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Communicate for Impact with Leadership Storytelling

Not again! You’re sitting in yet another lengthy presentation, the room buzzing with whispered side conversations. You can see the soft glow of smartphones as people check their messages. A few people are starting to doze off.

This common scenario underscores a vital point: The way you communicate with others matters more than ever before. The above situation happens in workplaces around the world, every single day.

First, let me clarify something.

Talking and communicating are not the same – not even close.

While most of us can talk, mere talking often leads to disconnection. The audience may hear your words, but they may not grasp the bigger picture or how it affects them personally.

Communicating builds connection because it focuses on elements beyond the words that you speak. It includes things such as eye contact and actively listening to the audience.

The question is: Do you know how to communicate effectively? Communicating with impact is an entirely different concept than simply talking. In a world filled with 8 billion people, this skill is extremely rare.

Most people believe that words make a big difference when communicating. I’m here to open your eyes to two other variables that play a far more significant role in communication.


The 55-38-7 Rule

Professor Albert Mehrabian from UCLA pioneered numerous studies on the impact of communications. When we communicate meaning to others, the impact is divided as follows:

  • 55% - body language (facial expressions, gestures)

  • 38% - paralinguistic (the way words are said)

  • 7% - words that are spoken


55-38-7 rule of communicating impact
55-38-7 Rule of Communicating Impact

This rule reveals a surprising truth. The actual words you use are just the tip of the iceberg in communication. It's like when you talk to a friend and can tell they're upset just by their tone of voice or the look on their face, even if they're saying they're fine. In other words, it's often not what you say, but how you say it, and the expressions you use while saying it, that truly conveys your message to others.

Go back to the original situation I described in the opening except this time there is a twist. The speaker now communicates through a diversity of styles by incorporating vocal variety, pauses, facial expressions, emotion, and gestures. The audience is sure to be paying more attention to the speaker!


The Role of Leadership Storytelling in Communication

Storytelling is not only your greatest hidden superpower. It is an effective tool for communicating value – whether you are in a meeting, job interview, or other public gathering. In business settings, this value could be a solution to your customer's pain points or advice to guide and inspire teams.

The best part is that every one of us brings a unique style to the application of leadership storytelling. As you go through this journey, you will realize that some forms of storytelling (ranging from casual to formal) work best with certain audiences (including executives, customers, and internal teams). 

Your goal through storytelling is to impactfully deliver a message (value) to your audience. Remember, time is precious. Attention spans are getting shorter. We can't expect to receive undivided attention for more than a few minutes.


Here's how storytelling applies to the 55-38-7 rule:

 55% - Stories packed with emotion utilize a variety of body language including facial expressions and gestures.

 38% - Vocal variety pulls your audience into the story through volume, speed, pitch, tone, clarity, emotion, and use of silence or pauses.

 7% - 120-second stories maximize the impact in fewer words so that the audience follows along. 

Tips to Improve Impactful Communication with Storytelling

  1. Focus on simplicity. The audience can follow along better if you condense your points into concise soundbites of information.

  2. Adapt your message to resonate with different audiences. Make sure your stories convey a specific takeaway for each audience.

  3. Enhance paralinguistics and nonverbals. Improve the audience’s understanding of your message by incorporating vocal variety, emotion, gestures, and facial expressions.

  4. Practice. Practice. Practice.

  5. Record yourself. Take notes of things that stand out and build a plan to minimize glaring mistakes.

  6. Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Go outside your comfort zone by telling a story to your family or friends. Then practice in front of trusted colleagues.

  7. Continually reflect on the journey. This ride is filled with many ups and downs. Reflection is key to growth and gratitude.


Still not sure why storytelling is important? You want your audience to remember you and your message, don't you? Storytelling provides you with stickiness to captivate your audience’s attention and take them on a journey of personal and professional development. 


Embrace the art of leadership storytelling and transform how you connect and communicate with impact. Explore my services on my website, follow my LinkedIn page, or contact me at

David Ghodsizadeh is the founder and storytelling coach at Storytelling 4 Success.


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