There’s always an implicit contract between the storyteller and the audience. It includes a promise that the listeners’ expectations, once aroused, will be fulfilled. Listeners give the storyteller their time, with the understanding that it will be spent wisely. For most people in business, time is the scarcest resource. The storyteller who doesn’t respect that concept will pay dearly.
To meet the terms of this virtual contract, the great storyteller takes time to understand what the audience knows about, cares about and wants to hear. Then, he or she crafts the essential elements of the story to elegantly resonate with those needs. This starts where the listeners are and moves them along on a satisfying emotional journey.
Most good stories follow an organizational pattern, as do effective presentations. All good stories, no matter how short or how simple, share the same elements. This illustration shows the five essential parts.
Let’s take a look at questions related to each part to help you build your story.
- Provide an initial build up to the story
- Use concrete details
- Create a vivid image of the time, place and occasion of the storyAddress questions:
- Where and when does the story take place?
- Did anything important happen before the story began?
- What is going on?
2. Main Characters
- Bring your story to life with colorful and captivating wordsAddress questions:
- Who is in the story?
- What are their backgrounds?
- What do they look like and sound like?
- How do you want the audience to feel about them?
3. Obstacles Encountered
- Let the action build as you tell the storyAddress questions:
- What is happening?
- What did you or a character see, hear, feel, smell or taste?
- How are the characters reacting to what’s happening?
- Make sure you don’t leave the audience wondering about the character’s fateAddress questions:
- What’s the turning point in the action?
- How was the situation resolved?
- How do the characters react?
5. Lesson Learned
- Make all action lead to a discovery, decision or outcome.
- Show the audience how the character has grown or has responded to a situation or problem.
- Match the lesson to the audience’s set of values.
Think about the last movie you saw and truly enjoyed. You could easily answer every question I listed about that movie. This is most certainly by design!
A great storyteller never tells a story the same way twice. Instead, he or she identifies what is unique in each storytelling experience and responds fully to what is required. A story involving your company should sound different each time. You need to know the story well, so you can speak via stream-of-consciousness without losing focus.
You need to keep your stories brief and to the point, but be sure to include these basic components and vivid details.