The New Seven Story Must-Haves

April 18th, 2011

Heard any good stories lately? Chances are you have and for good reason. They work.

Good storytelling is fast becoming the new secret weapon of top communicators — for everything from sales presentations to delivering bad news in the board room.  In fact, audiences retain up to seven times the information shared via a story versus statistics.

Delivering stories worth spreading is a natural human art form. It requires the fundamental elements of good narrative – a setting, strong character development, rising and falling action, a climax and a resolution.  How is it you can still remember a 20-minute story told to you at age eight by your Pop Pop, but can’t remember what’s on slide 16 of your own board presentation? It’s easy. Narrative.

Seven Story Must-haves

But what is a story?  A story (or narrative) is a vivid presentation of information that plays on the self-identity, memory and meaning-making of an audience.

New research suggests a story creates “mirror neurons” that actual forge a connection between the teller and the audience.  But not all stories work the same way.

Based on our experience and research, we have developed the following criteria for effective story. To help you remember all seven, just remember the word: NARRATE.

  1. Novelty – A story must offer something new and different.  It must violate the expectations of the audience and deliver something in a new way.
  2. Authenticity – Stories can’t be faked.  They must be true and representative of the teller, the brand and of the experience.  It doesn’t mean you need actual names, but you should use real scenarios based on real events.
  3. Relevant – Stories for story sake are a waste of time.  The best are meaningful to the audience in a way that helps them understand a new concept or adopt a new behavior or belief.
  4. Rich Detail – Rich detail is the rocket fuel for stories.  It includes the information on who the characters are, what they saw, smelled, heard or felt.  It is the key narrative ingredient that allows audiences to see and feel what the storyteller is seeing and feeling.  It doesn’t mean stories have to be long; they just need enough information to allow the audience to put themselves in your mental movie.
  5. Acts – Unlike piles of data points or bullets, good stories have a beginning, middle and end.  Think about your own presentations.  How do they begin and end?
  6. Tension – Conflict is one of the basic requirements of good narrative.  Rich stories create a rising and falling tension for the audience that helps them connect with the data in ways they remember and act on.  Without tension, you’ve got bullets that just sit there.  Presentations without conflict are forgotten the moment they are delivered.
  7. Engagement – Good storytelling is a two-way street.  The teller must continually mine the audience for cues and feedback that helps the delivery of the story.  This is best accomplished by having a personal commitment to the story.  As we like to say, if the teller doesn’t “feel it,” the audience never will.

Stories in Action

Great examples are everywhere.  One of the most recent is from the 106 year old cobblers, Red Wing Shoes.

Recently they launched a video marketing campaign that tells their story, showcasing their rich heritage, where they have come from to where they are now.  People like hearing a good story. The videos proved the point, with over 60,000 views to date.

The series of videos tells a story, while emphasizing their company culture and customer appeal.

While telling their story, Red Wing is simultaneously spreading their branding platform, a homegrown company that is passionate about what they do. Through their video stories they show that they are different from the competition and give visuals that prove they are who they say they are, making their story worth spreading.

Find the missing element: Is there something missing from our model?  Leave a comment and we’ll make you a Story Hero!

Posted Under: Storytelling
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One Response to “The New Seven Story Must-Haves”

  1. Doug says:

    Keep telling stories and the story of success will start to write itself.
    Great ideas.

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