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Published: May 24, 2011
 / Summer 2011 / Issue 63

 
 

The Art of the Business Narrative

S+B: How so?
GUBER:
I start by asking myself: Am I motivated? Can I get my feet, tongue, heart, and wallet going in the same direction? Do I understand my goal in this conversation — do I want the audience to support a stadium? To join my company? To do a deal?

Then I think about the audience members themselves. Who are they? What do they want? Is this a winning proposition for them? What’s their background? I do some preparation, so that I can talk about whatever they’re interested in as part of the story.

Next, I focus my attention again on the audience and my intentions: How do I show them that I have skin in the game, that I will share the risk?

I don’t hide my intention. I display it with pride. In any meeting, very early on, I say, “Look, you know why I’m here — I really want to have a conversation that will help you see your way clear to supporting us.” If there’s a secret agenda, the other person will immediately pick up on it and conclude that you’re hiding something.

I also try to remember that I’m in a dialogue. I can’t just tell my story; I need to listen to people, to metabolize our humanity together. The narrative itself could come from anywhere: a film, my experience, the other person’s experience, or even a newspaper or a joke. Anything that provides an emotional context. Sometimes I’m good at this, and sometimes I’m not. But I’m always confident that this is the right way to get a message across. People are wired for telling and hearing stories. We need to plug into that and use it.

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Author Profiles:

  • Art Kleiner is the editor-in-chief of strategy+business and the author of The Age of Heretics (2nd ed., Jossey-Bass, 2008).
 
 
 
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