How to Tell A Story

storytellingThese days, you cannot hope to keep an audience listening to you if you don’t include stories. Businesses are full of stories; how the product was designed, how the founders started, what the market wants ….. You just have to know how to tell it. Here is the essential guide.

  1. Plan your story starting with the takeaway message. Think about what’s important to the audience. The ending is the most important point of the story. This is the message we want to deliver, and the one that will linger with the audience.
  1. Keep your stories short for the workplace. Three to five minutes long is about what people can digest in today’s ADD world.
  1. Good stories are about challenge or conflict. Without these elements, stories aren’t very interesting. The compelling part of a story is how people deal with conflict–-so start with the people and the conflict.
  1. Think about your story like a movie. Imagine you are screenwriter with a goal to get your message across. The story has to have a beginning, middle, and end
  1. Start with a person and his challenge, and intensify human interest by adding descriptions of time, place, and people with their emotions.
  1. Be creative. A good story always has ups and downs, so “arc” the story. Pull people along, and introduce tension, just like in a fairy tale. (“From out of nowhere, the wolf jumps onto the path…”)
  1. Intensify the story with vivid language and intonation. Tap into people’s emotions with language. Use metaphors, idioms, and parables that have emotional associations.

Most of us have not told stories in front of an audience since English class in high school. So you will need to practice.


It’s all in the Story….

You can get over both information and experience in a more compelling way if you turn it into a story.Watching skilled speakers will show you how that works on you as a listener.

Here are the basic tips to get you started.

1. Don’t report information. Rather turn it into a story.

Here’s an example.

A report would tell us that Alan Smith is the CEO of an internet security startup, while a story might say with “Alan was sitting in a college seminar one day when he saw the gap in the market that his startup was going to fill.”
If you feel you need to stay with a report format a possible solution is to combine it.
This may be made up of both a factual report and story elements :
• Narrative start – an introductory story
• Factual details – the report
• Narrative End – go back to the story .

2. Collect telling details.

Give the details of the scene. Imagine you are describing the first few shots of a movie. Say wht you saw, heard, felt.

“I had just arrived in the office on Friday morning on a boiling day in August at the end of a very difficult week when I first saw the email that we were to go through another reorganization. I was feeling …..”

3. Pick out the human angle or an interesting facet.

“I was talking to a client last week who told us that this solution means he has more time to volunteer for the community project the company is doing.”

4. Generate suspense with a question or a dilemma.

Which is more compelling?

We were wondering when to introduce localized versions of the product.
Within months IT people from around the world were getting in touch with us to ask us when it would be available in Indian, Chinese, so the question is how do we approach those markets….”

5. Give your story a human voice.

Try and make the language you use sound like they came from a real person.
Quote them directly (the actual words they said) rather than indirectly.
Jane told us that the program was good.
I bumped into Jane on the way to lunch last week and she said “Great work. The program is exactly what we want.”

6. Use rich and vibrant language

Enjoy putting together your stories and express yourself in the most interesting and textured way possible.

Here is a good example of that which uses an interesting combination of lyrical and everyday language.

Bono: Introduction The Book of Psalms ( Pocket Canons)
At the age of 12, I was a fan of David. He felt familiar, like a pop star could feel familiar. The words of the psalms were as poetic as they were religious, and he was a star. Before David could fulfil the prophecy and become the king of Israel, he had to take quite a beating. He was forced into exile and ended up in a cave in some no-name border town facing the collapse of his ego and abandonment by God. But this is where the soap opera got interesting. This is where David was said to have composed his first psalm — a blues. That’s what a lot of the psalms feel like to me, the blues. Man shouting at God.

Presentation Design: The Latest Word

Has the world got it yet? Have we all got it that when it comes to presentations – and particularly PowerPoint – that less is more?

Less presentations

Less slides

Less text

Less stuff on the slides


More thought

More creativity

More images.

Here are the links to the sites of two of the design gurus who are spreading the word.

Nancy Duarte

Garr Reynolds

Great Speakers 2: Carly Fiorina

Carly Fiorina, ex Hewlett Packard CEO, was known as one of the most powerful business women in the world. Whatever people think of her decisions in management, she is often called a great speaker.

Listen to her use of voice, and feel the emotional impact of using simple language to talk about complex truths. This is an example of business communication eloquence – a rare thing.