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How to Tell a Great Story

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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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

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.

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.