Master storyteller Doug Keeley was a featured speaker at a large national sales meeting some years ago when he noticed how miserable everyone was feeling. \u201cMorale was horrible,\u201d he recalls. \u201cThere was a new leader taking over, and her opening keynote had bombed. Everyone thought this CEO was cold and lacking empathy.\u201d\n\nThe only way to turn it around, Keeley was convinced, was to get the CEO back on stage for a more personal conversation. So, he asked her to talk about a time when she had dealt with a difficult challenge.\n\n\u201cHer story was maybe five minutes long,\u201d says the author of The Mark of a Leader. \u201cBut she was able to be vulnerable in front of her people. It made everyone realize that she understood what they were feeling, too. That short story completely changed the mood in the room.\u201d\n\nThe founder of Stories Rule!, based near Toronto, Keeley has worked with scores of Fortune 500 companies and CXOs, teaching them how to turn storytelling into a strategic business communication tool. \u201cThere are three ways that human beings communicate\u2014with assertions, with facts, and with stories,\u201d he says. \u201cAssertions are statements or opinions. Facts are the numbers, the data. Stories are the telling of an event or a series of events. They connect with people emotionally.\u201d\n\nSenior executives in some industries\u2014technology, finance, and pharmaceuticals\u2014are most comfortable making assertions and sharing facts, Keeley notes. \u201cThose businesses are very numbers- and science-based, so the communication tends to be left-brained. What\u2019s often missing is any emotional connection.\u201d\n\nAfter watching Keeley\u2019s formidable storytelling talent in action at a recent tech leadership conference, I caught up with him to learn more about the enduring power of storytelling, how CIOs can sharpen those skills, and the four types of stories all IT executives should be ready to tell.\n\nMaryfran Johnson: What has changed most about business storytelling in recent years?\n\nDoug Keeley: When I started my speaking business in 2004, the dominant subject was leadership, and I used stories as a way to talk about that at conferences. Back then, business people thought storytelling was \u2018woo woo\u2019 stuff. Their general attitude was \u2018We\u2019ve got numbers to hit! There\u2019s no time for woo woo!\u2019 That\u2019s changed significantly today, not just from the impact of Covid but from the challenge of attracting and retaining great talent. The leadership challenges around empowering people and communicating effectively have become much more extreme. Storytelling is really about communicating. If you\u2019re a manager or anyone in a leadership position, a crucial part of your job is getting the best out of your people. One of the most powerful skills in doing that is communication.\n\nHow can CIOs make their stories more memorable or likely to have an impact?\n\nThe most important thing to understand is that all stories are about people. They have emotional resonance because they establish a connection to others. So, you make any story about the impact it\u2019s having on people, not on the technology, the data, or the change. \u2018Change\u2019 is just an abstract noun. What\u2019s going on with the people the change is happening to? That\u2019s where you focus. That could be another IT person you\u2019d identify with, or an end customer who\u2019s going crazy trying to solve a technical issue. I\u2019m talking about short, 2- to 3-minute verbal stories here. Not the \u2018hero\u2019s journey\u2019 or big OMG stories.\n\nWhat kind of stories should IT and business leaders be able to tell?\n\nThe four main story types that leaders need to tell are personal stories, customer success stories, employee-values-in-action stories, and perspective stories.\n\nHow do you build and track a mental library of all these types of stories?\n\nWe all have stories to tell, but you have to consciously think about them. What happened? How did it change or influence who you are today? Get a capture or save tool, like Evernote or OneNote or the free MemLife app. Write the story details down in bullet form: where\/when\/who\/what happened? Add details that help you see and feel it. Use strong adjectives and adverbs. Work backwards from the point\u2014every story needs a point!\u2014then edit and rehearse how you\u2019ll tell it. Your goal is to make the listener feel what it\u2019s like to be there.\n\nWhat other storytelling resources do you recommend?\n\nThere\u2019s a storytelling community at network.storiesrule.ca. You\u2019ll find tons of tips, stories, and videos there. I\u2019m also licensed as one of about 60 storytellers worldwide to deliver workshops and training programs from Anecdote.com, which also shares a lot of great free resources.\n\nThis article originally appeared in CIO's Career Strategist newsletter. Subscribe today!