Go, Team Storytelling!

Since humans are fascinating, there are probably good stories happening all over your business or organization. It’s just a matter of collecting them.

Story collecting works best as a team effort. No matter how great you are at storytelling, chances are you are not involved of every facet of your organization and every client or customer interaction. The more perspectives you include, the deeper and broader your storytelling will be. Here are some tips for facilitating storytelling with your team.

1. Become Synonymous with “Story Gatherer.”

Don’t assume that because your title is Marketing Manager or Development Director or Queen of Public Relations that people know you’re the person to whom they should tell all their great stories. You have to actively solicit them ideally enough so that you become known as that story person, who wants to hear my stories. Telling people you want to hear their stories from the field once is not enough, you’ll also need to remind them. Send an email. Bring it up in staff meetings. Stop people in the hallway, and ask what’s new.

Does this sound like you’re going to be a nuisance? You’re not! As long as you’re??polite about it??people will, for the most part, like to be asked. It demonstrates that you value their expertise.

2. Provide examples.

When I was on??staff at a nonprofit, one of the challenges I faced was collecting stories from our very busy volunteer program assistants. They were my instant access to the day-to-day impact of our organization, but getting stories was hard. I realized that while I thought their day-to-day activities were fascinating and perfect to share with our community, they did those things everyday. They didn’t think of their work as particularly exciting, and didn’t think I’d be interested.

When a new group of assistants started their orientation, I decided to tell them one of my favorite volunteer stories, as an example. It wasn’t terribly dramatic, it was about a volunteer bringing a homebound client his favorite sandwich. The assistants got teary and said, “Awwwww!”, but more importantly??they understood the emotional impact of the simple stories they encountered all the time. They started bringing me material frequently.

If your staff thinks you’re only interested in earth-shattering, life-altering tales that make us question everything we’ve ever believed about the world and our place in it, they’re not going to tell you the simple, small-but-meaningful stories you need to hear.??It’s worth it to tell your staff exactly what you’re looking for.

3. Make it easy.

We’re all busy, so the easier you can make it to share stories, the better. Invite people to stop by your desk and tell you the story or ask them to send you an email with just the basics outlined, so you can call them to follow up. Avoid forms, long processes, and hour-long interviews whenever possible.

4. Use their stories.

The best way to keep the stories coming is to use them. If you’re constantly soliciting stories, getting them, and then ignoring them, people will eventually decide you’re actually that story person, who only claims to want to hear my stories and stop telling you. So if there’s a way to use a story you get from a staff member or volunteer, do it. Even a quick version on social media or a little item in your e-newsletter will let the teller know that they helped you by telling their story.

What’s your favorite story from your business or nonprofit?

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