals? You are sitting at a kitchen table trying to sell insurance to a young married couple. You took a storytelling course. You read the books. You have bookmarked the storytelling websites. And, there you sit, unable to make this one sale stick, because, well, they “have to think about it.” That’s code for, “You’re a generic insurance sales agent. Nothing you say or do makes you stand out from the crowd.”

It’s time for no-nonsense training in the art of across-the-table business storytelling. Talk to me.

Your small business needs networking meetings and the connections those meetings bring. But, you have no idea what to say in those two-minute “introduce yourself” exercises that happen at every meeting. On top of that, you would rather be chased by an angry dog than have to speak in public. No matter how many storytelling manuals you read, you still can’t form the attention-getting narratives that work. You have zero confidence and some about-me yapping: how’s that helping your small business grow?

It’s time for no-nonsense coaching in the art of networking with storytelling. Talk to me directly. You could start with my workshop if that helps.

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Sean Buvala is an experienced storyteller, author and business coach. He’s been at this work since 1986…long before there was this fad-like hype, buzz-words and the experts grasping at CEO-soothing (but useless) marketing lullabies about narrative. Sean is Arizona-based but is available internationally. Let’s get this conversation started. You are under no obligation by just reaching out.

Three Tips for the Nervous Public Speaker

Do you remember your first days without the training wheels on your bike? Were you nervous? Were you even a little bit afraid? Did that fear make you hyper-focused? Was there someone holding on to your bike’s seat, guiding you and cheering you on?

When it comes to public speaking, do you find yourself nervous and maybe even afraid? Like that first experience on your bike, let me hold on the seat and help you learn.

1. Let Your Nerves Work for You

I am probably right when I say those few moments of being on a bicycle without training wheels were some of the most focused moments in your life. All your senses were ready to learn. Your nerves, in that case, were working for you.

Nerves are not the enemy. I have been presenting public speaking courses for over two decades and I have never found a good speaker who was not nervous about their work. Notice that I wrote “a good speaker.” There are plenty of cocky and arrogant public speakers who are “never nervous” but they present without energy or enthusiasm.

What good are nerves and nervousness for the public speaker? Your nerves keep your energy level high and your focus sharp. Speaking with high energy while focused on your presentation benefits your audience. They are getting a speaker who is truly present to the subject they are presenting instead of someone who is spewing out just another average speech. Before going onstage, accept your nerves as part of being human, take several slow deep breaths, smile big and step onto the stage with energy and enthusiasm.

2. Remember: Your Audience Wants You to Succeed.

When you were riding without the training wheels, were your family or friends standing on the sidewalk hoping you would fall off and hurt yourself? Of course they were not hoping that you would fail.

In public speaking, your audience wants to you to be at your best. They do not want you to be boring as that means they will be bored. Your audience wants to see you having fun or deeply in touch with your subject. In the old days, people were told to imagine the audience in their underwear. That was just horrible advice. Your audience is on your side and you are in partnership with them. Remember, you are the expert and you are giving them a valuable presentation. They want to walk out of the building saying, “Wow. I can really use what that speaker was talking about.”

3. Good Coaching and Training is Invaluable.

When you were a small child, you did not just hop on to your bicycle and hurry down the street. No, you started with training wheels. Then, someone took off those training wheels and ran behind you, holding on to the seat, while you wobbled down the road. Several falls later, more running and wobbling, and then, whoosh you took off down the road.

Coaching and training for public speaking are invaluable ways to get to the whoosh moments of public speaking. We who coach and train public speaking skills are always getting letters of thanks from our clients who successfully used simple techniques taught in public speaking workshops or private coaching. Seek out the experts who can take you to the next level. You will discover that it is an incredible experience to have a speaking coach who can point out areas where you need to improve and support you in your natural skills as a presenter.

Learn to focus your nervous energy to achieve excellence as a speaker.

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Sean Buvala is the executive director of Storyteller.net. He’s the author of “How to Write an About Me” available at writeanaboutme.com. To learn more about public speaking, please visit the the MoreThanSpeaking website today.

Four Reasons for Public Speaking

From the days of the earliest storytellers, people have spoken to each other to convey common human experiences. Sharing these experiences brings together people from many different lifestyles and helps them to connect.

Every day, you are on the receiving end of public speaking. For the most part, you might not even be aware that someone is “doing” public speaking. The best speakers and presenters speak in a natural way that invites you to make some change in your life, no matter how small. There are four essential purposes of public speaking, listed below in random order:

1. To Entertain.
It seems that the best public speakers these days tend to be the comedians and storytellers who can make us laugh or touch our emotions. If you have good storytelling techniques, you can command the attention of any audience. As a public speaker, you can lift the spirits of your listeners through an entertaining presentation and still any of the items listed below as well.

