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December 2020 - Year 22 - Issue 6

ISSN 1755-9715

Stories in Business

Andrew Wright lives in Godollo, Hungary, near Budapest. Andrew and his wife Julia run a private language school in Godollo and Budapest doing mainly company teaching. Julia is the director of the company. Andrew spends most of his time writing books and travelling in order to work with teachers. Andrew’s books include: ‘Games for Language Learning’. CUP, ‘Creating Stories with Children’. OUP, ‘1000 Pictures for Teachers to Copy’. Longman Pearson, ‘Writing Stories’.  Helbling Languages.,


Meetings: formal and informal

A sharing of factual information and analytical assessment.  (Intellect.)

But also:

A sharing of experiences in order to pass on practical ideas and to develop understanding, awareness, attitude, commitment etc to do something about it.



Examples of desired change of awareness and attitude

1 Branch always poor…belief in possibility of significant improvement.

2 Manager with outdated control methods…must see need for change.

3 Manager follows procedures but not sensitive to local needs.

4 Manager deceived by confidence trickster…must learn to look behind and under.

5 Manager responsible for the introduction of new procedures and how to take the staff with him/her.

6 The role of Manager as trainer, source of change, etc.

7 Informing colleagues about new products and procedures: understanding, valuing, knowing what to do about it, wanting to do something about it.

8 collecting from colleagues feedback on new products and procedures.

9 The manager encouraged to have a more open mind, to look for fresh ideas, to feel free to share them with colleagues.


The role of stories, narrative, analogies, similes and metaphors

We need clear, analytical, intellectual descriptions of situations and ideas.

Interviewee: ‘I am committed and work hard and also take initiative.’


To make people care about ideas we need to affect them emotionally.

Interviewee: ‘When I was twelve years old I started my own newspaper round and negotiated a deal with the local newspaper shop so I could buy the papers at a discount.  I delivered newspapers for several years getting up two hours earlier than normal so I could still get to school on time.  I delivered in the countryside and had to do so in the winter snow, pouring rain or high winds.’


Example of an experience

1 Story

A description of a struggle to achieve something…probably with a protagonist, a main problem, a setting, mini step by step struggles, a key turning point, a conclusion.

2 Narrative

A formal word meaning story.  But recently it has been used by social commentators to refer to the reasoning/rationale/story which people create to give meaning and guidance in their daily life. 

E.g  ‘The poisonous ISIS narrative.’ 

E.g.  ‘We must offer them a more engaging and more socially fruitful narrative.’

E.g. ‘My task is to overcome the narratives that have evolved.’

E.g.  ‘The OTP bank narrative today is of a bank which cares about society and serves society, by sponsoring the football league and by running charities.

3 Analogy

A comparison between two things which have similar elements used to explain an idea.

E.g.  Filling in tax forms is analogous to the OTP door in Nador Street which is so imposing and heavy that I can hardly open it.

E.g. The OTP symbol or logo is round but not a closed circle.  It is embracing and invites people to come in.  It is green which means ‘go’ and ‘grow’.

E.g. A plant put in the wrong part of the garden related to sun or shadow and over or underwatered might not blossom and wilt and die.

E.g. Fables offer analogies, for example, ‘The Hare and the Tortoise’.

4 Simile

An expression comparing one thing with another and containing the words ‘as’ or ‘like’.

E.g.  He is as cunning as a fox.

E.g.  She is like a Chines plate spinner.

5 Metaphor

An expression which describes a person or object by referring to something else which shares the same characteristic(s).

E.g.  The iron lady…The Iron Lady.

E.g. He is foxy.

E.g. She is a Rolls Royce.

E.g. Therese May has taken up the helm and is steering in to choppy waters.


Sources of stories

1 Personal

From being a Financial Director in a company and joing OTP was going from one side of the desk to the other. (Analogy)

Bones, Wright!  Bones!  (Story) (My art teacher who wanted me to think about my drawing.)

My mother and my toy car in the war.   We should be mending children’s cars, not mending wars. (Story)

Breeding dogs but being anxious about what would happen to the puppies.

Going on a car journey full of disasters.

2 News, history

Hungary and Iceland doing so well in the recent European cup. (Analogy)

Fourteenth century Europe nearly wiped out by the plague but wasn’t.

Columbus clever enough to find his way to America and back was guided by a notional map of the world derived from the bible.

3 General experience

Journeying. Gardening. Sport. Family. Entertainment. Science. Commerce, etc.

Journeying:  leaving home and driving slowly on country roads, then faster on the motorway and finally top speed in Germany.

Gardening: plants wilt if they are in the wrong place and bloom if they are in the right place.

Sport: however good the individual talent it is essential to work as a team.


How to tell stories - telling stories rather than writing them

Summary of tips

1 You need:

A vividly described protagonist the listeners can identify with

A vividly described problem the protagonist has…analgous to the listeners problem.

A vivid description of the protagonists struggles to overcome the problem.

A satisfying end…either success or failure…either can be learned from.

2 Explaining why you are telling a story

To people with you…you can help them to know why you are telling a story before you begin…you can link the story to their immediate concerns and references.

Bill, you’ve been in OTP for a long time…do you remember what happened in Miskolc in 1978?  Well, I had just joined the bank and …..we had a similar problem then….

3 Starting the story

Starting with a summary of the situation, time, place event or going straight in to a detail.  Usually when telling it is better to start by sketching the context.

Starting with a provocative idea:  question, dilemma, provocative statement, disaster, problem, etc.

Starting with a peaceful situation which you then shatter by introducing a change which damages the peaceful situation.

Usually the central problem of the protagonist comes at or near the beginning.

