If you didn’t have a close family member who lived abroad and had an urgent situation during the pandemic, most probably you haven’t traveled in the last 12 months. If you are travelling though, you’re probably doing it for one of two reasons: either reuniting with a loved one or making a trip for reasonable business purposes that cannot be performed online.
In the majority of cases however, we’ve come to realize that business meetings can in fact be done over a Zoom call. The question now is, how can we make sure we still connect authentically with current (or potential) business partners during those calls?
Whether you’re reconnecting with a business partner or building new connections, storytelling is a key tool to help create and maintain those relationships. Of course, you can’t master it overnight, but you can understand where to start from.
For every entrepreneur who is on the way to mastering storytelling, there are 3 basic steps to be aware of. Let’s go through them together.
Step 1: Storytelling is not a performance, but a day-to-day communication
Read it again! Right. Many entrepreneurs believe that storytelling and public speaking skills are only necessary when you have some kind of special event, for example pitching in front of the investors, partners or taking part in a panel discussion on a business forum.
Along the same lines, there are other entrepreneurs who believe that you only need storytelling when you’re sharing something “big”, like website updates or a new email marketing campaign for your clients.
However, in order to master storytelling successfully, the first thing is to deeply understand that storytelling is a day-to-day communication.
If you start from this point of view, you’ll be aware that storytelling is actually important in all kinds of scenarios. When you have online meetings with your team, when you write daily messages for internal team coordination, when you drink coffee during the break and share your experiences from previous days, when someone calls you via phone, or when one of your clients randomly meets you at the bus station and you have two minutes for chatting…
It is almost the same as learning foreign language: If you don’t practice it on a daily basis, you won’t master it.
Step 2: The ‘human’ aspect in digital world is the most crucial now as never before
First, congratulations to all of us for surviving one year of pandemic experience, and consequently living and working in the highest level of digital environment so far.
I remind myself of one webinar held at the beginning of April 2020, when I delivered a short session and concluded that to some extent verbal, but mostly non-verbal communication will be the most important one in our near future.
And from today’s perspective, I can’t agree more. And perhaps, you also recognize this quote: “Written communication is a master for misunderstanding”. Can you relate with this quote after one year experience in mostly digital environments where many people haven’t been practicing enough verbal, and even less non-verbal communication?
From my experience during the pandemic, I’ve witnessed a lot of entrepreneurs holding meetings online and in many cases almost all members of the team were muted and without a camera or maybe only a photo or avatar was visible to others. But almost no faces! For sure, that is a much more difficult environment for mastering storytelling than when all the cameras are turned on.
Moreover, it surprised me that there are entrepreneurs who have expanded their teams in the last year, but within many growing teams, almost nobody gets to know the new members since they work on a separate projects, have been part of these meetings with cameras turned off or haven’t had a chance to talk to other team members…
Daily effective communication and human connection, at least virtually, and of course fully visually is as crucial now as ever before, first internally and then externally.
Why is it so important? This is the perfect time to remind ourselves that the most successful entrepreneurs are those where all their members sell, from Costa Rica to New Zealand and from Oslo to Cape town – we are digitally connected worldwide. But don’t forget that technology is just a tool, and we are still humans with social intelligence who need storytelling and connection.
Step 3: It is all about TRUST
Entrepreneurs need to master storytelling in order to build trust, the most relevant value for finalizing business deals!
Once upon a time a celebrated orator and writer, Quintilian (A.D. 35-95), said: “An orator must by definition be a good man morally and not just an effective speaker.” This is one of my favorite quotes because it is based on the morality of an orator, speaker, and storyteller. And, building trust and morality into storytelling is indeed key.
Now, take a few seconds to imagine that you have communicated with the same type of business partners, one virtually and the other one just in person, and ask yourself: Is it easier to build trust over an online call or a meeting in person?
I can assume what your answer is but that would not be fully effective communication. Therefore, I will give you a chance to let me know and to tell me the reasons from your perspective. Feel free to write a comment below or to write to me directly and to schedule a virtual meeting (with cameras, of course).
However, regardless of your response, I do believe that now you are more aware about the importance of storytelling, why you need to master it as soon as possible, and how to build trust, both internally and externally.
And, by the way, this is a perfect moment to motivate decision-makers to finally apply this business cooperation approach in our work relationships but also in our own international private relationships with loved ones. Why not? For sure the level of trust built during virtual (in)-formal meetings in the last year is worthy of an in-person meet up, as it is a new business trip.
And maybe a vaccine passport in the future will be a necessity for cross-border travel, but trust built on storytelling is, and always will be to be, a necessity for sustainable partnerships, both professionally and privately!
About the author
Miroslav Draganov describes himself as a human being who doesn’t know how to swim but has huge experience in keeping his head above the water through tough life experiences. His motivational Macedonian brand “Keep on Smiling”, and his published book “How to Keep on Smiling?” are authentic and honestly shared tools which are useful especially for those who grew up without or lost close family member(s), or had to handle mental health issues and poverty. As a motivational speaker, he is equipped with a variety of awards, knowledge, 17+ years in skills and international experience, and sees himself as a serial entrepreneur and social impact maker.
About the Business
Miroslav is a mentor, NBITM Practitioner, and offers online and offline programs for public speaking, and team-buildings with all soft skills applied. He is a co-founder of “CO-CREATORS” – Social Enterprise for Education, Motivation and Personal Development with a mission: providing services with programs for soft skills, personal development, mental and emotional health, for teams and individuals. CO-CREATORS’ Support System enables active inclusion in society of women–victims of domestic violence and children in single-parent households. 10% of each payment from CO-CREATORS’ clients go towards supporting them. This way they have access to free services from CO-CREATORS’ partners, and from its certified trainers.
Miroslav is a mentor in the Bridge for Billions innovation community. If you too would like to write a blog post with us, reach out to our Digital Content Lead, Phoebe, here.