Colleen Henderson and the company she runs with her long-time friend and business partner, Abigail White, are truly unique. When asked what she does for a living, Colleen responds, “I co-own a storytelling company.” The company is called Perfect Pitch. But, whenever people ask, “What’s a storytelling company,” Colleen gives them her pitch.
“We help businesses be great by helping them tell, sell and live their story,” Colleen explains. “For the tell side of the business, if you’re a CEO promoting your business to investors, an engineer pitching a project or new technology to management, or a sales representative giving a presentation at a conference, we help those people tell their stories in a way that is going to captivate and move people.”
To explain the rest of Perfect Pitch’s Tell Sell Live tagline, Colleen explains, “If you’re going to tell and sell that story, then you better be living that story.” While Colleen is focused on the storytelling side of the business, Abigail heads up Perfect Pitch’s leadership development services that enable organizations to live their story.
It all started with snoring
With a degree in journalism, Colleen first began a career in publishing. One day while giving a sales presentation to a major client, she heard something that would change her working life forever. “I was fifteen minutes into my presentation when I heard this horrible, rumbling sound. I couldn’t believe it, someone at the back of the room had fallen asleep and was snoring!”
Sure, Colleen was instantly annoyed, but not at Mr. Sleepy, Colleen was annoyed at herself. “I had always thought I was a good presenter and public speaker. I was so annoyed that I told myself I would never let that happen again.” But, a few months later when people started nodding off during a presentation given by her then-CEO, Colleen remembers thinking, “It’s not just me putting people to sleep, this is an epidemic in business.” But Colleen’s journalism training told her that presentations could be made powerful through story.
Trading chocolate for clients to start Perfect Pitch
Colleen and Abigail were working at the same consulting practice when they decided to create Perfect Pitch. “We didn’t have clients yet, so Abigail and I loaded our bags with Kit-Kat bars and walked into the lobby of every office building downtown. We needed to connect with the heads of training and development, so we wrote down the name of every company and the floor they were on. Our plan was to give a Kit-Kat bar to every receptionist who was at all kind to us. It worked, we generated interest and we got some of our first clients.”
Making storytellers, sellers and leaders
Colleen has seen the transformation that happens when people incorporate storytelling into their work. “For our technical clients like investment analysts, scientists, and engineers, it’s like they finally have permission to communicate in a way that makes their content interesting and engaging.” Many professionals are drowning in data and have largely been trained to present it in a linear information dump. But, when Colleen shows them how to use the power of story, she sees the transformation, “They get excited because they see how they can not only communicate the data, but also the meaning.”
Colleen remembers one accounting executive dreading his annual tax presentation, “Colleen,” he sighed, “it’s tax. It’s just so boring.” But, by the time he finished his session with Colleen, he had his story and he was excited to get up and present. “His ability to communicate meaning and his enthusiasm were the key to making his information stick,” Colleen said, “That’s the power of storytelling.”
3 things to know about storytelling
Colleen Henderson knows a lot about storytelling, but she wants us to know these three things:
#1 We’re all storytellers
Each of us is already a storyteller. We already do it. We all have stories to tell and we all have stories to tell about the work we do.
#2 Storytelling is here to stay
Storytelling is not an ancient way of communicating that we are evolving away from. It’s not being made irrelevant by technology. Storytelling is a sophisticated form of communication, and when we’re telling stories, our brain is hard at work organizing information in a way that a computer just can’t.
#3 People want to hear your story
We are all craving a good story. Everyone wants to hear information in the form of a story, whether they are aware of that desire or not. The world’s best presenters, and many of our most successful coworkers and leaders, have mastered the art and science of storytelling.
Long, twisting journey
“I came from a journalism background and I always thought I’d be a foreign correspondent,” Colleen recalls. “I saw myself reporting from the front lines of the latest, global conflict. As my career progressed into very different directions, I always questioned the path I was on. Now I know that, had I actually become that famous reporter, I don’t think I would have had the same impact as I have now with Perfect Pitch. Now, I watch people transform and that excites me.”
Perfect Pitch is growing, and Colleen is working on a new book that will bring her storytelling framework to a larger audience. “I’m happy to follow my journalist’s nose to see where my career takes me. It hasn’t been a straight line. It’s been a long, twisting journey and it’s given me great stories to tell.”
Do you use stories to present your facts and figures? Maybe you use stories to inspire your team members and audiences? How has it worked? Any tips for us? Please let me know by leaving a comment, below. Or, you can connect with me and comment on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Also, please share this article with your family, friends and coworkers.