1: “At the heart of leadership lies persuasion. At the heart of persuasion lies storytelling,” Esther Choy writes in Let the Story Do the Work: The Art of Storytelling for Business Success.
Learning to tell a great story is a skill. Something we can get better at with a bit of knowledge and practice.
Today, we will look at the four high-level components of a story, things we should think about and consider when telling a story, plus the classic three-act structure, which provides a framework or map to tell our story.
2: To drive the business impact of our stories, Esther tells us we will want to consider the following four key elements:
o Structural: A story has a beginning, middle, and end.
o Elemental: A story has components including a hero, challenge, journey, resolution, and call to action.
o Authentic: A story reveals something real or interesting about the teller, which elicits emotion from those listening.
o Strategic: A story ignites the audience’s imagination, leading them to relate to the situation in the story and motivating them to take action.
3: The Three-Act Formula
“Taking all of this into account,” Esther writes, “to structure [our] communication most effectively, whether a thirty-minute formal board room presentation or a five-minute impromptu update for our manager, we can use the Three-Act Formula. She explains that all compelling stories share this framework, dating back to Aristotle.
Act I is all about orienting our audience to the time, place, and setting of our story. We meet the main characters. A “hook” (more tomorrow) captures the audience’s attention. They want to know more or learn the answer to the question posed.
In The Sound of Music, we meet Maria, a gifted songstress, and nun-in-training. The hook? Maria isn’t sure she wants to be a nun.
“Act I is typically the shortest part of the story because the hook needs to work its magic as soon as possible, lest the story loses the audience’s precious interest,” writes Esther.
Act II is the main journey of our story. There must be challenges, setbacks, and obstacles.
“In Act II, things usually get complicated, and the main character faces a series of tests/obstacles as part of their journey,” notes Esther. “In Maria’s case, that means struggling to win the von Trapp childrens’ acceptance and, later, the affections of the captain, who is already beholden to Baroness Schrader.”
In time, Maria learns who she really is (hint: not a nun!), but now she and the von Trapps must flee Austria as the Nazis are taking over.
Act II “usually ends with the question of whether the hero can survive—literally or figuratively—and reach a fulfilling resolution against growing, seemingly insurmountable odds, Esther observes.
During Act II of a business presentation, we want to show our audience the journey we took through what Esther calls the “3 R’s:” Remind, Recount, and Reframe.
We remind them of the progress we’ve made and our intended outcome. Next, we recount why they should care and what they should do. Finally, we reframe how our research, analytics, and metrics will allow them to see things differently with new insights.
“Act III typically answers all central questions of the story and brings the main character—and the audience—to a fulfilling resolution,” Esther writes. “In The Sound of Music, the von Trapps elude the Nazis and sail off into the figurative sunset, or hike into a beautiful mountain setting, in this case. Fade to black. Love wins.”
Reflection: Consider a situation where I want to persuade someone to take action. What story could I tell to achieve my desired outcome? How could I organize it into three acts?
Action: Tell it.