When I was just out of college, I had a job in which every meeting had the same pointless pattern as Michael Scott’s breakdown of business fundamentals in Season 4 of The Office:
Does this situation feel familiar? Do you ever need to tell a short story in a meeting to keep your colleagues or employees from walking out?
To help prevent boredom in the boardroom, here are “3 Stories to Enliven Your Next Meeting.” I can’t promise you won’t have to throw a picture of a race car into the quarterly report (see Season 4 of The Office), but at least you won’t struggle with the fundamentals of business storytelling.
1. Share a time when you flopped. This may sound counterintuitive, but by exposing some vulnerability you’ll come across as a more relatable leader. The key here is to share a time when things didn’t go your way and then show your audience how you dealt with the problem. To do this right, all you need to do is discuss a moment when you had a stake (i.e. something to gain or lose) in the outcome. A story without stakes will come across as flat and people won’t understand why you’re telling it. However, a story with clear stakes will demonstrate character and will likely get a few laughs in the process. And since most people need some entertainment during meetings (see the clip above), that’s a good thing.
2 Tell a story about a successful collaboration. A story about a time you worked successfully with someone else can add energy to a dull meeting or enliven an average one. It’s important, however, to remember that focus of the story is to make your collaborators look good. If your story is about how you helped turn a double play to win a championship baseball game when you were in high school, make sure to emphasize the contributions of the other players. You want people to understand that you’re a good team member, not someone who steals the show.
3. Share a time you learned something. Everyone loves a good fable, but don’t be heavy handed. Stories about learning combine moments of flopping (#1) and successful collaboration (#2), so make sure you have a moment that demonstrates each idea. For example, if you learned how to make bread by setting your kitchen on fire, show us a time when you (a) took a shortcut; and (b) finally took your friend’s advice about cleaning the oven ahead of time.
Pretty fundamental business storytelling, right?