Business of Telling Stories

Almost every time I tell someone I meet in a business context that I have graduated drama and script writing I have to answer the question: So what are you doing here? (here = this business, this company, this conference – depending on the occasion). I have to be honest – I also bring this information up quite often. That’s because I’m very proud of my formal education. I know, sometimes I seem like those parents who have kids that are sport champions and they bring it up every time they start up a conversation with someone. Sometimes, people ask me what my educational background is. They assume I studied law or business.

Depending on the conversation partner and on how interesting he/she is to me, and how much time we have for a talk, I have several answers to this question. And they are all true. They simply differ depending on the level of my engagement in the conversation, level of openness toward the other side and how interesting I want the story about me to sound.

Version 1 – I want to close this topic ASAP and end this conversation

Me: Well, you know, it was tough for an artist at the time. It still is. I had to make some money so I started working in an ad agency.

Version 2 – I want to give an answer that can take conversation further if the other side is smart enough

Me: When I graduated it was during a time of massive expansion of advertising in Serbia. I got many opportunities. Then I figured out that I also have this solid sense of business and that I can move in other directions as well. One thing led to another.

Version 3 – I want the answer to be a bit theoretical and yet the closest one to how I feel and what I think about it

Me: My studies were about how to tell a good story. In a movie or television or on a theater stage. But telling a good story is telling a good story. No matter where you are and what you are doing. So I actually just applied my knowledge of telling stories into different businesses I worked in.

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When I look back, telling a good story WAS always the core of my business.

Whenever I worked in an agency or in publishing I brought great stories via ads or magazines. Or via presentations to clients in order to sell what was the best thing we had to sell at that point. In leading teams, I had to create and bring best possible stories in front of the team, stories that would motivate them and bring the team together to achieve better results. While writing e-mails or speeches many times I wrote short stories. When delivering training I tried to bring to the audience characters, interesting stories, some suspense and an interesting and unexpected end.

OK, so what? – you might ask. We are all telling some kind of stories every day. In Serbian language there is even a saying “Pricamtipricu” that has a meaning close to lying or trying to trick someone by telling a story. That’s why there is a big difference between telling any kind of stories and telling good stories.

While for a comprehensive information on this topic you would have to dedicate much more than the 3 minutes you spent reading this, I will offer you my 3 key rules that I learned through my studies and confirmed later on during my career.

  1. A story needs to have beginning, a middle part and an ending. Not necessarily in this order. Yes, it sounds very simple. Go through your e-mails or presentations, or remember your last performance review of an employee and analyze – was this always the case?
  2. A story has to be probable, not just possible – who is going to buy from you something that, yes, might happen, but even in a theoretical and imagined word there is just a possibility for that to happen? Especially people on higher positions in business – after some time, they start to believe that everything they say and that sounds possible, the audience will buy? Guys and girls, think again. The person telling the story does not change the need for a story to be a good one.
  3. You need to include emotions and a personal touch. No one is interested to hear about general things. People want to feel transfer of your emotions toward them. Even if it’s not real. While reading this maybe you would be surprised to learn that I’m extremely anxious wondering if you are going to like this text or not. And now you are thinking either: “Poor guy, let’s give him a like” or “Come on! You are almost 40. Get over it. I’m not giving you a like”. But in both cases there is a certain emotion involved apart from what you think about the quality of this post.

 

So, when you meet me in person, no matter my job title at the moment – if I’m something in marketing, a media executive, a corporate affairs guy, a theater writer or an entertainment director of a hotel in Las Vegas (my dream job) – I will always be able to tell you that I’m in business of telling stories. And I’m proud of it. Cheers!

Movie recommendation for this weekend is Bambola (1996) by Bigas Luna. With no special reason. A bit bizarre movie for a bit bizarre August.

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