How to Tell Stories that Stick

All the best ideas have a great story behind them.

Stories come in many shapes and sizes, but they all have a few essential ingredients. A beginning, a middle and an end. A cast of characters. A setting. Some jeopardy or challenge.

As a Change-maker, you will have all the material you need for a story that will stick. And if you get that story right, it can power your brand and take your business far.

But how do we choose what goes into our story? What gets left out? And how do we string it all together?

Clues in the journey

Structure gives us some clues. Going deeper than ‘beginning, middle and end’, we can draw on the stages of the Hero’s Journey, the arc that famously unpicks how many of history’s stickiest stories are told.

Those stages include the Refusal of the Call — that moment of doubt and fear we might experience as we stand on the cusp of change.

Then there’s the Meeting with the Mentor — where we receive a gift (wisdom, truth, or maybe just a solid kick up the arse) that spurs us on.

And there’s The Road Back — where our pride at having risen to a great challenge can easily turn to dangerous complacency.

These moments are sometimes awkward to recall and easy to skip over. But so often they are where the story really connects with our audience.

Exploring these moments helps us to hook into the psychological transitions that bring a story alive. They give us a richer store of ingredients to work into our stories.

Getting it just right

So narrative structure gets us some of the way. But throughout that narrative, it’s a Goldilocks amount of detail that holds our attention. Not too little, not too much.

Too few specifics (names, places, actions, dialogue) and we don’t have enough to hold on to.

Too many facts, figures or descriptions of the sunset and the listener’s interest will be lost.

How do we hold these dimensions of the story in balance, to get it ‘just right’?

This is where the theory is less helpful, and the practice makes all the difference. It’s only through telling our story that we can know what’s working. And every story needs a listener.

To tell better stories we must cross the threshold ourselves, and share them, however imperfectly, ready to learn and adjust our course.

So don’t keep yours under wraps. Find a space where you can try your story, and start making it one that sticks.

Get Support with your story

Join Charlie and Tamsin Bishton for Stories That Stick, an evening workshop in association with The Good Business Club. This is an intimate session that will give you the chance to:

- explore the golden rules of storytelling
- share your own story in a group of three, and refine it with feedback from your peers
- help others to make their stories stick
- take away inspiration, new ideas and next steps for getting your story out there.

 
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Author

Charlie Peverett & Tamsin Bishton are brand and communications specialists, who help purposeful organisations tell better stories. Between them they have worked for many NGOs, businesses and social enterprises, including WWF, Crisis, Marks & Spencer, and Visit Wales.