Story Development Ideas

You have read, or heard me say, stories make a speech or sales presentation more interesting, memorable and ‘visual.’ Remember, your audience remembers what they ‘see’ in their minds more than the words you use. In my sales training I recommend you call your satisfied clients and interview them about their experience of doing business with you.

Follow this formula:

  • Situation – the problem they had before you did business together
  • Solution – what product, service or advice did you give that solved that problem
  • Success – how has their condition changed…in their words.

To customize your talks interview ‘heroes’ from your company if you are delivering an internal presentation, or from your client’s ‘heroes’ if they hired you to speak. When you interview your ‘hero’ start at the beginning of the incident they are telling you about. Get as many details as you need to make the story interesting. As Alfred Hitchcock said, “Movies are like life with all the dull parts left out.” Also, use as many of their words as possible. For example, when I was interviewing Nancy Albertson from Sprint about her simple idea that made Sprint $13 million dollars at the time I interviewed, my first question was “What is your title?” She replied, “I’m just a secretary. I guess you call me a big gal with big ideas.” That is colorful dialogue…and she said it. That was a good start. Her story was brilliant. In the retelling is came alive as her actual conversation was used throughout. Don’t report on the conversation, repeat the actual words.

As screen writer Robert McKee says, “Stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience. They are the currency of human contact.”

You will enjoy this next example from my friend Ann Wylie’s writing newsletter…

Find the defining moment, the New York Times way.

When Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Carlie LeDuff had to take his turn writing profiles about 9-11 victims for the New York Times, he used an interesting interviewing technique.

He’d call a member of the victim’s family and ask for the most defining moment in the person’s life. Then he’d say, I’ll call back in half an hour to give you time to think about it.

The results: mini-profiles that went beyond the conventional data of a person’s life.

“I was very aware that these profiles were the last thing — they were for history,” LeDuff says. “I didn’t want to write, ‘He was a dog person.'”

With a little work your stories will go down in history as far as your audience’s are concerned. Thanks Ann.