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Tips to Develop a Strategic Narrative and Energize Your Team

The storytelling technique you use could impact the strength of your message

Whether leading an organization into a period of change, introducing new products or processes, or simply seeking to give fresh impetus to a jaded team, storytelling is a proven technique to create energy and enthusiasm. However, the energizing effect is only as good as the story told. An ineffective story will leave your audience confused and could do more harm than good.

In this article, you’ll learn how to develop a strategic narrative, and eight storytelling techniques that will help you engage an audience in any presentation.

Why do you need to use storytelling?

Humans learn best through storytelling. Consider Aesop’s Fables: stories that entertain and have a moral lesson are long remembered by the listener. It is this ability to grab the attention of an audience and engage their hearts and minds that makes a story a good one. Done right, storytelling is one of the most powerful weapons in a leader’s armory.

What makes an engaging story?

Every story must have a point. It must have a beginning, middle, and an end. Your goal is to create a story that inspires and engages. Do this by following a three-step process:

  1. Set the scene – the when, where, and who
  2. Describe the problem – the what and why
  3. Reveal the solution – the how

For example, in Aesop’s ‘The Tortoise and the Hare’, we see:

  • The scene – A race between a tortoise and a hare.
  • The problem – The hare ridicules the tortoise for its slowness. The tortoise is tired of the continuous taunting.
  • The solution – The tortoise challenges the hare to a race. The hare is so complacent, that after taking a big lead it takes a long rest. The tortoise continues slow and steady, and crosses the finish line first, against all the odds.

How do you create an engaging story?

There are several considerations to make before creating an engaging and strategic narrative. Specifically:

  • Who is your audience, and what motivates them?
  • What is your message, the one big idea that you want to convey?
  • What do you want your audience to do?

Having answered these questions, you can decide which storytelling technique will best engage your audience, and inspire them to take the action you want them to.

8 engaging storytelling techniques

There are eight classic storytelling techniques which are proven to captivate an audience.

1.     The hero’s journey

The hero leaves their home, setting out on a challenging journey. This takes them out of their comfort zone and into threatening situations. They overcome the challenges they face, gaining new knowledge and wisdom that informs their future.

2.     The mountain

The mountain is a series of small challenges which the hero must overcome to reach the peak. It slowly builds to a crescendo, though the denouement isn’t necessarily happy.

3.     Nested loops

Three or more narratives are layered. The central story ­– your main message – is encased in other stories that elaborate the message. The stories begin and end in reverse sequence: the first started is the last finished.

4.     Sparklines

This is a method of contrasting the current situation with the ideal situation. This allows you to highlight problems and inspire engagement in change.

5.     In medias res

This is one of the most difficult of storytelling techniques. It requires you to begin the middle of the story – where the action is at its most exciting – before restarting at the beginning to explain how you got there.

6.     Idea convergence

This technique is very good for explaining how several ideas can come together to produce a well-designed and effective solution to a problem.

7.     The false start

This type of story is ideal for explaining how and why it is sometimes necessary to restart. The audience is given a false sense of security, and you shock them by admitting a mistake made. It allows you to show a human side, and discuss what you learned from the experience.

8.     The petal

This is great for a presentation with multiple presenters who are delivering around one single idea, or if you have several stories that relate to your single central message.

The idea is that the multiple stories or presenters all provide evidence supporting the central theme, message, or idea. This creates a feeling of how important the message is.

How do you know which technique will best engage your audience?

When you understand your audience and how best you deliver a story, you’ll be able to decide which storytelling technique to use to best communicate your message. Contact Forward Focus today to discover how an Emotional Intelligence course will develop and embed effective personal skills in the workplace, for leaders, managers and employees. With increased emotional intelligence and more storeytelling, the barriers to effective communication will melt away.

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Hi Beth! This is terrific information. In this time of 140 character communication and finding the buzz words to capture the right sound bite, the concept of storytelling has been lost. This is a wonderful reminder that a well told story has structure and leaves a lasting impact rather than just a fleeting encounter. Well done.  
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