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Author: Ross Sturley – CIMCIG Committee Member (@rosssturley)

In the Lands of the North, where the black rocks stand guard against the cold sea, in the dark night that is very long, the men of the Northlands sit by their great log fires and they tell a tale…

So began each of the Sagas of Noggin the Nog, great stories, for those old enough to remember them.

Storytelling is a bit of a buzzword at the moment. Marketing gurus are packing out conferences and workshops with ‘how to tell better stories’ talks.


It’s true: the fine art of storytelling is a timeless skill which is immensely valuable in many aspects of business – from leadership to recruitment, encompassing marketing and business development on the way. This isn’t new. The technique has been used in business for aeons.

However, it’s a skill worth revisiting as the exhibition and networking season swings into view.

At this time of year, with a number of construction events already in the calendar, marketers are reminded of two things: the enduring value of face to face contact with customers and prospects, and the growing cost of enabling that.

As the economy improves, the outlay associated with exhibitions and events naturally increases. The costs of travel, shipping, design, build, hotels and even cups of coffee are all going up.

But these occasions are great ways to demonstrate your continuing value to a current client, or to make clear your differentiation to a potential new one. Networking – by marketing or business development teams – can be a very rewarding activity.

The key is to do it well. If you’re going to spend the increasing chunks of budget, then make sure your results can justify it. So what can you do to make sure your own networking – either off an exhibition stand or in a drinks party – is effective?

The essence of networking is storytelling – spinning your own yarn in a way that engages the listener, and makes them want more. In the context of a busy event, you need to do this quickly.

There are a few tools to help.

Great stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end – a trite way of saying they have structure. How will you start your story? Start with something to make your audience interested. How will the listener know your story has finished? The end needs to feel like a completion.

Stories create a connection with those who listen and a common language between teller and receiver. Crucially listeners can become part of the best stories – imagining themselves to be one of the characters, watching the drama unfold. What part can your audience play in your story – are their own problems or issues being solved in it? Can they identify with the trials of the key characters?

Stories help us remember details – I still remember how to tie a bowline using the ‘rabbit comes out of the hole’ story. What details will your audience remember?

You need to plan your story to generate interest, to allow the listeners to see themselves in it, and to help them remember the key details.

A good technique for storybuilding is ‘who, what, how’ – who are the audience, what is the product (or service), and what problem does it solve? Who do you need to talk to, what do you want them to remember, and how are you going to get their attention?

They’d like that in the Lands of the North.

Ross Sturley is principal at Chart Lane, a strategic communications company specialising in construction, property and regeneration, and a committee member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing Construction Industry Group.

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