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MasterClass Insights

The Power of Storytelling for Financial Advisors

Use memorable stories to strengthen connections and communicate more effectively.

3 min read

Shira Springer is a Lecturer in Managerial Communication at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Her teaching and research focus on leadership communication, sports strategy, and storytelling. She’s also a journalist. Her columns, features, and essays appear in a variety of publications, including the Sports Business Journal and The New York Times. Her writing often addresses issues at the intersection of sports and culture, especially women’s sports and gender inequity.

Each year, our SPDR® MasterClass program draws on the know-how of experts like Ms. Springer to help advisors grow their businesses, keep pace with change, and better satisfy clients’ evolving needs.

As Ms. Springer said in a recent MasterClass, we make sense of the world through stories; they help us connect to each other, convey important ideas, and share core values. Here we share some of her storytelling insights, including what makes storytelling so powerful for advisors and tips for creating engaging and effective stories.

Storytelling Is a Superpower

Storytelling is fundamental to who we are as human beings. We use stories to communicate ideas and impart information, to influence people to believe in different concepts, and to connect on a deeper level with others. We use storytelling to make sense of the world and our place in it, and to communicate our values and cultural priorities.

Good storytelling is guided by a genuine purpose — your “why.” Your purpose is the reason your organization exists, the reason your product exists, or the reason you do what you do. Good storytelling is also a two-way exchange: it involves active listening and being able to inspire team members and clients to share their own stories to build stronger connections.

What happens when financial advisors combine their purpose with the power of storytelling?

You’re able to connect with clients and colleagues in more authentic, memorable, and meaningful ways. And, as a result, you gain the opportunity to communicate ideas, common goals, culture, core values, and product benefits more effectively and authentically. The simple truth: storytelling is a superpower.

What Makes a Powerful Story

Powerful stories share several characteristics — factors that can inspire you to binge watch a show or get lost in a book. The most powerful stories are:

  • Purposeful: There is a reason you’re telling the story. 
  • Repeatable: People need to be able to digest and pass on your story. 
  • Relatable: Your audience has the necessary context to connect with your story.
  • Immersive: The best stories transport listeners. 
  • Emotional: Your story moves people in some way.

3 Building Blocks to Effective Storytelling

Storytelling is a strategic process that always keeps the audience in mind. As you outline your story, think about how you can help your audience believe something, better understand something or take action in some way. Consider the purpose or objective of your story and what you hope the audience will take away.

Focus on three key building blocks to a compelling story (and guiding questions for each):

  1. Substance: What is in your story
    a) What core message do you want to convey?
    b) Why does (or should) your audience care?
    c) What scenes, anecdotes and vivid details will engage the audience and make your story memorable?
  2. Structure: How will you organize your story
    a) How will you hook your audience from the start?
    b) What happens in the middle? (Stories need action.)
    c) How will you end strong? (Endings offer opportunities to make clear or emphasize your core message.)
  3. Style: How will you deliver or write your story
    a) How will you use repetition, metaphors and/or rhetorical questions to keep your audience’s attention?
    b) How will you use pauses, vary your tone, volume or rhythm to sustain audience interest?
    c) How will you ensure you and your voice come through in your story? (Authenticity matters.)

As you refine your narrative, handle the details with care. Add vivid descriptions to immerse readers in the story and cut out details that don’t matter. Consider which details will help transport your audience without becoming overwhelming.

Most importantly, remember the root of storytelling: The desire to connect — and to make those connections as strong and memorable as possible.

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