1. Break it down
Breaking your story into three parts can be a helpful way to start: situation, complication and resolution.
Almost every story has this basic structure, from fairytales to business anecdotes. In fact, your story might only need to be three lines long, as long as it covers all three parts:
- The situation: what kind of environment or characters were you dealing with?
- The complication: what hurdles, challenges or problems did you face?
- The resolution: how did you fix things, and what did you learn along the way?
2. Use vivid language
Great storytellers pepper their stories with sensory details that spark the imagination. These details make us feel like we’re really there, right in the middle of the action.
Using vivid language and imagery will invoke the five senses of your audience. It paints a mental picture in their minds and making them more receptive to what you have to say. For example, when describing a product launch, you might say “The new prototype was Ferrari-red, with modules that clicked into place like a seatbelt into a buckle”.
3. Use metaphors and analogies to make ideas relatable
Do you go out of your way to break down highly technical, complex or scientific concepts into easily understood ideas? Metaphors and analogies can help make even the most complicated of topics relatable to an audience, by comparing the known to the unknown (or turning dry stuff into the more interesting material).
Here’s an example of a metaphor applied to the most basic business context: A fragmented business is like a leaky bucket; it may still work but you have to make a lot more trips to get your water. If your business is leaking money then you’ll have to sell more to keep up. It’s far easier to plug the leaks than to keep going back to the well.
4. Engage your audience with emotion
In business, speakers and presenters too often try to connect with people only on a rational level. While your audience may understand exactly what you want them to and why, they will only act on your message if they feel emotionally engaged.
As Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
If you’re telling a story about how you changed the company’s direction after misreading the market, describe the consequences of that mistake. Reveal how you felt when you realised things needed to change. Then talk of the frustrations of making those changes, and your joy and relief once they were implemented, as well as the positive impact they had on customers and employees.