Storytelling: Harness the power of stories to bring out your speaker's humanity, drive your arguments home and create a lasting impression

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Eli Lilly & Co., the pharmaceutical company, was facing tough times. In three years, it would be losing patents for products that accounted for half its sales.

Amid layoffs in 2009, CEO John C. Lechleiter addressed Lilly’s top leaders in a meeting. Many felt Lilly should follow its corporate peers that were moving away from costly drug development.

Lechleiter, however, told three stories of how the company recovered from similar crises by innovating, not creating generic meds or branching into consumer products as others were.

“This is not our path at Lilly. ... We’re not doing ChapStick,” he said, according to Friedman. “We’re going after cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. We were put here to innovate, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Inspired, the audience rose and gave Lechleiter a standing innovation, Friedman says.

Looking for ways to get your audience to leap to its feet? Join Friedman. In this session, you'll learn:

  • How to use stories to frame your organization's strategy and goals
  • How to customize stories to your speaker, your argument and your audience
  • Which stories are effective in speeches—and which aren't
  • How to elicit stories that show not just what your speakers know, but who they are
  • Where to find stories, including the greatest untapped source of speaker stories
  • The single most powerful motivational story
  • How to apply the techniques of storytelling
  • How to convince your speaker of the power of stories—and coach him or her to tell them well

Stories make the difference in winning over the skeptics, says Friedman. Stories cross all learning styles and cultures, he adds. People remember them.

Learn about the “trust me” story and why it is so effective. Friedman considers the case of Peter van Uhm, the Netherlands' chief of defense, who showed up for a speech before a skeptical audience carrying a rifle and recalled that his father signed up to fight the Nazis in World War II, only to discover that the gun he was given didn’t shoot properly.

“Sometimes,” the general said, “only the gun stands between good and evil.”

Gather pointers for using self-deprecation to win your audience’s sympathies. And find out why stories are better than data at offering evidence for your cause.

Hear how stories can demonstrate values in action—and how a speech from a company president illustrated the value of work-life balance. A genuine, non-scripted moment with a heartfelt story carries more power than any corporate directive.

Glean tips for motivating and inspiring. Find out how you can use the motivational story structure: “I got knocked down, and I got back up.”

And learn the strengths of the framing story. Use it early in a speech, and it serves as an analogy that the speaker returns to throughout. And for those tempted to tell stories about animals or aliens, wait! Try “the human story,” which captures emotion unforgettably.

Start here with your storytelling—and learn how to make a difference.

Type: 
Broadcast: 
March 2013
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Presenter bio: 

Rob Friedman

Rob Friedman is senior director of executive communications for Eli Lilly & Co., supervising a team of writers working for the CEO and other senior executives. In the late 1980s at Ragan Communications, he was editor of Speechwriter's Newsletter and a workshop instructor. He has taught workshops on speechwriting and editing to thousands of professional communicators. Friedman was a speechwriter for Ameritech and the American Medical Association before joining Lilly in 1994. Twenty of Rob's speeches have appeared in Vital Speeches of the Day. His 2010 speech for Lilly's CEO delivered to the Detroit Economic Club earned a Cicero Award.