4 Generalisations and details

Both are useful.  Generalisations and summaries are easy to do…and useful in setting the context BUT it is the details of examples which are memorable.

‘I was a financial director in a company before going to OTP.  So that was useful.’  (Reasonable but forgettable.) 

‘I went from one side of the desk to the other.’ (Unforgettable.)

Details mean special observations…just what the weather was like and how it affected you and what you did.

5 Words and phrases… particularisation

The listener/reader needs images so he or she can see, feel, hear, taste and touch what is being described.

Details require special words or phrases…

Go…walk…walk quickly…march…stride ……‘shot along like a bullet from a gun’.

BREXIT…unforgettable, specially created word!

6 Sounds of words and phrases

Alliteration:  ‘benevolent banking’,  ‘no brainer banking’, etc.

Rhyme: ‘money for honey’, ‘groan loan’,

Other useful characteristics of the sound of language: speed, flow or hesitancy, pause, tenor (soft, harsh) , volume.

7 Analogies, similes and metaphors within stories

Of course, these three types enrich stories.

8 Summarising or not summarising the connection

If you don’t tell them what the analogy is they must find it for themselves and in doing so benefit more.  You might just say, at the end, What do you think about that?  Do you see any connection with our present situation?


Your particular listeners/readers

135 managers have concerns and experiences in common but individual differences. Each person has knowledge, skills, assumptions, views, values, personal traits of their own. 

Examples of things to take into account:

Storytelling is associated with children…the story must not sound like a story but a bit of real life.

People in business are under time pressure…the story must seem relevant early on and not be drawn out.

Stories about successful people are probably more likely to have an impact.

But a detailed story about a front desk clerk not having understood a procedure could also be very powerful.

Jargon words and current perceptions eg ‘deliver’, ‘transparency’ show that you are in the same world as the listener BUT that you are just in the flock and not a leader.  Minimise cliché words, phrases and concepts.  Leaders have a fresh vision to offer.

Tell your story without egotism or trying to be anything you are not…tell it simply…don’t try to be funny, entertaining, smart…if you are you will be.


Body movement

Presenting is giving.  Affecting people’s feelings is achieved by the speaker expressing feelings: verbally, orally and bodily. 

Movement is important…so if you suddenly stand absolutely still and speak in a monotone it is electrifying.  But standing still and speaking in a monotone is deadly if it is done all the time.

Pacing about, sometimes.

Usually using one or both hands to make clarifying or express gestures.

Clarifying:  you indicate three section to your talk by showing three clumpings with your hands in front of you.

Clarifying: you show getting rid of a procedure by brushing it away with your hand.

Expressing:  you show an apparently insoluble situation by putting your two fists together or a tortuous situation by twisting your fingers together.

Expressing: you show progress by showing steps going upwards.


Using slides

Minimise the text on them.

Show a slide of 5 men…challenge the audience…which is the murderer.  This engages the audience…makes the point memorably that you must not automatically trust your unconscious opinion.  (See Blink.  See Thinking Fast and Slow.)

Show a slide showing two graphs.  Ask eg which represent pre BREXIT and which post BREXIT.  Don’t tell and explain everything.  Challenge them.  Discuss.


Expressing yourself rather than the content

If you are respected, and welcomed as a source of helpful ideas which concern the listener…he or she is positive towards you.

Your body appearance contributes to this.

Standing straight.  (dignity, status)

Leaning slightly forwards  (energy, drive, commitement, value)

Open gestures (confidence, openness, giving)

Walking about…eg towards or into the audience (confidence, sharing, energy, respect for the listeners)


Tips from TED

Ideas in the remaining notes below are taken from Carmine Gallo.  Talk Like TED.


1 Time

18 minutes at about 160 words a minute seems about right.


2 Be personal

Steve Jobs: Have the courage to follow your heart and don’t let the opinions of others drown out your inner voice.


3 Be passionate

Don’t hide the fact that you care.  Passion is contagious.

Identify several key things you are passionate about.  Highlight them.  Find vivid examples of them.  Tell them powerfully.  See page 30 for research evidence in business for how passion from a speaker can cause investors to invest.


4 Novelty

Novelty is important…a fresh idea…a fresh way of looking at something…

A very good source of amazing information about how we make judgements is in ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’.  This book shows clearly that the most intellectually minded of us are deeply influenced by our unconscious mind.


5 Aristotle

Persuasion requires, ethos, logos and pathos.

Ethos = credibility

Logos = logic and data

Pathos = emotions

Analysis of one TED talk by Stevenson showed: ethos at 10%, logos at 25% and pathos at 65%. See page 48  Research shows that storytelling activates the same part of the brain in the listener as in the teller.


6 Social beings

Because we are social beings we are hard wired for empathy.


7 Individual stories

Link your product and procedures and company aims to individuals and individual stories

Research shows that objects can be sold at a much higher price if you give them an added story.


8 Speed of speaking

Audio books are paced  at 150 words per minute.

Comfortable TED at 190 words per minute.

Very fast dynamic speaker at 250 words per minute.

Kissinger at 90 words per minute.


9 Stages in planning

Brainstorming everything general and particular.

Highlighting a very few key ideas.

Planning opening

Consistent development

Memorable ending

Don’t write out the text…you cant remember it word for word.

Write out summary words of key points…I bubble them.

Offer to send or give away a fully written out version and then you are covered re history re balance, consistency, details etc.

Body language page 89 to 107

Includes avoid silly distracting habits.


Further reading

Carmine Gallo (2014) Talk Like TED.  Macmillan.


Please check the Pilgrims courses at Pilgrims website