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How to Tell a Great Story

https://hbr.org/2014/07/how-to-tell-a-great-story#

hbr.org

How to Tell a Great Story
We tell stories to our coworkers and peers all the time - to persuade someone to support our project, to explain to an employee how he might improve, or to inspire a team that is facing challenges. It's an essential skill, but what makes a compelling story in a business context?

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Stories create “sticky” memories

...by attaching emotions to things that happen. That means those who can create and share good stories have a powerful advantage over others.

Facts and figures and all the rational things that we think are important in the business world actually don’t stick in our minds at all.

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Start with a message

First, settle on your ultimate message; then you can figure out the best way to illustrate it.

Every storytelling exercise should begin by asking: Who is my audience and what is the message I want to share with them? 

Each decision about your story should flow from those questions. 

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Use personal experiences

The best storytellers look to their own memories and life experiences for ways to illustrate their message. 

Think of a moment in which your own failures led to success in your career or a lesson that a parent or mentor imparted.

There may be a tendency not to want to share personal details at work, but anecdotes that illustrate struggle, failure, and barriers overcome are what make leaders appear authentic and accessible.

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Don’t make yourself the hero

You can be a central figure, but the ultimate focus should be on people you know, lessons you’ve learned, or events you’ve witnessed.

The more you celebrate your own decisions, the less likely your audience will connect with you and your message.

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Highlight a struggle

Good storytellers understand that a story needs conflict. A story without a challenge simply isn’t very interesting.

Don’t be afraid to suggest the road ahead will be difficult. We actually like to be told it’s going to be hard,” followed by "but if we all pull together and hang in there, we’ll achieve something amazing in the end."

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Keep it simple

Not every story you tell has to be a surprising, edge-of-your-seat epic. Some of the most successful and memorable stories are relatively simple and straightforward. 

Don’t let needless details to detract from your core message. Work from the principle that “less is more.” One of the biggest mistakes you can make is putting in too much detail of the wrong kind.

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Dos and Don'ts in storytelling

Do:

  • Consider your audience: choose a framework and details that will best resonate with your listeners.
  • Identify the moral or message you want to impart.
  • Find inspiration in your life experiences.

Don’t:

  • Assume you don’t have storytelling chops: we all have it in us to tell memorable stories.
  • Give yourself the starring role.
  • Overwhelm your story with unnecessary details.

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SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Storytelling and reading

Storytelling and reading

Reading to your children is an indispensable tool. Storytelling goes hand-in-hand with reading to help children develop language and story comprehension.

Research show...

Remember the basics of storytelling

Every story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Every story should also include a conflict and a resolution.

If you need a bit of help, folk tales can be an excellent source material to save you the mental effort of coming up with an original story. Stories from "Aesop's Fables" such as "The Tortoise and the Hare" enable children to visualize the characters and relate to them, and the morals are things any kid can understand. Also consider telling your own stories, particularly from your childhood, as they have a special resonance with your children.

Take the story in an unexpected direction

When telling a story, use pitch, pacing, and pausing to keep your child hanging on your every word.

  • Pauses create suspense and curiosity. You can use strategic pauses to let your child think of what will happen next, and then let the story take an unexpected turn.
  • Voice is so important. In a story, you can vary the rhythm, pitch, intonation, you can speedup your words, or you can slow... down... your... words. You can move your voice up or down.

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Closing A Hiring Pitch

Bring the hiring pitch home with personal stories that show how people authentically live out your company’s mission. Pixar’s films often start from a real, personal story.

Your company’s big-picture mission might be inspiring, but it’s not necessarily personal. You can make it more personal by peppering your pitches with personal anecdotes about ways that you’ve changed.

Feeding Interest With The Promise Of Change

After you’ve hooked your audience/candidate, you need to catch their attention and get the story moving by animating it with change and transformation. In Pixar’s movies, that change isn’t just about reversals of fortune—they’re about personal transformation.

Great stories promise to change the life of the protagonist who we imagine ourselves to be, if not our own. In light of that, recruiters should focus on how candidates’ lives will change—not just their day-to-day tasks, but also how the new role will change the way they feel. 

Purpose of storytelling

In the workplace, storytelling serves as an essential, powerful tool for effective communication.

It gets people excited around an idea, or a value, or perhaps some drier information t...

Make your story personal

Great stories reveal a piece of yourself.

Ask yourself:

  • What makes you care about the work that you do?
  • What part of you outside of your work is present inside of that world?
  • If in financial services, for example, what is it behind the numbers and data that are at the emotional core of your work?

Show passion when you're telling a story

The story needs to have stakes without being necessarily significant.

Ask yourself: What gets you excited about what you’re talking about? Why do you care?