How to Tell Your Business Story. Start with One True Thing.

As a writer I often lament that all the good stories have been written. Every book is just a rendition of something that’s already been done.

As a traveler it often feels like all the frontiers (at least in this country) have been settled. Every place, mapped.

There’s a status quo to our thinking that lulls us all to sleep or drives us to seek something more interesting in our electronic pacifiers. But if you want someone to sit and take notice of you, you must have a story to tell.

The good news is we all have one. We have many. The hard part is deciding which one to tell. But that’s only really hard when you don’t know your audience. Knowing your audience should help you select the appropriate story that will resonate with them in much the same way you might select an outfit based on where you’re going and what you’ll be doing.

How to Tell Your Business Story in 5 Easy Steps

I’m not suggesting you make up stories to appeal to your audience. They must be true and that’s where you should begin with the one true thing you know (and the one true thing that will touch them).

Once you have your one true thing — your guiding theme for your story — consider your life experience. What situation exemplifies your theme?

Set the Stage

you need to set the stage when telling your story

What condition surrounded your one true thing? Who was involved? How did you lead up to it? Set the stage for what you learned by backing up a few scenes. Draw people in by painting a vivid picture of how things were before you learned what you did.

You Wanted Something

you must capture what you desire in storytelling

Often our greatest learning comes when we are pursuing something else. You’ve successfully set the stage, now talk about your motives. What did you want at that time more than anything? Hopefully it’s something others can identify with. Even if they can’t identify with your actual desire to achieve the particular item or standing, they can probably associate the desire to accomplish something or receive something, and you can frame your desire in those ways.

Something Happened

you faced difficulties

Very few of us got what we wanted on our first try. If we did we wouldn’t remember it very well. It’s the friction and failure that makes a good story and spurs us on to achievement. In your story you have to meet a struggle. It can be outward with another human being or inward, like struggling with extreme self-doubt. This is where your story is.

This is the fork in the road, people will stay with you to find out what happened. Without the challenge people are back to their cellphones and kitten videos.

You Received Inspiration

inspiration comes from many places

Even self-made successful people will tell you someone was there during the struggle who had an effect on them. I still remember a crush I had in second grade. He never talked to me but he had the most beautiful eyes. I adored him from a far, the way you should when you’re 7. One day I was involved in an altercation on the playground. I allowed my best friend, Joe, who was a towering head taller than everyone else to handle it for me. My crush overheard the scuttle. He walked over and his first words to me were, “What’s the matter, Christina? Can’t fight your own battles?”

My heart went from soaring that he knew my name to sinking as I heard the blame in his voice. Needless to say, I’ve only let someone fight my battles once.

John Michael had a profound effect on me that lives on today. You probably have someone like that too. Whatever your struggle is in the story you’re telling, you need to mention how you didn’t do it all alone. You had a mentor, a parent, a coach, or a book that provided that necessary sage to your story. The hero needs a Gandolf, Obi Wan, Yoda, Alfred, Glenda, Merlin, Nester, Senex…well, you get the idea.

You Got What You Wanted

tell your audience how you got what you wanted

Unless you’re writing a novel, your business story needs to end with the hero getting something. This is most likely the success that had made you into the expert you are but it could also be something less tangible like a realization. Still, give your story an ending. You need to satiate the audience’s desire for answers and a satisfying wrap-up.

It’s that easy. 

You already have that story in you. Now you just need to find some time to understand your audience and how that story will help you connect to them in a way that makes you a valuable resource to them.

After all, your story isn’t very effective if it is only about you.

Your turn...