How to Tell a Great Story

Dana  Larson

November 04, 2015

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Persuasion is the driver of business. Whether it’s convincing a customer to buy your product or service, or selling your idea internally to whomever holds the purse strings. At some point, you’ll need to persuade someone to buy what you’re selling or agree with your way of thinking. The ability to tell a great story can be an indispensable tool in your arsenal.

We’ve been storytellers for millions of years.

Ever since the Neanderthal days, people have used stories to help deal with the angst of life, and as a way to overcome barriers and build long-lasting bonds between people. It’s no coincidence that all great stories highlight the dark side and then uncover the way to the light. We all crave that human connection of having struggled and beat the odds to come out victorious. Stories are what drive an $88 billion1 global film industry. Sharing them is the primary reason that 73% of the U.S. population2 has a social network profile. And, research3 has shown that stories are what we remember over facts and figures.

Six basic steps to being a good storyteller:

Clearly, stories are popular and powerful. Incorporating them into your content marketing seems like a natural step. But to be successful, you must be a good storyteller. Good storytellers have the power to transport people to another place and time. Following are some basic storytelling principles:

1. Know what you want to say/what your message is before you start writing.

Just as you know where you want to go before you pull your car out of the driveway, you must know where your story’s going before you start writing. This helps you plot the best path forward. Think of the possible stops you could make along the way. Consider which storytelling route will be most scenic and memorable. Provide clues but don’t give away the ending.

2. Know and understand your audience.

Good storytelling starts by knowing something about your audience. Ideally, you’ll use that bit of inside knowledge to hook your audience and to identify what may or may not be appealing. This is actually a little easier to do in business because you’re working with prospects that have an intention of connecting with you. That means you likely have some clues to what they desire (your product, perhaps…). Use data to guide your story development. 

3. Find the pain point, the antagonistic view.

Simply giving your audience all of the answers doesn’t necessarily make for good storytelling. You need to build some suspense. You’ve got to introduce the antagonistic view, show some conflict. People relate to humanity, in both their personal and business lives. We all root for the underdog at some point. We want to see others succeed and overcome just as we’d like to see ourselves succeed. There must be a turning point. 

4. Focus on a relatable character(s).

If your audience doesn’t relate to the character(s) of your story, then you won’t have an audience. This is where knowing and understanding your audience is especially useful. Beyond that, you should ask yourself, “Is my character relatable? Is this character approachable? Do I care about this character?”

5. Deliver an authentic view into the problem.

Don’t give in to the temptation to gloss over the details and jump from the conflict to the resolution. Give people an authentic view of the problem and the struggle required to overcome it. The small details are what make the story stand out as unique and genuine. 

6. Resolve with the message you identified at the start.

Everything has been building to this moment—the big reveal. Knowing what you’re building enables you to craft every step, every plot point of the story to support the perfect resolution.  If you follow these six basic steps, you’ll be well on your way to creating stories that will capture attention, win hearts and engage audiences. 

1 http://www.statista.com/topics/964/film/

2 http://www.statista.com/topics/1164/social-networks/

3 http://women2.com/2013/05/07/the-power-of-stories/