The Art of Story Telling

ReadingExecutive or Business Coaches sometimes find that their clients have difficulties making presentations.

Although there are many courses that focus on the strategies of presentation making – such as the use of PowerPoint, body language and the like very often the importance and impact of using stories to illustrate presentation points or keynote speeches is overlooked.

Doug Stevenson, a leading light in this area states, “many experts suggest that speakers should use stories, but they don’t tell them how to do it. Businesspeople who attempt to use stories recognize that there is an art and science to telling them, but they often can’t find instruction.” (Stevenson,D. 2003)

He has developed a model for learning how to develop these skills that he has named “Story Theatre”.

The Nine Steps of Story Structure that he advocates are:

1. Set the Scene
Create the context within which the story takes place. What do we need to know about the time, place, atmosphere and circumstances for the story to make full sense? Think about using any and all of the five senses.  This strategy draws upon the sensory aspects of NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) by getting the individual to invoke as much sensory participation from the audience as possible (McDermott, I, Jago, W, 2001).

2. Begin the Journey 
What is the journey from safety to danger or from the known into the unknown? In other words, what is the goal or the task to be accomplished? It doesn’t have to be profound.

3. Introduce the characters
Whenever there are other people in the story, the main characters other than you, describe them so that we can see them and relate to them. Include anything pertinent about your relationship with them. Describe a unique quirk that brings them to life. Introduce characters where they occur naturally in the narrative, not necessarily in the third position.

4. Encounter the Obstacle
Something or someone gets in your way or impedes your progress. What is it? Make sure the obstacle is clearly defined so that the audience gets it. If you don’t have an obstacle, you don’t have a very powerful story. You may just have a vignette. Signature stories need an obstacle.

5. Overcome the Obstacle 
This is where the teaching occurs in your story. HOW did you overcome the obstacle? Analyze your thought process. What did you do? Break it down. Organize the progression of thoughts, decisions, reactions and actions in a linear fashion. This may be revealed in an IN moment.

6. Resolve the Story
Let us know how things worked out in the end. Clean up any loose ends.

7. Make the Point
What is the point or the lesson learned? Be concise – one point for each story. Try to make your point using a Phrase That Pays.

8. Ask the Question
Ask a question that transfers the point from your story to the audience. It is a YOU question. “How about you? Do you need to?” “Where in your life?” Who do you need to forgive?”

9. Repeat the Point
Repeat the point – use the same language as in number 7 or use your Phrase That Pays.

These simple steps will enhance the ability of anyone charged with having to give a speech or make a presentation.  Practice is one of the key factors to success and therefore through the coaching process the coach needs to encourage the client to think about stories that can be used and also to practice the delivery of these stories.