The 6-step business storytelling structure that SELLS
Stories are powerful.
When my daughter was 4 years old, she asked for the same story every night for about 3 months. Surely she would get bored by it, but each night I read it to her and tried to bring the characters to life that little bit more. As I read it to her, I visualized it too, and I always noticed something different about the story each night I read it to her.
You don’t have to be a superhero to tell great stories, but you do need the right tools and techniques.
As leaders and public speakers, we all want our message to be powerful; for our story to be remembered, inspiring, and even life-changing. Here is a 6-step structure to create powerful stories that are not just remembered, but that will help you SELL.
Step 1: Set the scene
Your audience should be able to visualize where the story is taking place, who the main characters are, and what they look like. This is also the time to set the atmosphere which will influence the mood and timbre of your story.
You want your audience to feel instantly involved in your story, so place your audience in the scene with you using active language in the first person:
‘If you had been there….’
‘Imagine yourself with me now…..’
Step 2: Describe your characters
Stories need characters. They serve as the driving force and help your story to have a deeper, stronger, and emotional connection.
Your main character should be clearly defined. Close your eyes and visualize him/her from what they are wearing, the sound of their voice, how they stand and walk, etc. Now try to describe them as succinctly as possible.
To make your character relatable, you can compare them to someone your audience might know; their boss, a well-known industry figure, or even a celebrity.
“She had the demeanor of Meryl Streep; people seemed to instantly respect her.”
Step 3: Show the problem
The problem describes the conflict, struggle, and confrontation among the characters. It’s what really engages the audience because if you have researched your audience well, you should know what struggles and problems they can easily relate to.
What’s in your character’s way of getting what they want? This could be an emotional block, a circumstance, or it could be another person getting in their way with opposing values.
Step 4: Show the consequences
Consequences show the things that are at stake if the characters don’t take a certain action. They help to create tension in your story.
The consequences need to be strong enough so that the protagonist simply can’t walk away without taking action.
Your job as the storyteller is to raise the stakes along the way and create obstacles of increasing intensity and keep reminding the audience of the stakes.
Step 5: Resolve the problem
How is the problem going to be resolved? You could tie this in with the action you want your audience to take at the end of your speech.
Could you tie in what you want your audience to do, with the same action your characters took in their story?
Step 6: The outcomes
Finally, what is the result of your character taking action?
Focus on outcomes that go beyond just business value and think about how it can help them reach their personal goals too. What your audience really wants to know is how their personal lives will change as a result. They want hope, inspiration, and vehicles for change.