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Episode 1 of Sage Advice features Joe Anzalone, who was Director of Business Education for Hilton Worldwide at the time of this interview (now he’s with Amazon Web Services). We sat down with Joe at the annual ATD conference in Orlando where he discussed how to incorporate stakeholders into their own business solution through storytelling. And while storytelling has become something of a buzzword, it cannot operate in isolation – it must always echo back to its business value.

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Joe Anzalone:                  We have to understand how to use storytelling for it to have business value. Otherwise, business people are just telling stories to engage people, and then it becomes fun and engaging, but there’s not necessarily a business link to it. One of the biggest problems we have with engaging stakeholders around the world is we have a conference call, they have 10 others that day, and then a week later they don’t know what happened. They don’t remember, but they will remember the story. You know, when we first start learning, we’re growing up, we hear great stories and they’re visual, and they have a beginning, a middle, and an end, some obstacles overcome. We learn a lesson from it, and then we get into the corporate world, and for some reason all of that goes away, and we’re presented with PowerPoint downloads of several bullets, we read them off the screen, and we wonder why no one is engaged.

We weren’t raised to follow stories that way you can. We engage people with a character, with a time and a place, with the obstacle we’re trying to overcome. It’s something that might happen that we can overcome, what the solution might be, then finally, what lessons we’ll learn from it. As long as it’s true, we can engage a stakeholder and say, “This is how I see this playing out.” And then, that stakeholder, or somebody in the organization, becomes kind of the future hero of their own story because they’re buying into this idea, this future vision. When we engage stakeholders all over the world about one singular idea they have to remember it over all other things.