Tell stories

It's supposed to be Cinderella, right?

It's supposed to be Cinderella, right?

If you want to hold someone’s attention you need to tell a good story. It’s true for bedtime stories with your kids, anecdotes in the pub, or a presentation in the office. So, if you want to get your point across – or just keep everyone from falling asleep – then make sure you follow the basic rules.

A story consists of a beginning, a middle and an end. (My boys cover this in 4th grade – it requires a lot of homework for some reason.)

In the beginning you set the scene, painting a picture of the current situation. Perhaps a girl is treated badly by her older sisters, forced to clean the house and cook while they go out partying. Perhaps your product operates within a certain business landscape and delivers value to a segment of the market.

Then in the middle something happens – a crisis, monster or inner struggle.. Perhaps a fairy helps the girl go to the palace ball but she has to leave before the prince can get her name.. Perhaps the market has changed and your product no longer delivers value, perhaps your segment is saturated or your competitors have out manouvered you?

Finally, there is the end. By this point the reader or audience should be looking to you to provide the conclusion – if you’ve constructed your story well there should be a sense of dissonance and an outcome should be expected. Perhaps the prince tried the slipper and it fits, the girl is saved from her horrible sisters! Perhaps your new strategy which focuses on strengths highlighted during the beginning will allow you to beat your competitor or deliver value to a new segment of the market.

The story should flow well and each section should support the overall theme. Is it a comedy, a tragedy, a fairy tale? Is it presenting a new product, a change in strategy or a new business direction?

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, is it a good story? Does it make you laugh, cry, or at least smile? Does it make you reflect on yourself, your business or your purpose? If it’s not compelling then perhaps you shouldn’t be telling it at all?

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