A Refresher on Storytelling 101

SchrammHere is an excerpt from an article written by JD Schramm for Harvard Business Review and the HBR Blog Network. To read the complete article, check out the wealth of free resources, obtain subscription information, and receive HBR email alerts, please click here.

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At bedtime, I tell stories to my godchildren, Anna and Noah, when their parents invite me to care for them. Their capacity for stories amazes me. They beg for “just one more” and then “just one more.” It seems we are wired to enjoy a well-told story.

And as we grow up, we do not lose our thirst for stories. I work with future leaders at Stanford to help them develop compelling stories that achieve their management goals — and I’ve developed a seven-part formula for storytelling success in presentations and business meetings.

[Here are the first three of seven.]

Parachute in, don’t preamble.
The best storytellers draw us immediately into the action. They capture our attention and set the tone for a unique audience experience. Avoid opening with “I’d like to tell you a story about a time when I learned…” Instead, drop us into the action and draw the lesson out later.

Choose first and final words carefully. We never get a second chance to make a good first impression. One needn’t memorize the story, but great leaders know the first and final words cold … and can deliver them without hesitation. Take advantage of the impact of a powerful opening and conclusion.

Follow the “Goldilocks” theory of details. Give us “just the right amount.” If you give too many details, we get lost, or worse, bored. If you don’t give us enough detail, we may lack the context to grasp the story fully or to see ourselves inside your tale. If possible, test out your story with a few friends who have a similar background to your audience; let them help you discern the right level of detail.

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Here’s a direct link to the complete article

JD Schramm, Ed.D., the class of 1978 Lecturer in Organizational Behavior at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business teaches a wide variety of communication courses. Follow him on Twitter @jdschramm or connect via LinkedIn. To check out more blog posts by JD Schramm, please click here.

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