Circle Up

Circle Up

What’s the difference between storytelling and corporate communications?

Some of the earliest human stories were told around a campfire. We continue this tradition today with bon fires and camping trips. In one way, a campfire is a simple, quiet place to unplug from technology and connect with people by sharing stories and experiences. On a more literal level, it’s a circle. And, like the famous Round Table, it’s a circle with no head or foot, no leader who sits above others. Any individual can tell a story. Anyone in the circle can listen, engage, and return the volley of conversation.

The modern workplace also has campfires. We congregate around the water cooler or copy machine to chat, connect, and pause. We have roundtable discussions where attendee participation is essential to an in-depth, “well-rounded” look at the topic at hand. Many business decisions are made over coffee or a round of golf. These circular discussions lie in stark contrast to shareholder meetings, presentations, corporate memos, and other one-way communication methods where participation is limited to a Q & A at the end.


Storytelling is a conversation, not a presentation.

Bill Baker of BB&Co notes that storytelling in this roundtable fashion is characteristic of great leaders. Steve Jobs was famous for engaging his audiences through storytelling and collaboration-once going so far as to prank call a Starbucks with the 4000 people he was speaking to. Baker explains that storyteller leaders engage and empower others, are vulnerable, truthful, trustworthy, and strategic. Your association can be a storyteller leader, too.

To truly inspire others, we can’t communicate from the top down-from the head of the table, if you will.

This circle approach is what separates storytelling from corporate communications.

It encourages connectivity and storymaking, participation and feedback, and a whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts. It could mean the difference between inspiring your base to action and missing attendance numbers this year.

What’s your association’s campfire? How will you fuel the fires of inspiration, conversation, and connectivity?

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