The limits of storytelling in companies

Storytelling in businesses is only useful when you tell the right story. The story that enables you to engage your employees in a concrete project. Using this powerful communication tool, that is storytelling, allows you to inspire your employees and anchor them to your promise of change by triggering their emotions. You will undoubtedly encounter resistance, but we are here at ZEPRESENTERS to help you to dissipate any resistance and make the best use of the art of storytelling in your company. And of course, knowing its limits means that you don’t mistake the goal when speaking or giving presentations.


A few weeks ago, we were talking about the limits of the Pitch in business. Today it is the limits of storytelling that interests us. In the 1960’s, storytelling became a popular trend in universities in the United States. This work was very quickly taken up by advertisers, salespeople and marketing departments. But is storytelling limited to sales and the luxury industry? Does this tool hold water when talking to adult experts? Is it a passing trend or a fundamental movement that needs to be quickly addressed?


Behind the word “storytelling,” there is quite simply the set of techniques that one uses when one wants to tell a story. This said, we could say that we are past the age of telling and listening to stories. But we can no longer ignore that if stories have such power over children, it is because they speak naturally to our humanity and they have the power to activate what touches us and sets us in motion.

Storytelling has two strong markers in particular:

  • You know that you are telling a story, when people are open to listening to you without knowing what point you’re getting at. This dynamic gives stories incomparable power, as soon as you need to capture interest and make an impact.
  • You know you’re telling a story when your story is built around an unbroken thread of cause and effect. This structure ensures powerful consistency, when one has to gain support on complex or sensitive topics.

Who doesn’t need to strongly involve their audience? The big limits of storytelling come mainly from the impediments and false excuses that slow down its use by a large number of people. And you share these impediments with us all the time, at the start of our training sessions:

  • “Yes, storytelling is inspirational, but I’m asked to be concrete.”
  • “Yes, storytelling is effective, but it is mainly a manipulation technique.”
  • “Yes, storytelling is nice, but at the same time, it doesn’t make me look serious.”

What project doesn’t need to make a big impact and boost the engagement of those who listen? By talking about your projects in the form of stories, you have a powerful tool to influence the course of things, and much more effective than all the analytical presentation charts that we saw in school. Granted that you know how to tell the right story, in the right way, to the right person.



 Tell the right story

The word storytelling is too often wrongly associated with insincerity and manipulation. At the same time, the expression “telling stories” (in French) has a negative connotation (telling fibs) that is hard to shed, at the expense of the positive aspects. And yet, telling stories, in the literal sense, is exciting. For you as a storyteller as well as for your audience, who gets caught up in your words, and becomes involved and ready to play a role in your story. It is the responsibility of a speaker with all the tools and information necessary to tell the rightstory in all circumstances.

But, what is the right story to tell? The right story is the one that inspires you and makes sense; it is the one that will talk about the stakes and will mobilize your audience on the need to make things happen; it’s the one that will involve your audience, making them want to act and play and impactful role.


Tell the story the right way

Once you’ve identified the right story, you’ll have to tell it the right way. One of the most common mistakes in storytelling is to be too obvious that you’re telling a story. This is the little sentence that we slip in as if nothing came before the story: “Now I’d like to tell you a little anecdote.”  However, there is nothing worse to discredit yourself and make your audience feel like “that’s not serious,” and that you’re trying to muddy the waters. But beware, it’s not your story that isn’t serious, but the way you approach it. If you’re telling a story, go for it! You have to be convinced that this is the best way to get your message across, so that your audience in turn is convinced. Because after all, there is nothing more serious than a story!

Furthermore, and not to limit your storytelling to anecdotes, take a look at this Zetip.


Tell the story to the right person

When you get home in the evening, you don’t tell your spouse about your work day the same way you’d tell your children. A good story that is well told adapts to its audience. If your project is the same regardless of your audience, the story around the project must vary and adapt to fully capture the interest of your audience. So that those listening to you want to play a role in your story, the problem must concern them and the arguments must satisfy any resistance. Because don’t forget that arguing is useless before an already conquered audience. Conversely, if you don’t consider the objections of your audience, you’ll give the feeling of beating around the bush and not saying everything you need to say.


Telling a story is concrete

Typically, if your boss expects you to be concrete, you’ve got it right by going into storytelling mode. Because, the subject is never as concrete as when you tell a story. The problem you are trying to solve is concrete, the actions to be implemented are concrete, as are the benefits that flow from them. Likewise, if you are asked to be concise, storytelling should not add length. The Pitch format is proof of this, where storytelling is optimized for brief concrete and understandable speeches.


Finally, the right story is, above all, the one that you sincerely want to tell.

It is the story that will find itself at the crossroads between:

  • The vision of your organization and the cause it defends
  • What drives you deeply and the problems that are yours
  • The problems of your audience that you propose to solve

And if you check these 3 boxes, you can be sure that you won’t be mistaken in the story that you want to tell and that you’ll make good use of our “storytelling guide.”