Leadership consultant and CEO of Clear Ink, Margaret E. Ward tells us about the disadvantages of zoom calls and the beauty of storytelling as we work remotely.
Executive coach Margaret Ward gives advice and guidance to many professionals who come to her with issues in communicating in the workplace. “If you’re great at presenting in the room- people are compelled to look at you. Now that energy is gone,” she said. This means we have to work that bit harder and prepare that bit more if we want to grab our audience’s attention.
A common issue amongst her clients today is the ability to get their point across and be influential without losing the attention of their audience. “Because people aren’t in a room with each other that human touch is gone, and human contact is hugely important for connection. We can only truly influence and persuade people when we’re using all our senses,” she said. But as we work remotely how do we do that?
One rule of thumb from Margaret is ‘be brief, be bright, be gone’. Leaders need relevant information articulated clearly and quickly. When dealing with top-level decision-makers, such as CEOs and managing directors, your story must be told in a style that adheres to what the other person needs. This can be done by understanding who you’re talking to and what they want. “Strong communicators are empathetic,” she said.
Creating a ‘to the point story’ should include relevant information and should be done quickly but most importantly it should be visual. Adding a case study is a good tool. You can paint a story to someone making it a lot more interesting. “Visual storytelling makes you memorable,” Margaret said. After all, stories can provoke all the senses and if we’re connecting virtually, we need to connect visually.
Another rule of thumb Margaret advises her clients to do is prepare more. That doesn’t mean giving more information, in fact, it’s quite the opposite, keep it precise. Know the three or four bullet points you want to get across clearly and precisely. “If you don’t value the managers time and prepare, they won’t invite you back – do the work,” she said.
Naturally, people begin to doubt themselves when others don’t listen. Speaking from an experience with a client, Margaret said: “He didn’t have to change who he was; he just had to adapt his communication style to his environment. You must adjust to who your audience is.”
In a piece written by Margaret Ward called ‘The Science of Storytelling’, she wrote, ‘A study by Uri Hassen of Princeton University found that when listening to another speaker tell a story, the same areas of both the speakers and listeners’ brains would light up in an MRI. This connection creates greater collaboration and trust, essential for teamwork.’ In the same piece she also wrote, ‘when the brain processes stories, it creates oxytocin (the chemical that tells the brain it is ok to approach or trust this person)’.
Margaret confirms that when we connect with people in the room, we are inviting more opportunities for positive engagement, that’s why we need to engage and that’s why storytelling is so important.