Storytelling and Communication - The Route to Success, From Fundraising or Financial Analysis
R. Ravikumar, Chartered Accountant
When viewing television, we see hundreds of advertisements that are constantly persuading us to buy or use something. There is something common between them. In the few and costly seconds that they are on air, most advertisements (Ad) tell stories: of a daughter surprising her parents with an expensive gift from her first salary, of an underprivileged child making it big, of obtaining a loan with ease to buy a car or about the memories of a family member in a life insurance Ad. When the target customers actually buy the product or service, their decision is based on its attributes such as price, quantity or other features, but yet, barring some exceptions, Ads seldom talk about these. Instead, the seller tells us stories. Why is this so? Should the Ads not be focussing on the very criteria we use to make the decision?
There’s a reason for this. Stories carry emotions, and people instantly connect with them. A survey by a Stanford University professor showed that at the end of a presentation, stories told were remembered by 63 per cent of the audience, whereas only 5 per cent recollected data or facts. Yet, as finance professionals, we attach huge importance to data. Neuroscientists have confirmed that decisions are often based on emotion, not logic, and people hear statistics but feel stories. Feeling makes an emotional connection with the audience and leads to decisions.
Each time we communicate, whether it is by way of a presentation to a potential investor or in a business review meeting or even when we argue at home, we are always trying to influence the listener. To do or not to do something, to agree with our point of view. Contrary to our perception, no matter how interesting the data, it does not appeal to emotion and so, does not result in action. So, we need to tell more stories when we communicate. The skills of storytelling and good communication show great importance in the success of our work — be it as a businessman or an employee. In the rest of this article, I write on these two activities that we as Chartered Accountants engage in: fundraising and analysing financial performance.
With a booming world of start-ups and business expansion, many of us are engaged in working with investors to raise funds. When a founder wants to raise funds, while he/she will surely carry ideas, plans, facts and forecasts, the pitch’s success depends on how they communicate and tell the story around the idea. The numbers matter, but the story behind the numbers will excite the investor enough to fund the proposal. They first need to tell the story about the customer’s pain point — e.g., cab hire companies told stories of the challenges that were being faced by the customer in owning cars, parking, cash flow, waiting time to get a cab, etc. Such stories are persuasive. Steve Jobs once said: “The most powerful person in the world is the stor