Corporate storytelling for accountants

Sep 15, 2019
Here are four ways stories can help you communicate your ideas or message in a more effective manner.

BY ERIC FITZPATRICK

Two key challenges that accounting professionals face is communicating knowledge and presenting figures in a way that captivates and engages their audience don’t have the same level of expertise.

One method by which these challenges can be overcome is storytelling. Studies in social psychology show that information is more quickly and accurately remembered when presented as a story.

What does this mean for professional accounting communication? It means that stories should be a deliberately and intelligently used tool for connecting and communicating information and ideas.

Here are four ways that storytelling can help accounting professionals increase the effectiveness of their communication.

1. Stories bring clarity to complex messages

Research has shown that stories generate understanding. When presenting complex data, the inclusion of a story that supports the data or provides an example of how the data was used previously can bring clarity to that idea. Stories paint pictures in the mind of the listener and allow them to understand the data in a simplified manner.

2. Stories ensure your message gets shared

People love listening to, and telling, stories. The nature of story as a medium for sharing ideas and information is that it is very easy for a person who listens to a story to become the teller of the same story. Because of this, stories travel and ensure that the idea or information contained in it gets shared with a larger number of people. On occasions, accounting professionals will present information to an employee of a client company and once presented, the employee will then have to present the same information to their own board of directors. Where the accounting professional has included stories in their presentation, the employee will often use the same story when passing on the information.

3. Stories connect you to your audience

When information is shared in the form of a story, a process called neural coupling takes place. This means that the story elicits the same emotional response in the listener as it does in the teller of the story. This allows a speaker and their audience to empathise with each other, thereby building a stronger connection and making it easier for the audience to buy into the idea or message being shared.

4. Stories aid recall

Stories connect with the brain very differently when compared to facts, figures and statistics. Facts, figures and statistics connect with areas of the brain that generate understanding but do nothing to aid recall. This is why audiences understand facts and figures when they hear them, but can struggle to recall them a short time later.

While stories connect with these parts of the brain as well, they also connect with the parts of the brain that aid recall. Stories release dopamine in the brain of the listener, which generates an emotional response to the story being told and, in doing so, commits the story and its message to memory. There are occasions when, as accounting professionals, you have to present information that will need to be remembered or recalled a day, a week or even a month after you have delivered it. Stories make that possible.

There you have it – four ways which stories can help you communicate your ideas or message in a more effective and creative manner.
 
Eric Fitzpatrick is owner of ARK Speaking and Training. Eric will present the Corporate Storytelling for Accountants course on 25 September 2019.