Tag Archives: Geoffrey James

7 Steps to Practical Business Stories

Remember, stories aren’t just stories. They’re truth and promise and relationships established. They’re vital to business. There’s more truth in stories than in all the statistics ever published. 

Geoffrey James posted How to Tell a Great Story on Inc.com last month, quoting Mike Bosworth of Solution Selling, and Ben Zoldan, one of his top trainers. So this is how to tell a memorable business anecdote:

1. “Decide on the takeaway first.” There’s a business goal. Yes you want to make conversation, but also make a business point. If you’re selling shoes, tell a story about a shoe disaster, or a shoe rescue. 

2. “Pick the ending ahead of time.” Get the ending that supports the takeaway. 

3. “Begin with who, where, when, and a hint of direction.” He adds:

Every great story–and indeed, every great movie, novel, or TV show–starts with a person (who is going to do something), a place (where things are going to happen), a time (so people can relate “then” to “now”), and just a hint of direction, indicating where the anecdote is headed.

4. “Intensify human interest by adding context.” Details, done right, make it a story. Try to put your people there, caring about the people and the situation. 

5. “Describe the goals and the obstacles.” They call that plot. What was the problem, and how was it solved. 

6. “Describe the decision that made achievement possible.” 

It’s important not to confuse the decision (or turning point) with the ending of the story.  The turning point is not “what happened”–it’s the decision that caused what happened to happen.

7. “Provide the ending and highlight the takeaway.” Don’t assume your listener figured it out. Make sure to say it, out loud. Tell everybody what happened and why it’s important. 

Nice post, good recommendations; thanks Geoff, Mike, and Ben. 

Tip: Mistakes Are More Fun Than Tips

Here’s a continuing trend: tips and what-not-to-do lists get better readership as lists of mistakes.  It’s not a new trend, it’s not a surprising one, but one worth remembering.

What reminds me this morning is a collection of posts by Geoffrey James on BNET:

Notice on these posts we get a double dose: Not just mistakes, but superlative mistakes, and in an “of all time” context. It’s an interesting approach. The lists include some I’d never heard of (I’d never heard of Six Sigma, listed as the #1 stupidest management fad of all time), some very general (“leadership” is listed as #2 dumbest management concept of all time), and several well reasoned takes on long-term thinking, well worth reading.  Geoffrey does a good job at standing back and poking holes on some overused phrases.

On the same theme, you might notice in my illustration here that the most popular item at BNET today is “Business Blunders of the Year.” There are some mixed reviews on that particular piece, by the way, perhaps because a slide-show format, nice for lists of five or 10 points, doesn’t hold up to lists of 75 (yes, that’s 75 business blunders).

Being contrarian really works.