We warmly welcome Adriana Richter as a new business member of Fondsfrauen. She is a so-called "story coach". In this interview, she tells us exactly what that is and how storytelling can help each of us in our lives. Adriana Richter is also a speaker and author. She won the Financial Education Award in 2022 and the Global Speak Off Award in 2023 in the USA.

Adriana, you are a storyteller. That sounds unusual... what do you do as a storyteller?
Als Storycoach bringe ich Menschen bei, eine Story so zu erzählen, dass man sein Ziel besser erreicht. Also beispielsweise den interessanten Job zu bekommen oder ein bestimmtes Produkt zu verkaufen. Es gibt ein Zitat von der amerikanischen Journalistin Soledad O’Brien: „If you know how to tell a story well, you can move people to do something.“ Und genau darum geht es doch in unserem Alltag, oder? Darum, Menschen zu etwas zu bewegen, das man gerne von ihnen hätte.

Where do you use storytelling, and why is it good to always have a good story on a topic?
For me, stories are the most human way of communicating with each other. We have been done it since the Stone Age. That's why our brain loves stories and remembers them 22 times better than facts. So no matter what you want to convey, use stories, it simply works better! It's best to have a small potpourri of stories in your quiver - each suitable for the situation.

Can you give an example of how you use storytelling?
For example, in a keynote speech. I put a lot of energy into finding and preparing my opening story, which then runs like a thread through my presentation. It makes it intuitively clear to my audience why the topic I am presenting is relevant to them. In the first few minutes, I create the basis for my audience to follow me throughout the rest of my presentation.

Kannst Du ein Beispiel für eine gute Geschichte geben, die Du mal verwendet hast?
I spent a long time looking for an opening story for my keynote speech at the Female Finance Congress. In the end, I chose my mum's financial story. This is very important to me: the stories have to be real. People have a sixth sense when a story is made up, and at some point you realise that.

You make me curious... What is your mum's story?
My mum was born in Colombia, the first of five siblings. She came to Germany as an au pair when she was 17 and the boy next door fell in love with her straight away. They got married, moved to Munich and had two children. My mum then trained as an interpreter and often sat up late at night at the typewriter. She always did well and in the noughties she bought the four-bedroom flat in Munich Schwabing where I grew up and where she still lives today.

She is now a very sprightly pensioner, plays tennis and dances flamenco. At the tennis club, people talk about how she can afford to live like this as an interpreter. Some even rumour: "She must be dealing cocaine!" - She comes from Colombia... In reality, she has simply taken her finances into her own hands all her life. And this is the message I convey to the audience with this story: no wonder, no drugs, but financial self-confidence makes it possible to live as freely as you want.

If you prepare yourself so well, doesn't that make it seem kind of run-of-the-mill?
For me, being well prepared is a sign of professionalism. The trick is to still give a rousing and inspiring performance. That's what I always admire about cabaret artists: they tour the whole country with a programme and every performance is spontaneous.

What else is important in a story, apart from the fact that it should be authentic?
It's important to get personal. I have to tell a story about a person that I also name. This can be myself, but also a person I know. Rather than "a migrant", it's better to say "8-year-old Esra from Ethiopia". We also need a heroine or a hero. "Give them a hero!" There is someone who had a challenge that they eventually overcame. From this, listeners draw their conclusions. People are more interested in people - not companies. That's why Tim Cook has twice as many followers as Apple.

How did you come up with the idea of becoming a self-employed storytelling coach?
I didn't actually want to become a storyteller, but made image videos in parallel to my financial consultancy to bring passion into the dry communication of the financial sector. In the process, I realised that there was even more interest in storytelling expertise.

But image videos, for which I also write the scripts, were a good school. That helped me to get to the heart of what I wanted to say. I had to plan how I would conduct the interview so that I could edit it into a 1:43 minute film that got the message across. In terms of communication, it was an elevator pitch situation.

Is storytelling particularly well suited to financial services? Or is it appropriate in every professional sector?
In principle, storytelling is right for every sector and for every type of communication. When we communicate as private individuals, we use storytelling all the time. Then we come into the office and suddenly stop communicating with emotion and empathy. Why is that?

Storytelling is particularly well suited to the financial sector because we are dealing with abstract products and everything is extremely data-heavy. We have to bring this unwieldy subject matter to life. In our private lives, for example, we talk enthusiastically about our new favourite Italian restaurant and how funny it was when Luigi showed the children how to shape the pizza dough. In the financial sector, we report that the Capricciosa was 23.7 cm in diameter, cost EUR 12.80 and the restaurant seats 72 people. I create more heart in my head - through storytelling.

Can't storytelling also have a manipulative effect, so that the listeners get annoyed because they feel "tricked"?
Not according to my understanding. For me, storytelling has to do with authenticity. If I stand behind something and tell a story about it, then I can be convincing and, in the best case scenario, move people. It has nothing to do with manipulation. Yes, storytelling is powerful, but it is also maximally authentic, which is why it is so motivating.

There are different personalities, which are also described by colours. Does storytelling work for all of them - including the so-called blue, i.e. rational types?
Yes, absolutely! Storytelling works for everyone. A blue person is also human and loves stories. But a "blue person" needs a shorter story or a story that contains facts, figures and data.

For example, the experiment with the flea market items, which I like to quote: The organisers bought 125 different junk items for an average of USD 1 and then re-listed them on ebay - only this time with a story for each item. And made 2700% more - just because of the stories.

Storytelling and numbers... do they go together?
Definitely! In the USA, there is the communications agency Duarte. They offer data storytelling and training for well-known companies. It's about putting numbers into context rather than delivering them naked. Corinna Valentine also confirmed this to me in my podcast "The Storyteller - Convince with Goosebumps Moments", which goes live in January 2024. As CFO at Fidelity, she always told stories about the data.

How do you become a good storyteller?
Of course, personality and personal talent play a small role. But if you consider the two main criteria of "getting personal" and the hero's journey, anyone can tell good stories with a little practice.

If there is only a certain amount of time or lines available: How much should the story make up, and how much should the facts that are actually to be conveyed?
A good number is a ratio of 3 to 30, i.e. 3 minutes of story to 30 minutes of topic. I think one at the beginning and one or two short anecdotes in between are suitable.

Is storytelling purely a marketing tool?
That's what I thought at first, but then I got into it and realised that storytelling can do so much more. Especially for self-confidence. I always say: "When you become aware of yourself, you also become 'self-confident'." This is particularly important for us women: 66% of all women say they have low or extremely low self-confidence. Personal storytelling does an enormous service for female empowerment. It's very easy and not as daunting as career coaching or personal branding. And yet it is at least as powerful. That's why more and more HR departments are booking my workshops for their young female managers.

What three tips would you like to give our readers at the end?
If you want to develop your personal pitch, follow these three steps:

  1. Ask a friend to read out your CV.
  2. Write a eulogy for yourself. In other words: write down which crises and challenges you have overcome and how.
  3. Shorten the eulogy to two minutes max.

Your core story for the elevator pitch is ready. You'll see: These three steps will boost your self-confidence.

Super - thank you for this great insight regarding storytelling!

Here you can find more information about Adriana Richter, and she will be giving a master class in storytelling at this year's Fondsfrauen Summit on 23 January.

Profilbild von Anke Dembowski

Anke Dembowski

Anke Dembowski is a financial journalist and author of various investment fund-related and other financial books. She is also a co-founder of the "Fondsfrauen" network.

Corporate Partners