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July 6, 2012

DOUG KEELEY:Why harnessing the lost art of storytelling can transform your meeting

If meetings weren’t important, they obviously wouldn’t be held at all. No one would spend the time or money. But meetings are vital for delivering key corporate messages, strengthening teamwork, raising critical skill levels, inspiration and more.
Holding a meeting is easy. Getting real return is difficult.
The key to successful meetings is to maximise delegate engagement so that they learn, remember and, wherever possible, change behaviour. Messages have to sink in and then stick when attendees return to the office.

 Keeping audiences engaged is easy to do during networking and social events, but during business sessions, which often end up being a morasse of PowerPoint, it’s not so easy.
The problem is that the rise of new media and an increasingly cluttered multi-channel world has resulted in our attention spans getting shorter. This is making engaging with delegates increasingly difficult, while their demands become greater. 

So how can organisations make their meetings more compelling to prevent delegates spending time emailing and tweeting in their seats instead of paying attention to what’s going on in front of them? The answer lies in one of the oldest forms of communication known to man – storytelling.
The age old art of storytelling has never been more important. Stories drive people’s spirit, imagination, intellect, heart and hands. A great story will explain a big idea (inspiration) in a creative way (imagination), it will be underpinned with clear logic (intellect), it will fire emotions (heart) and it will motivate people into action (hands).
Recognising the need to work much harder and more creatively to grab a delegate’s attention and fire their imagination, The Mark of a Leader has developed a dynamic, story-based model that harnesses the power of video and music with a live storyteller to deliver a captivating experience in conferences, workshops and training programs. It uses innovative proprietary software to relate the story to both the delegates themselves and the key business objectives that need to be met.
The stories include famous and not-so-famous people, great brands, events in history and thought-provoking ideas. They include names like Apple, Roger Bannister, Cirque du Soleil, the Dabbawala, Anita Roddick, Ernest Shackleton, Starbucks and dozens more.

The approach can be used in the form of inspirational hour-long sessions as part of a meeting or conference, as a number of energising shorter sessions strategically positioned throughout an event, or as a complete leadership or training program.
The Mark of a Leader is designed to be highly customised to every audience, goal and messages. Stories are selected from the library, and then directly related to the business challenge in hand, creating a powerful connection between the story and its application in the business. This helps delegates to ‘get it, and never forget it!’, ensuring that the messages stick in the memory long after the conference is over.
A range of major businesses including Accenture, Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, Royal & Sun Alliance, and Starbucks, have found The Mark of a Leader to have a huge impact on their meetings. In fact, Johnson & Johnson has integrated the stories into its training programmes.
Storytelling is an art that is too often being lost in corporate cultures today. Great stories teach, inspire, and are never forgotten. Telling great stories with cutting-edge media is a combination that has been proven to engage audiences and drive hugely successful conference and program outcomes.
Doug Keeley is founder of the Mark of a Leader

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