When To Choose Between Stories Of Success Or Failure In A Corporate Setting

by | Apr 25, 2022 | Data Presentation, Presentation Skills

The importance of storytelling in a corporate setting

In one of our more popular recent articles, we delved into the topic of Corporate Storytelling, exploring the idea that data is soulless without a compelling story to go with it.

We looked at how, in the context of a well-crafted, well-delivered narrative, data can be transformed into something that your audience can understand and relate to on an emotional level.

Corporate storytelling is a powerful tool for influencing and persuading others, which is a key factor in cultivating and demonstrating Executive Presence (EP).

We’ve also seen recently how telling compelling stories is one of the hallmarks of effective leadership, bridging the chasm between you and your audience and which also requires elements of EP.

Bridging the chasm — in other words, taking your audience from Point A (where they are) to Point B (where you are) — is a complex process, particularly in corporate settings. And it’s a process that requires you to evaluate your audience and determine what is most likely to resonate with them.


What type of story should I use in a corporate setting?

When it comes to storytelling, there is an almost infinite array of options and choices available to you. What kind of story will be the most effective at bringing data to life? Will it be a story of success or a story of failure?

This is a crucial decision and one that only you can make.

To help you determine when a situation might call for one over the other, let’s take a look at each one in more detail.


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The case for using success stories in a corporate setting

Success stories are inspiring, uplifting, and motivating. People love success stories, particularly if the odds are stacked against the protagonist in some way.

Consider, for example, any Disney or Pixar film you’ve seen — the hero that you’re rooting for is almost always the underdog.


Instilling confidence

There are countless examples of entrepreneurs who succeeded despite a lack of education, finances, or experience, and reading their stories can truly inspire others to pursue their dreams. Stories like these make success seem attainable for anyone, instilling confidence and imbuing people with an ‘if they can do it, so can I’ mindset.

Most people are hesitant to pursue ideas or strategies if they aren’t sure that there is a high likelihood of success, so it can really spur them on when they hear that someone else has tried something and succeeded.

Success stories are powerful motivators, sowing seeds of possibility in our minds.



Take, for instance, a situation in which a child suffering from low self-esteem reads an interview with their favourite musician. In it, the singer speaks openly about their personal struggles and the challenges they faced on their journey to self-acceptance.

Knowing that one of their heroes had the same experience as them and went on to be incredibly successful in the child’s eyes, the child feels inspired and motivated to push themselves and try new things with an understanding that things will get better.

This might sound like an abstract example but the truth is that while we may grow up, the power of stories and the impact they can have on our motivation does not dwindle, and they can be incredibly powerful in a business and corporate setting once specifically crafted for each audience.


Building reputation

Finally, success stories can be used to build your reputation as someone who consistently delivers great results for your clients, your company or your team. Just always remember the golden rule – you are never the hero of your own story.


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The case for failure stories in a corporate setting

The best way to learn is through experience, and in this case, failure stories have a bit of an advantage. This is because the human brain is hardwired to focus on the negative rather than the positive, an evolutionary trait that would have helped our ancestors to survive. In their case, looking out for threats and paying attention to danger was a matter of life and death.

Nowadays, although there is no need for us to be on a constant high alert to survive, we still have a tendency to pay attention to bad news (while overlooking the good) in what is known as the ‘negativity bias’.

That is why a story of failure is more likely to elicit an emotional response from your audience.

Failure stories are all about making mistakes, suffering the consequences, and learning from your experience.

According to Robert Kaplan, a professor at Harvard Business School, reflecting on your failures will help you become a better leader. Though it may seem counterproductive at first, sharing a story of failure will make you more relatable to your audience. It shows that you understand the importance of learning from your own mistakes and those of others.


Failure is universal and it can be a powerful motivator

It also serves to bring out an inner strength, since it is a humbling experience to be vulnerable in front of others. Failing is a universal experience, and for that reason stories of failure can often resonate more with people. They can also increase your entrepreneurial spirit.

By learning from the ups and downs of other people’s journeys, we are less likely to repeat the same mistakes. In a corporate setting, this can be a powerful motivator for your audience.

There are times when stories of failure can provide a reality check, too. We’ve all heard stories of multi-millionaires who lost everything, proving that no matter how successful a person is, there are no guarantees in life.

If you want to give yourself the best chance of achieving success and holding on to it, remember these three things:

  • Be consistent and show up every day, even when you don’t feel like it
  • Remain humble and true to yourself
  • Never stop learning, growing, and investing in yourself


Success or failure – the deciding factor

When it comes to choosing a story of success or one of failure in a corporate setting, there is no clear-cut answer. Each one has its advantages and can work better in different situations.

In general, success stories are inspiring and motivating, but failure stories are more powerful teachers.

In the end, the right choice comes down to context. What kind of audience are you reaching out to? What do you want them to feel, think, or do afterwards?

Identifying these factors is the first step in determining what kind of story will work best. This will become easier over time as you develop your EP and hone your corporate storytelling and presentation skills.

With the right information and techniques in your EP toolkit, you will be able to craft a narrative that leaves a lasting impression on your audience every time.


Become an industry leader

At NxtGEN Executive Presence, we understand what it takes to be an industry leader and how much goes into inspiring your team on a daily basis.

That’s why we offer a range of executive-level presentation training programmes and corporate storytelling programmes designed to help you cultivate your Executive Presence.

Get in touch with us today to start learning how to lead with confidence in business and corporate environments.