2. To Educate.
A well-prepared public speaker can help anyone of any age learn new ideas, concepts and skills. In formal settings such as schools, a good speaker moves students beyond “Do I hafta learn this?” to “I can’t believe I learned so much!” Outside of learning institutions, there are many places for anyone to give great educational speeches such as community organizations and health-care institutions. Smart people of any age always want to learn and there is a place for you to teach with public speaking.

3. To Convince.
If you want someone to change his or her mind about a subject, then public speaking is the key to that change. While the Internet has brought us many ways to be in touch, the well-told story from an authentic speaker is still King in communication.

4. To Inspire.
While the “motivational speaker” may be a cliche that is abused on comedy shows, a person who is passionate about their topic and has coupled that with effective audience-reaching speaking skills can inspire both young and old to reach for something beyond themselves.

While most public speakers try to create positive messages, it is possible to fall into a fifth reason for speaking: to manipulate. When you speak, think about your goals and reason for speaking. Are you trying to build up your community and the people in it? Or, are you attempting to build up something or someone through false stories and lies? Be wary of manipulating your audience through your speeches.

Public speaking can be fun and educational for both your audience and you. Create some good presentations today.

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Many people are nervous about public speaking, but a good coach and teacher can help you overcome that hurdle. The author, Sean Buvala, has been speaking about and training clients in the use of storytelling techniques for public speaking since 1986. Hundreds of companies and thousands of individual learners have experienced his work as a coach. He is the executive director of Storyteller.net and lives in Arizona.

For more information about Sean’s half-day workshop that teaches you to harness the power of business, nonprofit and corporate storytelling, please visit our website at http://seantells.com/morethanspeaking.

Storytelling Techniques for Research and Science.

The more esoteric your work is, the more you need to use storytelling in your job. To those of you in the IT (or any technology at all) and Research departments, I am talking to you. I’m also talking to you in STEM and STEaM programming.

Sometimes it is hard for the others in your company to understand the ins and outs of the mysteries of technology and research. By using the power of storytelling techniques in your communications, you can create the “frames” to highlight, carry and explain the bigger concepts of your work.

light streams into tall windows filled with wooden frameworkEvery house I have ever been in has a wall or table filled with pictures of family and friends. Rather than just glue these pictures to the wall, the pictures are placed in frames that help draw the eye to the subjects contained within. In the most artistic of homes, the frames surrounding these pictures have been carefully chosen to help emphasize the content of the pictures. Done well, the frames are an extension of the pictures. The more important the pictures (the “everybody in the family” type) have the most expensive and sturdy frames.

Just like these picture frames in someone’s home, your ability to frame your complicated and important data in the context of a memorable story will protect and carry your message to your listeners. None of this has to be complicated by the way. Even simple framework in a sun-lit window creates even more beauty, turning glare into art.

Let me give you an example of how this works.

a shiny metal golden egg sitting on some blue carpeting...a close upYou could talk about the collection methods used to complete a survey and how that proves the validity of the data. However, folks want results first. So, instead of talking first about how the data means you must completely drop an ingrained and “sacred cow” program from your company, you could start with the story of “Jack and the Beanstalk,” (JATBS) emphasizing how Jack’s mother was furious with Jack for trading her sacred cow for a few magic beans. However, in the end, Jack ends up with a goose that lays golden eggs, giving Jack and his mother more than they ever dreamed of.

You will the present your data after you tell your version of JATBS, showing the data that correlates to your conclusion. Then, you might lead a discussion based on the data that asks, “Just like the mother in JATBS, what do we in our company fear from what the data tells us? In what ways is this data like magic beans for our company’s future?”

You can then end your presentation with a recap of JATBS. Now, you have framed your data (data is important and needed) in the center of a very familiar and comfortable story. I can assure you that the first time you do this process, you will wade through some discomfort and come out with a presentation that will cement the conclusions of your data into the minds of your listeners.

Here are three things you should know about story and narrative as framing tools.

1. People just want to know “what’s in it for me?”

Your fellow employees are not as interested in the mechanics of your job as you are. I know you have gone to school to learn how statics work. I know you understand the many ways to hook up one computer to another in your office. However, the people you work with have not gone to the same schools you have. For most of them, how you collected the data is not nearly as important as what the data implies and instructs for their work. Storytelling lets you talk about benefits of research and technology, not just mechanics.

