|Great storytellers don’t just hope to get lucky. They spend significant time choosing the right story and crafting it for maximum impact. Many speakers and presenters spend far more time building boring PowerPoint slide decks than they do crafting their stories. But crafting your story with good structure is imperative. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to storytelling structure. Classical story structure has been around for thousands of years, and it still works!
Here is my Story Theater Method version of classical story structure. I call this The Nine Steps of Story Structure. Use these steps as the architectural framework for your story, and your story will have a logical sequence, as well as solid dramatic tension. It will also contain a clear, concise, and actionable lesson.
- Set the Scene – when and where?
- Introduce the Characters – who else was there?
- Begin the Journey – what was the task or goal?
- Encounter the Obstacle – what goes wrong or impedes progress?
- Overcome the Obstacle – how was the problem dealt with?
- Resolve the Story – how did things work out in the end?
- Make the Point – what is the one thing, above all else, that you learned?
- Ask the Question – transfer the lesson to the listener: “how about you?”
- Restate the Point – restate the lesson of the story as a call to action.
Use Your Personal Stories
The best stories are about something that happened to you. You are the main character. However, even when the story is about something that happened to someone else, you still were the observer, or it affected you in some way. The story is still about what YOU learned from the situation. No one else has had your exact life experiences, therefore no one else has your stories. Your stories make you unique and relatable and they build trust and credibility.
Using Step 5 to Teach the Lesson
Step 5 is the “how-to” step in the Nine Steps of Story Structure. It is the most critical step because it teaches the lesson on a subliminal level. How you overcame the obstacle or challenge, or what you learned by succumbing to the challenge, teaches the lesson of the story: the new way to think or behave that you want to share with your audience.
Here are two ways Step 5 of the story can teach the lesson:
- A: You overcame the obstacle correctly, thereby teaching the correct behavior.
- B: You overcame the obstacle incorrectly – made mistakes. You can show people through your thoughts and behavior what you don’t want them to do. Then, use the story as a spring board to discuss the correct or desired behavior.
Each Story Makes One Point Each Time You Tell It
Just about every story you have has the potential to make several points or teach a variety of lessons. Pick one point, and only one, each time you tell it. Keep it simple. If you add more than one point at the end of your story, all the points are watered down, and the lesson of the story is less powerful.
They’ll Remember Your Phrase That Pays
Make the point of your story a call to action. I call it a “Phrase That Pays.” Keep it short and start with a verb. Here are some examples of verb-oriented, call-to-action phrases:
- Lean Into the Mountain
- Take One Step at a Time
- Run Your Own Race
- Inspect What You Inspect
- Ask For What You Want
- Stand in Your Power
- Pick Up the Phone
- Look for the Limo
Crafting your story using The Nine Steps of Story Structure will give you the foundational architecture of a great story. Your audience will be better able to follow the sequence of your story, and they’ll remember your profound message! With the Nine Steps as your “bones”, you can now flesh out your story with details, acting and comedic techniques to make it amazing.
For a more detailed explanation of the Nine Steps of Story Structure, get my book: Doug Stevenson’s Story Theater Method on Amazon, Kindle or Nook, or get the Story Theater Audio Six Pack CDs or mp3 download on www.storytelling-in-business.com/shop/)
Contact me for keynotes, training, and private coaching. I’d love to help you find, craft and deliver your amazing stories to make your message memorable and effective.
by Doug Stevenson
“Doug Stevenson gave an informative and entertaining keynote on storytelling for sales at our Global Sales Kick-Off. We know storytelling will help us close more sales and Doug’s methodology is just what we needed. Doug was a big hit.” – Patrick Stuver, Co-Founder, Everbridge
“We brought Doug Stevenson in to teach his Story Theater Method to both our senior trainers and our senior management. He was a huge success. I’ve also hired him three more times to work with other groups. His workshop is both inspirational and very practical. I highly recommend him.” – Elizabeth Wiseman, VP, Oracle University
“Doug, it’s safe to say you knocked it out of the park. Here’s some feedback from your storytelling workshop: “This was the best training I’ve ever had at USAA.” “Doug makes the material so compelling.” I hope we can work together again soon.” – Darrin Wylie, Director, USAA Insurance