How to Tell a Good Story

June 19, 2013


Storytelling is an extremely effective way to build excitement, engagement, and buy-in. It is increasingly being used by leaders to inspire organizations, but also by organizations to build brand awareness and brand evangelists. But for some, storytelling doesn’t come naturally. Here are four tips from storytelling expert Paul Smith on how to get  started building a repertoire of quality stories you can use when you need them:

  1. Probe your past. What’s the toughest problem you ever solved? What’s the most creative thing you’ve ever done? What’s the best working relationship you’ve ever had? For great story content, recall your greatest successes, challenges, and failures.
  2. Focus on what’s happening around you. “Great stories happen all around you every day.” Smith assures. So, how do you spot real-life, real-time stories worth telling? Smith employs a simple test: “Did someone learn an unexpected lesson, or learn it in an unexpected way? If so, that’s my first clue that a good story might be in the making.”
  3. Collect stories from people you know. Listen to the stories people tell and take mental notes. Then, get proactive! As you walk around the office, ask: “Got any good stories?” Hold a contest for the best stories about whatever topic serves your needs best at the time. Hold storytelling sessions. Conduct formal interviews. Ask inspiring questions.
  4. Collect stories from strangers. Search the Internet. Use books, magazines, movies, and TV shows. “No matter what kind of story you’re looking for, chances are it’s already been written. Find it,” Smith urges. “Just be sure to credit the source where you found it.”

Adapted from LEAD WITH A STORY: A Guide to Crafting Business Narratives that Captivate, Convince, and Inspire by Paul Smith (AMACOM).

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About The Author

Christina Parisi is Director of Digital Content at the American Management Association. Previously she was an Executive Editor at AMACOM Books and the Director of AMA Self-Studies.

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