6 Keys to Strategic Stories


“The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think, but to give you questions to think upon.” — Brandon Sanderson, The Way of Kings

I’m realizing more and more how stories help you drive a point home.

It’s one thing to make a point.  It’s another for your story to make the point for you.

If your ideas aren’t sticking, or you’re not getting buy in, maybe a compelling story is the answer.

6 Keys to Strategic Stories

You can use strategic stories as a catalyst for change, but you need a recipe for telling good strategic stories.  Here is a recipe you can use to tell strategic stories:

  1. Make stories short (1 -2 minutes) so they can be retained
  2. Limit stories to no more than 2 or 3 characters, so it’s easy to follow
  3. Build your story around a singular message.
  4. Tell your story in the present tense so participants can relate
  5. Use powerful images to tie to a theme
  6. Repeat a phrase or word that is the essence of your message

The value of the stories is they help you engage people and they have a more powerful recall than slides, facts and figures.

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Photo by flattop341


  1. A good story can sometimes make or break a training session. The sessions I remember best are the ones that had some sort of funny anecdote in them for sure.

  2. AHHHHH – good one, the one that works great.
    When working with a customer and I need to get him to buy in i tell stories, using names of his co-workers so it relates to him. It creates mental images that never leave his head.
    Good one, JD – GOOD ONE!
    WRT “Repeat a phrase or word that is the essence of your message”…. my very good friend once asked me “what’s the difference between explaining and persuading?” – “ahhhh …. tell me…” – “persuading is explaining many time in a row” was the answer…. let’s call it by its real name – brainwashing. 😉 i use it a lot, and it works too. 🙂

  3. We never really grow out of wanting to sit down in circle time and hear stories, do we? They do give people a better context–scaffolding, if you will–for learning and, more importantly, remembering ideas. I could really work on this one…

    And I love the kiddo in the picture who is wearing her pig nose as an eyepatch. 🙂

  4. Indeed there is a huge science behind using story’s. Here is another concept about story’s: Abraham Hicks Write Your Own Story

  5. Hi J.D.

    Great advice, I love story. And stories really help in getting the message out.

    Thank you,
    Giovanna Garcia
    Imperfect Action is better than No Action

  6. @ Dror

    I like the example story in the video ,,,

    The CEO of Southwest explained their competition through a story. He often received questions about Southwest’s pricing. If America West was charging $149, how could Southwest charge $79 for that same trip. Why not have the decency to at least charge $129? … Why leave so much on the table? The CEO replied, you don’t understand who our competition is … It’s the automobile, not other airlines. $79 was the price to drive the same trip.

    @ Louisa

    I relate to that. I just had some good training the week before last and it was the stories that hit home.

    @ Alik

    Repetition does have a way of helping points sink in. I think the magic formula is a sticky point with a metaphor, and a simple story to tell. I think repetition kicks in when people spread your story.

    @ Sara

    I’m always ready for story time! Scaffolding is a great way to put it.

    @ Nicholas

    I like the idea of writing your life story and unfolding your opportunities through words on paper.

    @ Giovanna

    I used to wonder what made stories more powerful than just data points. I think it’s that they add the emotional aspect. I think we remember things better when we have emotional reactions to the information.

  7. I love a good story. I know that when I’m reading a story I can really fall into the message. A character telling me about a situation brings so much more meaning than someone telling me to do because it’s good for me.

    I’ve been trying to use more stories in my blog posts. It’s hard trying to find the right story to convey my message. The more I do it the more I improve.

    Like any good artist, it’s our job to tell a story the best way we can.

  8. I think this speaks to intellectual vs. emotional resonance. You can make your points with data and back it up with logic – this will sway the most rational audience. If you tell a story, still backed with data, you reinforce the intellectual with the emotional.

    People, whether they acknowledge it or not, are emotional creatures and if you can tap into an emotional resonance you can double the power of your argument. Stories help people ‘feel’ it, not just ‘know’ it.

  9. @ Karl

    It is hard finding the right story. Some people seem to have a handy collection of perfect stories for any occasion. Now that I’m aware of it, I’m trying to see which little learnings I have turn into insightful stories.

  10. @ Jason

    Beautiful distinction and precision! I like your point on how you get the double whammy by using a story — You get both the intellectual and the emotional, and yes, we are emotional creatures.

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