How to Use Storytelling to Get Internal Buy-In for Projects

With the basic tools of storytelling, presenters can make any project proposal more captivating and persuasive

By Alex Sal

Winning stakeholders’ buy-in to support your project can be a daunting challenge for anyone. Without the support of each person involved, even the best and most promising projects can fail. Unfortunately, you probably haven’t been assigned a project that is the best and most promising, but you still need it to succeed regardless. In this case, it is even more important that you have the support of everyone involved. 

Most senior co-workers will have limited time and attention in which to convince them that 1) the project will solve a problem; 2) the project can succeed; and 3) the project will be cost effective. 

So how can you convince your co-workers to help you accomplish your goal? With the basic tools of storytelling, presenters can make any project proposal more captivating and persuasive. 

Why It Is Hard to Get Buy-In From Stakeholders

Most people are measured against a simple metric at work. If they hit their goal, their boss is happy; if they miss their goal, their boss is mad. Manufacturers make products, advertisers generate leads, sales people close sales. If your project doesn’t help your stakeholders accomplish what they are goaled against at work, chances are that they will see your project as a distraction at best and at worst a complete waste of time. 

This is why every good project, like every good story, needs a hook. In a story, a hook is an exciting development which occurs in the first few paragraphs and sometimes even in the first sentence or scene of a show. It is designed to capture an audience’s attention and keep them turning pages or watching while the who, what, where, when and why of the story are explained. Without the hook, most people won’t stick around through all the details necessary to understand what is going on. 

Typically, a hook will disrupt the status quo. Your project’s hook should disrupt business as usual. In fact, your hook should solve the problem that your stakeholders are sick of dealing with. 

What Exactly Internal Stakeholders Are Looking For

Project stakeholders are anyone whose approval or participation is needed in order for the project to succeed. They are generally looking to progress of the business of your organization with an effective presentation, but more specifically they are interested in things that will look good in their end of year performance review. Their stake and participation are largely influenced by the profitability and growth of the business, how much credit they will receive and how difficult the work will be.

A good hook for your project stakeholders will be anything that helps them to hit their goals and demonstrate their value to the company’s bottom line. Advertisers want to generate more leads, manufacturers want to make better products and sales people want to close more sales. Take the time to understand what your co-workers are goaled against and develop different project hooks, depending on your stakeholder’s goals. 

In your hook, you should state the problem and the solution clearly. 

For example, “Currently at our company, we have a problem with [common stakeholder issue] because of [issue project is going to solve]. This project will solve [issue] by [solution].”

After the hook in a story comes the exposition. This is the part of the story where we learn the background and characters whose journey we will be following and the adversity that needs to be overcome. A project proposal is no different. 

Why Stakeholders, Like People, Like Stories

According to employee engagement key strategies, internal stakeholders want to be engaged. Fortunately, stories educate and influence, making them powerful. In every business project, the internal stakeholders have to grasp the basics and vital details before buy-in is made. There is no better way to make stakeholders see reasons they should sign off on a project with you than through storytelling. Storytelling is an effective tool and recognizable pattern by which we use to get others to understand our ideas. They offer an immersive experience to listeners into your world. 

Once you have gained your co-workers’ attention and interest using a hook, it will be easier for them to absorb all of the details and background they’ll need to know to approve or work on the project. 

Stakeholders also like stories because it spurs them into taking necessary actions to support the project. They aren’t motivated because they like doing more work, but rather they are motivated by the positive conclusion that will be a result of their effort. This leads us to what is hopefully the most satisfactory part of any story: the conclusion. 

How Stories are Used to Win People Over

Stories help you to market your ideas effectively and efficiently. Provide them with real-life details and at the end make call to actions since winning them over depends on the conclusion they will have drawn at the end of the story.

A good conclusion to a story resolves the story in a satisfactory way. For the conclusion to your project proposal you should include the following:

  1. What the benefits of the project will be
  2. How long until the project will generate results
  3. Why the project is likely to succeed
  4. How the success of the project will benefit the stakeholders

With those four points covered, there is a great chance that your stakeholders will buy into your project and offer the support you need to accomplish your goals.

5 Additional Storytelling Tactics for Your Project’s Next Presentation

Here are some storytelling tactics for your project’s next presentation:

Use a Digital Presentation

Developing visuals adds flesh and backs up your story. It goes further to stimulate the audience’s emotions and make them grasp your idea quicker. Use visuals that will be conspicuous, bold and easy to understand if you want to win your audience over.

Appeal to their Emotion

People take desired actions when their emotion is stimulated. Tell stories that will either make your audience sad, happy or angry but all geared towards making them see your idea from your standpoint. They will come around quicker than expected when you sell them a good story that is emotionally appealing. 

Highlight the Desired Future

Now that you have the attention of your audience, it is time to bring into the mix, the future that is desirable in the story.  Paint the picture of the future that every internal stakeholder will benefit if they engage in the project.

Use Characters

Storytelling needs characters to be more attention-grabbing and effective. Present your project based on people to back up your points. In project presentations where data and product are included, using characters will go further to drive home your message with ease. 

Keep the Language Simple

Regardless of the type of audience you have, you have to always keep the words of the storytelling simple. Avoid jargons and terms that will throw your listeners off balance. Using words that they will not comprehend is the same as not communicating with them at all.

There you have it! Above are some insightful tips on how to utilize storytelling to get internal buy-in from stakeholders on projects. Storytelling is a proven technique for businesses to sell their project ideas to internal stakeholders to buy-in. They are extremely powerful in the hands of business leaders that know how to utilize them. When next you want to engage internal stakeholders to understand your project ideas and take action, consider telling them a story.

December 16, 2019

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