2. Stories remind you to speak in the language of the people: your fellow employees or even the general public.

Although the idea of the uncommunicative IT employee or scientist is an unfair cultural joke, there are those in your company that are still slightly afraid of you. When they know you will speak in ways they understand, they are more open to hear what you have to say. When you can give folks the story of how others have benefited by the work you are proposing, they will feel better about providing you the tools and time to fulfill your projects. In a sense, storytelling allows others to know you are “on their side.” It’s far better to talk to others about how Susan at the other office could get twice as much work done in the same amount time after the expensive software update you have proposed rather than list of the uncommon features of database processing.

3. Your CFO approves funds for results not information.

Most people hate the process of change. Results are better than promises. Stories are the frames that carry results. You will get much more support for any project when folks know how others have benefited from your proposals. How the office across the city became so efficient that they now have a four-day workweek is one-hundred percent more effective in getting results than any presentation of how a Blade server works.

Your work in statics, data and technology is vital to your company. Even more vital is your ability to communicate the benefits of your work to the rest of your company through good business presentation skills. Information framed in the context of story, information carried by understandable narratives, will stick with your fellow staff members much longer than data alone. Take a chance and frame your next presentation in story.

Go deeper into this subject on how to create a story with my short-and-focused book on designing your stories: “Measures of Story,” over on Amazon.

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Sean Buvala is an award-winning trainer who teaches businesses and nonprofit organizations how to grow their bottom line and employee satisfaction through the power of storytelling. You learn more about his work at www.seantells.com. Follow him at Twitter @storyteller .

9 Tips for Storytelling in Any Situation

sean buvala tells stories on an outdoor stageHaving a good sense of storytelling techniques is important for people involved in any form of communication. Unlike other ways to express a story, storytelling takes place in the moment, cocreated between the storyteller and listener. Each act of storytelling is a unique experience. Here are nine storytelling tips to use when you want to make the most of the story you have chosen.

1. Choose stories you like.
No matter if you are telling stories to children, illustrating a point in a business presentation or telling a sacred story in church or temple, use stories that you like. There are thousands upon thousands of stories in the world. Use the ones you like.

2. Practice your story.
Take the time to learn how to tell a story. Do not look at or hear a story just once and try to repeat it. Break the story into parts and remember the action piece by piece. Practice with a recording device and a gentle-yet-truthful friend who can hear your first attempts.

3. Take out the parts of the story that slow down the action.

Beginning storytellers will hear or read a story and then try to retell every nuance of the story. Storytelling occurs in the moment so not every detail has to be included each time. Ask yourself, “Do I need to tell this piece of the story this time? Is it critical to the story?”

4. Speak clearly.
If you have chosen a story you like, thought about the parts that fit and then practiced telling that story, you will be confident to deliver it to the audience. Smile if the story requires it and then speak with that confidence. Enunciate and project your voice towards the listeners.

5. Keep an appropriate pace.

Again, with confidence in your own story and preparation, you will not be in a hurry to spill out the words of your story. Speak slowly enough to be understood but not so slowly that the minds of the audience go wandering.

sean buvala adjusts a stand microphone while standing on on outdoor stage6. Use a microphone.
You need to use a microphone to be heard. This shows respect to your audience. For experienced speakers, you will want a microphone if your group is 25 or more people. For those new to public-speaking, use the mic with any group larger than a few gathered around a table.

7. Keep good eye contact.
Look at your audience, linger with one person and move on to the next. It always amazes me how one fleeting moment of eye contact can make an audience member come to me and say, “I felt like you were talking to me personally.”

8. Use natural gestures.
“You looked so confident up there. I never know what to do with my hands.” When people say this to me, I am thankful that I took the time to prepare which gestures I would use and when I would use them. Make gestures that come naturally to you, but plan and prepare them ahead of time.

9. Avoid the “moral of the story” finishes.
Stories are often powerful pieces of Truth and storytelling is one of the most effective ways to convey them. You dilute the power of the story when you are the first to tell an audience what your story means. If you must do the “moral” of a story, ask your audience first to tell you what they think. It will surprise you.

Storytelling techniques like these nine can help you communicate better when you have a story to tell. If you are just starting out, choose one or two of these storytelling tips that you will pay extra attention to in your next presentation.

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Sean Buvala has 30+ years of expertise in the field or oral storytelling and narrative development. See his Twitter at http://twitter.com/storyteller

a list of the nine tips in a graphic storytelling tips by sean buvala