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How to Tell a Great Story

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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IDEA EXTRACTED FROM:

How to Tell a Great Story

How to Tell a Great Story

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

hbr.org

7

Key Ideas

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. 

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.

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.

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."

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.

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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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. 

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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?

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Three-Act storytelling structure
Three-Act storytelling structure

One of the oldest and most straightforward storytelling formulas:

  • Setup: Set the scene and introduce the character(s)
  • Confrontation or “Rising action” : Present a p...
Five-Act storytelling structure

Also known as Freytag’s Pyramid:

  • Exposition: Introduce important background information
  • Rising action: Tell a series of events to build up to the climax
  • Climax: Turn the story around (usually the most exciting part of the story)
  • Falling action: Continue the action from the climax
  • Dénouement: Ending the story with a resolution.
Before – After – Bridge storytelling formula
  • Before: Describe the world with Problem A.
  • After: Imagine what it’d be like having Problem A solved.
  • Bridge: Here’s how to get there.

Set the stage of a problem that your target audience is likely to experience ( a problem that your company solves). Describe a world where that problem didn’t exist. Explain how to get there or present the solution (i.e. your product or service).

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