How to tell a good story

Storytelling can be very impactful in a host of business settings. The most impactful part of Guidewire’s marketing is to provide a forum for our customers to tell their stories. For example, at Connections, Guidewire’s annual user conference, more than half of the sessions were led by customers sharing their stories with their peers. Our customers have also told us about the importance of storytelling when communicating a business case for change and in enrolling people in a transformation journey. I’ve had the privilege of witnessing and researching what the attributes are that make for a good story, one that listeners will remember and will move them to action. Here are the six attributes that I believe are most important to get right:

  • Specificity: Pick one thing to focus on and explore that in depth, rather than trying to cover all aspects of your subject. It’s also helpful to use specific facts and/or numbers to lend substance to your points.
  • Characters: Whenever possible, include real people in your story. Think of them as characters that people will remember. 
  • Entertaining: Think about how to keep your audience “with you” by using such techniques as video, use of statistics to show a surprising outcome, or a bold prediction about the future. There are many techniques at your disposal. You don’t need to make your audience laugh, but you do need to engage them.
  • Compare: Whenever possible, compare “what was” to “what is or will be,” whether it be a business process, outcome, system functionality, etc. The contrast will be impactful, especially if you adhere to the other attributes of effective storytelling.  
  • Non-obvious: Avoid covering ground that your audience will have heard many times in their past. Invest the time to focus on non-obvious content.
  • Passion: Be passionate about your topic. Show people that you care about the subject matter and that you thought carefully about your delivery and your story.

I hope you found this post helpful. If you’re interested in exploring this topic further, I recommend you read the book “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die” by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. It’s ironically too long but is the best book I’ve read on this topic.