3 Steps to Mastering the Art of Storytelling

My Uncle Bill knew how to tell a great story. His secret: an instinctive ability to zero in on precisely what his audience most wanted to know. By drawing his listener into the story – and connecting the narrative through your experience, he made it personal and memorable.

These same skills can be put to work when we communicate in business. One of the most frequent challenges is to convey achievements on a project completed or a technology applied.

Getting Started: Keep in mind the one irrefutable fact about communicating to any audience. The audience isn’t necessarily interested in someone else’s story. Whether the format is a presentation, proposal, project description, web site or byline article: They are far more interested in their story. So we all need to be more like Uncle Bill and make it theirs by keeping it personal, brief and entertaining.

Three steps for telling a compelling story:

  • Find the conflict: at the heart of every famous story in literature is controversy. For design firms, the conflict is most often rooted in the overarching problem the client faced, the doubts about a proposed solution, or the risk faced by the team if a project failed. Solutions are only meaningful when the stakes are high.
  • Import the voice of the client: Without the client’s perspective, a project story is one-dimensional. It’s me telling you what a great job I did. Use the client to elevate the urgency faced. Ask the client to say how your firm’s accomplishment helped them improve their business, change their culture or fulfill their larger mission.
  • Start at the end: instead of recounting the experience from initial engagement through project closeout, start with the outcome. “Here’s what we learned on that project” is an inviting way to begin the conversation.