The Success Formulas of Good Stories
If you’ve heard a speech, sermon, or business presentation that you enjoyed and remembered, I guarantee that at least one aspect that made it memorable was stories.
Everybody loves a good story, and that is their power. No matter what our culture, we grow up feeling that hearing a story is somehow a reward. Stories are how we learn values and our family’s legacy. When we’re in school, stories make history come alive. In business, we quickly discover that stories help us explain complex issues and are the best way to connect to coworkers, customers, and audiences of all size and makeup.
Wise leaders, sales professionals, and presenters do well to develop an arsenal of great stories that provide clear, dramatic examples. Good stories help distinguish us from our competition.
Interesting, memorable stories that illustrate your message can inspire and motivate, train and teach, convince and persuade.
When an audience of one or 1,000 listens to your stories, they must find them interesting, have an emotional connection to them, and recognize the lesson to be learned from them. It must be obvious how the story connects to the point you are making at that time in your presentation.
Your audience does not remember everything they hear, but with a well-told story, they see it happening. This increases the likelihood of your presentation’s being remembered and repeated.
My good friend and Hollywood script consultant, Michael Hague, teaches: “The purpose of a story is to elicit emotion.”
Techniques Behind Memorable Stories
Many presenters make the mistake of thinking that a story must be dramatic and life-changing to be memorable. In reality, we can garner meaning from simple, everyday-life stories, and that makes them relatable.
This is where I was; this is where I am now; this is how I got there.
Hollywood movies have a formula for successful storytelling that we can use. The hero or protagonist in your story is not necessarily a heroic character – just the person through whose eyes we see the story. This might be you or another person.
For that, we need to provide a backstory: enough information for your audience to see the character, identify with them, relate to their emotions or situation, and empathize with them. A good way to do that is to offer “a day in the life.”
This is the before picture.
Adding dialogue will help your audience understand and relate to the situation.
Share an average day in the life of the hero. This is the THEN.
Help your audience relate personally to your hero’s situation at the beginning of your story. The audience can better relate to the hero when they understand some of the backstory. What is their job? At what time of their life does this happen?
Then, something happens . . .
In a movie, this is the inciting incident that propels the hero into a challenge that leads to a lesson learned. In your story. this is the challenge or obstacle you or your character had to overcome.
The result of that is . . .
How did the hero handle the challenge? Did they step up and embrace it?
Then, something else happens . . .
The hero faces another challenge, and the suspense in the story builds.
The result of that is . . . This is your NOW.
What are the happily-ever-after and the result of your or the character’s handling of the challenge? What has improved since the before “day in the life?”
The moral of the story is . . .? This is HOW you or the character went from THEN to NOW. What can the audience learn from these steps or strategies? What are the lessons that are universal to your audience?
When properly applied, this formula will enhance your stories and help to make your presentations memorable. Good luck perfecting your stories. If you would like help, let’s talk.
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