Storytelling Formulas for Thought Leaders

A good storytelling formula can be absolutely foundational to writing and speaking success. The right template will give your data, observations and personal experiences strong structure and sturdy support all the way through.

Thought leaders, entrepreneurs and corporate executives routinely use formulas to craft stories that burst with originality and personality, humor and heart.

As a result, they’re able to win over new fans, followers, customers and clients — especially when those stories go viral.

There’s Nothing Like a Story
Whenever you’re using a communications platform, you can (and should) tell stories. Social media accounts, blogs and websites ought to overflow with anecdotes. When you speak at conferences, training sessions and other events, rely on the glories of stories.

Why do people love stories? Well, the human brain looks for patterns, and a story is the ultimate pattern. It has a beginning, a middle, an end, a moral, and a logical ebb and flow.

In addition, stories let people connect with you on an emotional level. They stir empathy in your audience, making you seem wiser and more trustworthy.

Claremont Graduate University’s Center for Neuroeconomics Studies found a fascinating scientific link between storytelling and empathy. During an experiment, researchers drew blood samples from participants. Then they showed those subjects a video of a person telling a story. Finally, they obtained a second round of blood samples.

The Claremont researchers discovered that the second group of blood samples had more oxytocin than the first. Oxytocin is a hormone the brain releases when someone feels a bond with someone else.

With that in mind (no pun intended), let’s explore a few effective story formulas.

1. Getting Musky
Business tycoon Elon Musk has a formula he depends on frequently. He starts by describing a problem that consumers currently face. When you discuss a common problem, your listeners realize that they’ve dealt with the same difficulty. Therefore, they feel closer to you.

Elon then talks about what the world would be like if that problem no longer existed. This technique can awaken listeners’ optimism.

Next, Elon discusses the challenges that stand in the way of a solution, which convinces people he’s not a hopeless idealist. Rather, he demonstrates that he’s considered every aspect of the issue. Finally, he uses data to explain how his team has found a way to resolve the dilemma.

In short, this formula lets you put yourself in your audience’s shoes and anticipate their responses all the while.

2. Duarte’s Dualism
Author and speaker Nancy Duarte, an expert on corporate presentations, has a simple but powerful formula. It mainly consists of two parts: “what is” and “what could be.” Essentially, the speaker toggles back and forth between those two categories.

Use this formula when you’re reviewing a product or service with multiple features. For each special feature, describe the hardship of not having that benefit and then the convenience it provides.

To end on a high note, close with a segment called “new bliss.” It provides a vivid overview of what life is like with the product or service in question. You should strive to paint an enticing picture, one that’s full of colorful phrases.

3. Simon Says
Simon Sinek rocked the business world with his 2009 TED talk, which deals with his Golden Circle formula. This speech has garnered tens of millions of views.

The key to the Golden Circle is the reason you’re doing what you’re doing. Start by explaining why you chose your occupation. What personal aspirations fueled your professional desires? Why are you working on the project you’re now working on?

Once your incentives are clear, describe how your business is fulfilling those motives. The last portion is “the what,” in which you outline your specific solution.

If I were to use this formula, I might talk about a concern I’ve had for a long time. In our society, there’s a scarcity of organ transplants, and it endangers countless lives. Knowing about this issue led me to co-found the Organ Preservation Alliance in 2012. This nonprofit addresses the transplant shortage by seeking new methods of tissue engineering and organ preservation.

4. We All Need a Hero
Maybe you want to tell a story about a person, whether it’s yourself or someone else. Your hero might’ve set off on a grand adventure — climbed the world’s highest peaks, perhaps. Or maybe she overcame a personal issue like depression or exhaustion.

Whatever this individual accomplished, a three-part formula may be the ideal narrative framework. Its sections are the setup, the confrontation and the resolution.

To set up a story like this, identify the person and explain what her goal is. You can establish these points quickly, using a few vibrant details to create images in your listeners’ minds.

From there, illustrate the journey the character goes on. What troubles does she face? How does she conquer them? To build suspense, you could start with the easiest obstacle to overcome and end with the most daunting.

Wrap the tale up by relating how the protagonist prevailed, and clarify how this achievement improved her life. How did it change her outlook or behavior? By delving into positive developments, the audience will walk away with real inspiration.

Magic Formulas
With a trusty formula, you never have to worry that the format of your story is confusing. And you never waste time figuring out how to put your ideas together.

Instead, you can be certain that your points will progress in a smooth, easy-to-follow way. You’ll be confident that your story is compelling, and that confidence will shine forth in every sentence you speak.

© Robin Farmanfarmaian  All rights reserved.


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