Lead with a Story: 10 ways to move your stories from good to GREAT!


by Sheila K. on April 7th, 2015

Lead with a Story: 10 ways to move your stories from good to GREAT!
​Lead with a Story Part 2:

10 ways to take your stories from good to great!

Adults like stories—they offer authenticity, transparency, a way to relate in a human way to our leaders, our presenters, our colleagues.  Move beyond the narrative of your story’s details to create a scene or event for others to participate in.

Here are 10 ways to craft compelling stories:

1.    Begin with the end in mind—consider the point of the story for your specific listener BEFORE you begin. In other words, consider your “punchline,” the real impact you want your listener to realize based on the story.  It will help keep you focused and the story brief and to the point with a compelling finish.

2.    Don’t forget the context. My husband is notorious for launching into a story so excitedly that he forgets his listeners may be missing some critical details. If we don’t consider the characters, (people in the story) and the environment or circumstances precipitating this event, (context of the story) we may leave our listeners scratching their heads rather than listening or getting the point of our story.

3.    Know your audience.  The same story may be appropriate for different audiences but the context may need to change to ensure relevance. For example, when telling a story about how you dealt with an intense workplace security issue, the details you focus on may change depending on whether you’re talking to direct reports or your boss.

4.    Be intentional about “hooking” your listener with emotion. Research shows that people tend to make decisions based on feelings that inform action or emotion.  We can rationalize the decision later so it “feels” logical as we explain it to ourselves and others.

5.    Show; don’t tell the story.  Use all five senses to engage audiences in your stories.
According to John Medina in Brain Rules, Vision Trumps All Senses.  Vision is most important to creating memorable experiences for our listeners, so use graphics, color, real photos and then add sounds, smells, even tastes to help listeners recall their own stories making memorable connections.

6.    Keep it short and personal.  Work to develop stories that are short, concrete and relevant in order to immediately engage.  Try to find ways to allow the listener to guess the ending or insert the ending from their own experience which may, in fact, be more important in inspiring them to action.

7.    Insert silence strategically. Being silent while telling a story adds intrigue often leaving the listener on the edge of their chair waiting for the ending.  Use it for maximum impact!

8.    Integrate metaphors and analogies.  Metaphors can support; even increase the impact of a story.  Adult brains have already been encoded with entire stories connected to those words.

9.    Consider a treat…an unexpected surprise. The element of surprise triggers the release of adrenalin in the brain.  Listeners will pay more attention and retain more readily.

10.    You don’t have to own the story.  Consider the stories you hear from others—customers, colleagues, family members; even those you read about in the local news.  The stories of others often have more credibility. If they are relevant, timely and will “hook” your listeners, re-tell the story.  Be sure to give credit to the original storyteller.

Part 1 – Lead with a story, your unique leadership advantage