JamBerry Ltd

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

7 Ways to Start a Story...


Storytelling in business has really taken off in the last few years, but whilst we may understand the need to tell a story knowing how to start it can sometimes be a bit trickier. So here are a few tips on ways to start a story:

1.       Imagine…

Probably one of the most evocative ways to get someone’s attention is to get their imagination working.  Imagine... works really well if you want to tell a “visionary” story, taking people to a place that perhaps they haven’t explored before. And depending on the follow up words you can take them to a wide variety of places and times. Imagine if… Imagine when… And then to make the story really powerful you need to show the audience the link between their leap of imagination and the reality of where they are now. So for example, imagine there was a new fuel to run cars on – and then show them a picture of a prototype and a path to take it from now to the future.

2.       I remember when…

This opening invites the audience to look at where they have come from and how much has changed (hopefully for the better). This a great way to remind people of the obstacles that they have already overcome and the put things into perspective. Sometimes people need reminding that they are making progress.

3.       I was walking down the street the other day…

You were in the middle of doing something ordinary when something extraordinary happened. It happens to people all the time, they are getting on with their lives when something happens that changes, interrupts and generally makes an impact. This can be a great starter for a story which is about a journey or about getting from where you are and going to where you want to be.

4.       It is a universal truth…

Starting with a provocative or unusual statement which makes the listener stops and think. They may or may not agree with your statement, but either way they will be tuned in to what you say next.

5.       Life is like a box of chocolates…

Here we have both a quote and a metaphor. Quotes are great (but don’t over use them). Metaphors are a way of getting people to think sideways and open up their thinking to the story you are going to tell them. They can help provide some distance between the same old thinking and a new approach.

6.       I get really mad when…

This starts with an emotion – an emotion you would like to draw your audience into. This is an invitation to get mad, to get excited, to get involved. It draws people in to what you are about to say next, particularly when delivered with passion.

7.       We are at the beginning of the end…

Paradoxes, where a statement seemingly contradicts itself are a way to show how two different contradictory thoughts can be held at the same time. In doing so they help change perspective and help open up our minds to alternative options.

The start of a story does not have to be “Once upon a time...” There are lots of alternatives. How does your story start?

See also Using stories in business (part 1)

Friday, 8 August 2014

Three Types of Learning

Learning usually takes place in one of 3 different of timescales:

Just too late: Learning after the event – not the best option as you are always playing catch up and can be downright dangerous! In Health and Safety for example, just too late was too late to stop the factory burning down.

Just in time: Quick, bite sized learning where you have access to it when you need it. Characterised by short videos that show you HOW TO: eg repair something, improve your interview skills before the event, deal with giving feedback to a colleague, or even how to use a fire extinguisher.

Just in case: Learning in advance skills that take time to master. For example: leadership skills are not something that you can learn over night as they consist of many parts. Some skills take practice such as Presentation Skills and often benefit from having a coach or someone to “hold your hand” during the learning process. Even with H&S learning how to have the right culture and signage prevents accidents from happening.

What sort of learning takes place in your organisation?

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

A Good Listener is Like a Good Dancer


Remember Aunty Rose who doesn’t stop talking? Or Uncle Jack who loves to tell funny stories? How many times have you heard the story about….?
A Good Listener is Like a Good Dancer


A good dancer works with their partner, making the moves seem seamless. It is a skill that takes time to develop as anyone who has watched Strictly Come Dancing will know.
Active listening is also skill which takes time and effort to develop. It is not passive and takes commitment from the listener. Active listing shows that you value what the other person has to say and can encourage other people to talk.
Active listeners have freed their minds and made a commitment to absorb what the other person has to say so that they can respond appropriately. They do not make assumptions about what the other person is going to say – and therefore allow them to finish their sentence.

Active listeners:
·         Show interest
·         Request information
·         Obtain understanding

Here are the five rules to active listening

·         Pay attention.

o    Give the speaker your undivided attention and acknowledge the message. Recognize that what is not said also speaks loudly.

o    Look at the speaker directly.

o    Put aside distracting thoughts. Don’t mentally prepare a rebuttal!

o    Avoid being distracted by environmental factors.

o    “Listen” to the speaker’s body language.

o    Refrain from side conversations when listening in a group setting.

·         Show that you are listening.

o    Use your own body language and gestures to convey your attention.

o    Nod occasionally.

o    Smile and use other facial expressions.

o    Note your posture and make sure it is open and inviting.

o    Encourage the speaker to continue with small verbal comments like yes, and uh huh.

·         Provide feedback.

o    Our personal filters, assumptions, judgments, and beliefs can distort what we hear. As a listener, your role is to understand what is being said. This may require you to reflect what is being said and ask questions.

o    Reflect what has been said by paraphrasing. “What I’m hearing is…” and “Sounds like you are saying…” are great ways to reflect back.

o    Ask questions to clarify certain points. “What do you mean when you say…” “Is this what you mean?”

o    Summarize the speaker’s comments periodically.

·         Defer judgment.

o    Interrupting is a waste of time. It frustrates the speaker and limits full understanding of the message.

o    Allow the speaker to finish.

o    Don’t interrupt with counter arguments.

·         Respond Appropriately.

o    Active listening is a model for respect and understanding. You are gaining information and perspective. You add nothing by attacking the speaker or otherwise putting him or her down.

o    Be candid, open, and honest in your response.

o    Assert your opinions respectfully.

o    Treat the other person as he or she would want to be treated.


Active listening is just one aspect of good communication skills. The more you practice the better you will get at it.