Beyond the Campfire: Storytelling for Leaders


Today’s business leaders face considerable challenges. With email smartphones Twitter feeds and the like attention spans during meetings or speeches can be extremely limited. And for many executives this information overload might threaten to overturn traditional organisational structures and power dynamics.

Added on 27 January 2014 by Erika Lucas

For one people today are less willing to endure a series of mind-numbing PowerPoint slides than they used to be.

“Because of the saturation of information people are looking for something different” says Janie Van Hool who teaches a workshop at Ashridge Business School called “Engage Your Audience: Personal Impact and Storytelling.”

“It’s not the kind of hierarchy anymore like it was 50 years ago where people were followed because they had positional power” says Van Hool. “It’s definitely an emotional economy and people need to understand how to operate within that.”

While for some ‘storytelling’ might conjure up late-night campfire yarns some managers are turning to executive programs that focus on building storytelling skills to help them overcome a variety of leadership challenges. For instance a main issue today is that many managers have a lot of valuable information they need to deliver but might not necessarily know how to deliver it in an engaging fashion.

Ashridge’s Janie Van Hool has developed the course with insight from her background in acting and voice psychology. She added: “We tend to break it down into physical presence vocal presence and then work on some structured tools around how they engage with a story.”

The course also covers:

  • Constructing a great story: Understanding the essentials of great presenting
  • Building character: Exercises and practice in creating the narrative that sticks in the mind of the listener
  • Creating drama: How to achieve momentum in a story without overuse of sentiment
  • It’s not what you say… Maximising the impact of the story with great delivery technique
  • Personal story: Bringing values and vision to life with personal storytelling AND making it about your listeners
  • Individual storytelling toolkit: Building your personal storytelling toolkit with key story categories.

This post is based on extracts from an article originally published in Next Executive. Visit Beyond the Campfire: Storytelling for Leaders | NextExecutive.