(Adapted from Once Upon A Time At The Office: 10 Storytelling Tips To Help You Be More Persuasive; Fast Company)

Much has been written lately about the efficacy of storytelling in the workplace. Most of it is based on a general feeling that stories “work.” “Persuasion is the centerpiece of business activity,” says screenwriter Robert McKee in an HBR article entitled “Storytelling That Works.” “Trying to convince people with logic is tough for two reasons. One is they are arguing with you in their heads while you are making your argument. Second, if you do succeed in persuading them, you’ve done so only on an intellectual basis. That’s not good enough, because people are not inspired to act by reason alone.”

  1. Plan your story starting with the takeaway message. Think about what’s important to the audience. The ending is the most important point of the story. This is the message we want to deliver, and the one that will linger with the audience.
  2. Keep your stories short. Two to three minutes long or 200-300 words is about what people can digest in today’s ADD world.
  3. Good stories are about challenge or conflict. Without these elements, stories aren’t very interesting. The compelling part of a story is how people deal with challenge–-so start with the people and the challenge.
  4. Think about your story like a movie. Imagine you are screenwriter with a goal to get your message across. The story has to have a beginning, middle, and end.
  5. Start with a person and his challenge, and intensify human interest by adding descriptions of time, place, and people with their emotions.
  6. A good story always has ups and downs, so “arc” the story. Pull people along, and introduce tension, just like in a fairy tale. (“From out of nowhere, the wolf jumps onto the path…”)