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July 5, 2021 20 min

On this episode of Monetize the Mic, Jess sat down with Gabrielle Dolan to talk about the importance of storytelling on podcasts.

Gabrielle can tell you a story or two. In fact, it was while working in senior leadership roles in corporate Australia she realized the power of storytelling in effective business communication. She is now a highly sought-after international keynote speaker and educator. 

Her impressive client list includes VISA, EY, Amazon, Vodafone, and the Obama Foundation, to name drop a few ...and she got to meet Barack Obama while undertaking that work. Gabrielle holds a master’s degree in Management and Leadership and has studied at Harvard. She is the best-selling author of several books including Real Communication: How To Be You and Lead True, a finalist in the Australian Business Leadership Book Awards for 2019. 

Plus, Stories for Work: The Essential Guide to Business Storytelling (2017), which reached number one in Australia’s best-selling business books. Her latest book Magnetic Stories: Connect with Customers and Engage Employees with Brand Storytelling is due to be published in March 2021.

She is the founder of Jargon Free Fridays. (Don’t ever say the word ‘pivot’ to her unless you are talking about basketball.) In 2020, her dedication to the industry was recognized when she was awarded Communicator of the Year by IABC Asia Pacific. She lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband, Steve, and two daughters, Alex and Jess.

Jess and Gabrielle are big believers that storytelling is an incredibly important skill to have as a podcast guest. Jess asks Gabrielle, “What are the components of an effective story?”

It may seem obvious, but Gabrielle emphasizes that stories really need a beginning, a middle, and an end. In business, it’s gotta be succinct. You really don’t want to be sharing a 5 or 10-minute story. Your story should be 1 or 2 minutes and be very specific. Being specific helps people visualize something, and helps the listeners feel something. And ultimately that’s what a story does, it taps into emotion. 

Jess knows that facts tell but stories sell. Jess was recently coaching someone in the Interview Connections community and asked them to practice telling a story. Jess realized that their story wasn’t dropping people into the moment. 

How do you start a story in a way that has people really engaged?

Gabrielle teaches that the worst way to start a story is to tell people, “Let me tell you a story.” People are hardwired to listen to stories, but in a business setting when someone says “Let me tell you a story” the reaction is going to be something along the lines of, “Oh no, this is going to take forever.” 

The most effective way to start a story is with time and place. There are an infinite amount of variations of time and place so you can really make it your own every time. If you start with the time and place, people are now set up to listen to you differently. 

In a business setting, where things can often be all about data and facts and figures, and someone says “You know that reminds me of the time I went camping with my friends and...

There’s a pattern interruption that’s going to make people want to pay attention.

Jess asks, “How do you end the story?”

Gabrielle knows that the ending is the hardest part. You don’t want to be ending your story with “The moral of the story is.” In a business setting, you want to be linking it back to the business message without it being directive. You could say something like, “The reason I’m sharing this with you is that it reminds me of what we’re going through right now, and imagine what we could achieve if we all…” There you can link your story back to the business. 

Gabrielle reminds us that you don’t want to be going on and on and on. That’s the biggest mistake people make! Gabrielle notices that people sometimes keep reiterating the point over and over. 

Once you’ve finished a story, it’s so important to always pause. Remember to stop talking for one or two seconds because that’s the real power of the story. That’s the moment where the listeners are really taking it in. But as humans, we generally don't like pauses so we tend to just keep talking.

Why do you think it’s hard for people to pause?

Gabrielle thinks that we just get really uncomfortable with the pause. Sometimes at the end of the story when people pause, the speaker might think “Why is everyone quiet? Maybe they didn’t get it.” But Gabrielle reminds us that people are just processing, and that pause is incredibly important.

Jess wants to know, how do you start building up this arsenal of stories that you share?

Gabrielle recommends that you don’t start with the stories at all. Instead, start with the messaging that you want to communicate. Ask yourself, what is it that you want to communicate? What are you trying to communicate on the podcast or interview or speech? You need to be really, really clear on what messages you want to communicate. 

Once you are clear on the messages, then you can ask yourself, “What are the stories that I can share?” Gabrielle recommends that you should think of two different types of stories. The first is your own personal stories. Ask yourself, why are you passionate about what you’re doing? In most cases, that’s starting from a personal value that you have. 

The second kind of story you can tell would be work or business-related story. Either way, you need to be clear on the message you want to get across. When thinking of your messaging, constantly ask yourself what story could I share to illustrate this?

People sometimes think that their stories aren't interesting and that people won’t care, but Gabrielle wants you to know that your stories are interesting! Telling stories creates a human connection. 

Someone doing a podcast interview is clearly passionate about what they’re doing, and they know what they’re talking about. That passion started from somewhere, so ask yourself, where did that start? Then you can tap into that. Be prepared to share those stories because they show your passion and credibility!

Gabrielle has worked with some huge names, like Amazon and VISA. Jess asks what she’s learned from her experiences working with such large companies?

What Gabrielle has found is that the vast majority of corporate leaders really want to do a good job. Those leaders really want to lead well and they want to communicate well. They’re human just like everyone else and they need to learn those skills. What Gabrielle has been surprised about is that very senior leaders still experience impostor syndrome and have said things like, “I don’t have the courage to do this, I have self-doubt.” 

Jess asks Gabrielle why she has decided to start podcast guesting? What drew her to be a speaker on podcasts?

Gabrielle released a book right at the start of lockdown, and she had done a few podcast interviews before. Since she couldn’t travel to promote her book, she decided to start speaking on podcasts as a different way to build momentum around the book. 

Gabrielle loves working in crowds! She runs a half-day virtual workshop, she works with major companies, she runs storytelling workshops and presenting with impact workshops. Gabrielle has also written six books! Ultimately, Gabrielle helps people hone their storytelling skills. 

You can read Gabrielle’s newest book is Magnetic Stories: Connect with Customers and Engage Employees with Brand Storytelling!

You can connect with Gabrielle at Gabrielledolan.com and get a free 7 Day Storytelling Starter Kit right here!

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