Looking for smart ways to get ahead in your business? Ask any executive coach for advice. The answer may shock you. “Use the power of visual storytelling.” Read on to find out exactly how visual stories are the secret to grow your business.

A few years back, I interviewed ‘John,’ a Director of Sales Training at a prominent company in Houston. ‘John,’ was a no-nonsense, down to earth leader. Here’s the moment that stood out from his long career. “The presenter told a story about a tomato plant. He drew a picture of the tomato growing while he talked. As he did this—it had to have been over 30 years ago, something clicked. I decided that sales training was just like planting. I decided to be a ‘gardener’ focusing on growing skills—to build a strong a fruitful garden.”

John is not alone in responding to visual storytelling. Research from Stanford University and Wharton Business School confirms: 64% of people make instant decisions with visual stories. That’s a huge percentage!

No wonder the phrase ‘visual storytelling’ is popping up in all kinds of places. In business journals, conferences, book titles, and presentation skills trainings. More and more organizations are suddenly paying attention to something that many leaders have known for a long time.

When you tell a powerful story and link it to a picture, you’re appealing to the whole brain. You’re activating the right and left sides of the brain. This helps you create a positive and receptive environment for planting new ideas.

Is the ‘tomato’ the best metaphor for your topic? Maybe. Maybe not.

What’s the best metaphor for your presentation, sales pitch or training? Here are my top favorite tips for picking a metaphor that will connect with your audience.

1. Keep An Open Mind
As you’re planning your presentation, keep an open mind. Stay receptive to different ideas. Allow time to incubate and reflect. Often the perfect metaphor will appear, seemingly without effort.

2. Don’t Fall In Love
Once you hit on a great metaphor, it’s easy to fall in love. But, it’s very important that you don’t. Your first metaphor may make sense to you—but be obtuse or vague for your audience.
That’s why it’s important to stay open and not grab at the first idea that shows up.

3. Get Input
Gather up the different ideas and options you’ve come up with. Share them with your peers and your executive coach. Ask for objective and candid feedback. Other people are likely to see nuances that may not have been obvious at first.

4. Create Universal Appeal
The true appeal of a metaphor is that it will have universal resonance. In other words, everyone hearing your story will instantly ‘get it.’ They won’t have to struggle or work hard. They’ll see and hear your story, and it will ring true.

This often takes work and a strong willingness to adapt your metaphor so it has this ultimate effect.

5. Test and Refine
Naturally, you’ll test out your metaphor by telling and showing your story to individuals and groups. When you do this, look for a variety of people in your audience.

What works well for friends and neighbors, may be a bust in front of a formal professional crowd. Keep testing and refining until you have a solid visual story that works for your target clients and prospects.

See, it’s entirely possible to take a step-by-step approach to building a powerful metaphor that’s perfect for your topic, audience and situation. With the right story, it’s easy to open minds and transform people. Who knew business storytelling could be so simple?

Author's Bio: 

Milly Sonneman is a recognized expert in visual language. She is the co-director of Presentation Storyboarding, a leading presentation training firm, and author of the popular guides: Beyond Words and Rainmaker Stories available on Amazon. Milly helps business professionals give winning presentations, through Email Marketing skills trainings at Presentation Storyboarding. You can find out more about our courses or contact Milly through our website at: http://www.presentationstoryboarding.com/