Human beings have been telling stories for thousands of years. From cave paintings and fire-side chats to books and movies, we have come a long way.
The ways of communication have changed, but a story is still among the most effective formats to educate, entertain and inspire people.
Whether your goal is to sell your ideas to investors or allies, your skills to employers, or your products to potential customers, stories help you captivate your audience on a deeper level.
So this guide will help you craft and use stories in your communication that move people emotionally and sear your ideas into their memories.
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Why Is Storytelling So Effective?
Storytelling works simply because we’re wired to grasp information better when it’s conveyed through stories.
Research shows our brains are not naturally inclined to understand logic or memorize facts for a long time. But we are wired to comprehend and retain stories.
Stories release chemicals in our brains which trigger feelings of empathy and cooperation. It’s a neural mechanism nature installed in us to connect with other people.
As a result, storytelling can be used at every stage of your life, work or business. There will always be one situation or another where you need to persuade people for your cause, or when you want to get someone on your side.
In any or all of those cases, storytelling can help. It applies to a number of subject areas, including fundraising, marketing, branding, copywriting, recruiting, advertising, journalism, sales, job hunting, creative writing, business presentations, personal relationships and more.
Once a story has captured your audiences’ attention for long enough, it can do something that facts and figures alone can’t. Stories have the power to change attitudes and opinions, alter behavior or move us to tears.
Storytelling In Content
It can be challenging at first to incorporate storytelling in your speech, presentation, advert, video script, blog post or sales copy.
We’ve spent the majority of our careers without flexing the creative muscle. As a result, it has faded away from lying dormant.
So, to help you strengthen and employ your storytelling skills, here are the fundamentals of story structure. I’ve also included examples of successful stories that resonated with their audiences.
Define Story Theme
A good story revolves around a central message. You should be clear on the point your story is trying to make before moving forward.
For example, is your story selling a product? Raising funds? Revealing something about your brand or culture? Explaining a service? Advocating for a cause? Or highlighting an issue?
Consider Microsoft’s case study on Porsche and their integration with the Microsoft 365 productivity cloud.
It begins with mentioning that Porsche started as a family owned business, led by siblings Louise Piëch and Ferry Porsche.
This sentence adds a nice personal touch which helps readers connect with people behind the business.
Then, the fact tha Porsche now owns all Volkswagen Group brands clearly conveys how far the company has come since its launch.
It then states that family’s roots have a big role to play in the company culture. This directly ties in with their main theme of improving culture with the use of cloud technology.
In other words, there was a point to the story. It wasn’t just a random piece of information.
To help define the core theme of your story, try to summarize it in a sentence or two. If it’s not possible to do that, you don’t have a point.
Identify Key Characters
Every story has at least one character, who is someone your audience connects with. It could be you, your brand, a staff member, a partner, a member of your target audience, or even someone else.
What’s important is the main character be someone who your audience can relate to. Thoroughly describe the protagonist and explain what makes him similar to people in your target audience.
Establish The Context
The context refers to the way things are at present, or the initial setting where the events of the story takes place.
In The Hobbit, for instance, the context is the easy life that Bilbo Baggins is accustomed to, living in his comfortable hole in the ground.
Identify The Conflict
Stories are associated with overcoming challenges. There should be a goal and an obstacle to overcome in order to meet the goal. This combination of desire and hurdle makes up for a conflict.
For example, consider this story:
A princess fell in love with a poor farmer. Both of their parents approved of this love, and so did the whole kingdom. They got married and lived happily ever after.
Does this story move you in any way? Did it capture your attention or resonate with you?
Of course not. It’s because there is no conflict. The characters simply got what they wanted. Without a conflict, people will find it hard to relate to your story.
A common mistake people and brands make is to always try to show the perfect side of themselves, their skills or their products. They fear revealing any flaws.
But flaws are your friend. They introduce the much needed conflict for your audience to be able to resonate with your personal or business brand.
So be transparent about the adversity your or your company have faced and embrace them. The more honest and authentic you are about your shortcomings, the more respect you will gain.
Get Into Action
Now that you’ve introduced the conflict, the next step is to introduce the action your protagonist took, or the process followed, to resolve the conflict.
Walking prospects through the protagonist’s steps, thoughts and change process is crucial to make the story convincing. A great story will be practical and realistic about all the aspects that played a role in reaching the resolution.
In it, the conflict is staying motivated to keep building candles in the night. So the action she takes is dancing around her workshop.
End With Resolution
The resolution is about the outcome of how the protagonist handled the conflict, resulting in an emotional payoff. It signals not just the extrinsic change in circumstances, but also the impact and inner change in the protagonist as a whole.
For example, if a company went from being in debt to positive cash flow, of course it’s important to highlight the quantitative change in terms of numbers.
However, it’s equally necessary to cover what the company learned from this process, how it feels about what happened and how it operates differently as a result.
A good story has a satisfying closing. That’s not to say that it should always have a happy ending, but that the ending should make logical sense.
In other words, it should answer the questions or mysteries raised in the story. It should not leave the readers hanging.
Your story’s resolution wraps up the story, and leaves your audience with something to remember, consider and possibly act on.
Over To You
Storytelling is an art. It’s subjective and it’s not easy. But it’s worth mastering to get ahead in life, work and business.
Stories bring individuals together and trigger reaction and action. Today’s not just about the what, but also about the why. Storytelling helps you convey the why in an interesting manner. Plus, it’s more fun.
Did I miss anything? Did you try these tips? Do you have any questions or comments? Share your thoughts below in the comments section.